Filed under: Breads / Brown butter
April 12, 2024

Brown Butter Brioche

Super soft and tender homemade brioche made milk bread style and with brown butter so it has a nutty or subtle 'toffee' like flavor.

5 from 1 vote
Yield: 2 loaves
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Few things can compete with the sight of a slice of brioche being torn off its tender mother loaf. The stringiness of the inner threads of bread, the flakiness that is almost croissant-like (without any of the effort of laminating, ha!) and the wonderful buttery flavor. And it’s just great as is but, well what if we browned the butter? And made it milk bread style? 

This one stays soft for DAYS. A miracle for homemade bread really. 

If you know brioche well, you’ll note that this isn’t a traditional recipe, aside from the butter being browned. I use water, and lots of it, instead of milk; I cook some of the flour into most of the water (this is a chinese technique used in japanese milk bread, it keeps the bread softer longer) and my shaping is a bit different. Let’s talk about why I do these things. 

 

Recipe Origins & Testing Notes 

I always said I was going to dedicate a space on this site to the brown butter brioche that’s in this chocolate chip cookie brioche recipe. It’s such a great base bread recipe and really holds its own, even without the cookie dough. 

But of course, as I often do, I couldn’t resist fiddling with it, so this brown butter brioche recipe is somewhat different than the one in the cookie brioche swirl. While that one gives us a solid backdrop for a cookie dough, I wanted this to be more like a traditional brioche: buttery, light, airy with that super tender crumb and that paper thin crust. And of course, lots of brown butter. 

Aside from increasing the amounts of most of the ingredients so we’d have two tall brioche loaves; there is double the amount of butter in this recipe. Not only does more butter bring it closer to that signature ‘croissant’ like flavor brioche has, and enrich it to make the crumb tender, but also – because there’s more butter – we’re getting more ‘brown butter’ flavor into the bread. 

You might also note there’s a lot more liquid in this, partially because when you brown butter you lose moisture but also because I’m using a higher percentage of tangzhong (roux: cooked flour & water) than is custom for a milk bread based recipe. 

Shaping: you can do a traditional brioche braid, or just form some dough balls, truly it all rises the same and if you’re slicing it with a bread knife anyway it won’t matter. I like to divide the brioche into eighths and then roll them up so the breads rise with natural slicing marks and they’ll almost work like a pull-apart dough. 

 

Recipe Ingredients 

Butter: any unsalted kind will do however, using european style butter, 83% butterfat or more, will give better flavor to the brioche. 

 

Flour: all purpose flour, of a protein content that’s about 10-11%. You can use bread flour but the brioche won’t be as tender. 

 

Water: tap water. Temperature for the tangzhong doesn’t matter as much but the portion of water added to the yeast should be warm to touch only (if it’s too hot it will kill the yeast). 

 

Milk powder: this is optional, but it gives the brioche better flavor and texture. I have successfully made the recipe without it but definitely preferred the version with it. Buttermilk powder is a good substitute as well. 

 

Yeast: I use active dry yeast (I keep the jars in the freezer to preserve freshness) but you can also use rapid rise. 

 

Eggs: whole eggs, at room temperature. Set them in a bowl of hot water to warm them up. 

 

Sugar: fine granulated sugar but I’ve also made this with brown sugar and it worked just as well. 

 

Salt: fine sea salt. If using table salt then halve the amount. 

 

Vanilla: use a good quality vanilla bean extract or vanilla bean paste. If you’re using the bean, one great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of it is to slice it open, scrape it and add the bits and the pod into the butter as it’s browning. 

How to make Brown Butter Brioche 

Prep Steps 

First, brown the butter: set the two sticks of butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Cook until all the little bits at the bottom are a medium brown then immediately transfer to a heatproof bowl (they will keep cooking if left in the pan). 

→ If the butter bits turn black, it’s burnt and you’ll need to start over. 

Make the tangzhong: in a small pot we’ll cook a small portion of the flour with the larger portion of water until it turns paste-like. This can take 5-10 minutes, depending on how high the heat is, but don’t rush it. Keep stirring and whisking so it thickens evenly. Set it aside (it’s ok to keep it in the pot) to cool. 

→ While it’s not likely, you can overcook the tangzhong. It should be paste-like but pourable when you stop cooking. If it has thickened to the point it’s like playdough, it’s overcooked. 

Bloom the yeast: pour the smaller portion of the water (warmed to touch) into the bottom of a stand mixer bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. I like to add a pinch of sugar on top then mix these together to get the yeast activated. 

→ If the yeast shows no signs of bubbling or foaming, it might not be active and won’t work for the bread. 

The Long Knead 

Add the rest of the ingredients and knead: the flour on top first (it’s the safest and creates a barrier between the rest of the ingredients and the bloomed yeast) then the rest – keeping the roux, if it’s hot, away from the eggs because the heat can ‘cook’ them. 

Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until it starts to come together in a sticky mass ball around the dough hook. 

Slowly add the butter then knead: With the mixer on, add the butter a heaped tablespoon at a time. The quicker you add the butter, the longer the dough will take to knead as it works against the fat added to the dough (fat prohibits gluten development). Slower, the dough can incorporate it as it kneads. 

Knead the dough until it’s glossy. I don’t do the windowpane test here because to get it to that point, with this amount of dough, would probably take up to 25-30 minutes and my mixer can’t handle it. I also have noted it didn’t make a difference but the dough will look shiny and stretchy and the bowl will mostly be clear with the dough amassing around the dough hook. 

→ If your mixer is struggling with the amount of dough and getting hot, you can turn it off for 10 minutes and let it rest, then resume kneading. 

Rising & Shaping 

First rise: Set the dough in an oiled bowl then toss it around to coat. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until almost doubled. You don’t want the dough to overproof so keep an eye on it, but also under proofed dough is difficult to work with and won’t yield as tender of a brioche. 

→ You’ll need two metal loaf pans, standard size (so 8 or 9 inches long, 5 inches wide). Grease them before placing the dough in them. 

Divide the dough and shape: this recipe makes two loaves so divide it in half and set one half aside while you work with the first. 

I divide mine into eighths then roll them out into long ovals (sometimes I’ll brush extra brown butter on the dough), and then roll up into logs (like a cigar) and tightly pack them into the loaf pan. You can also just roll the eighths into balls and position them in the pan or divide into thirds and braid. Repeat with the second ball of dough. 

Second rise: Lightly cover the pans with a tea towel and let them rise for 45-60 minutes, until you can gently press the dough and it doesn’t immediately spring back, but slowly rises back, leaving a small indentation. 

Whisk together the egg yolk and heavy cream, and generously brush over the top of the dough. 

Bake for about 45 minutes but don’t go by time: The brioche loaves are done baking when the tops are golden and the inside temperature registers 190 F. If you don’t have a thermometer you’ll want to check the center is done baking by pressing the top (careful not to burn your finger) and seeing if it still sinks a bit in the center (this means the center is still doughy). 

FAQ

Can I make just one loaf? 

You can! Just use half of everything. Note that everything will move a bit quicker: the butter will brown faster since there’s less of it, same with the roux, the dough will take less time to knead (but probably the same amount of time to rise). 

 

Why does my bread have stretch marks? 

In the photos you’ll notice mine had these, it won’t change the flavor or texture of the brioche so I won’t worry too much if it happens to you, but this occurs when the dough is slightly under proofed and starts to quickly grow under the heat of the oven.  

 

Why does brioche dough knead for so long? 

Because brioche is a fat enriched dough (has added butter and eggs, and in this case a lot of both) and fat inhibits gluten development, we’ll knead it for longer to develop the gluten. 

 

Can I knead brioche dough by hand or with a hand mixer? 

No, this is a very ‘wet’ and sticky dough and if it needs roughly 20 minutes at the stand mixer it would take up to an hour by hand, and even then, probably not have developed enough gluten. 

 

Can I set brioche dough in the fridge overnight for a longer rise? 

Yes, let the dough have an hour at room temperature first then set it in the fridge overnight. This is a great option to make it ahead of time to eat earlier in the am. A longer, cold rise also has the benefit of giving the brioche better flavor. Just remember to use visual cues to know when the dough is done rising: it should have almost doubled for the first rise and the second (which needs to be at room temperature) is done when you can press the dough and it slowly returns its shape leaving a small indentation. 

 

I don’t want to separate an egg, what else can I brush over the dough? 

You can do just the egg white, a whole egg or just heavy cream. 

What can I do with leftover brioche? 

Best thing to do with leftovers in my opinion is to make french toast, the dryer the bread the more of the custard it will soak up! Similarly a bread pudding works. If you’re looking for something savory, bread crumbs (toss with olive oil and sea salt and bake until crispy). 

 

Brown Butter Brioche Recipe 



Brown Butter Brioche

Super soft and tender homemade milk bread brioche made with brown butter. Brown butter adds extra flavor to this brioche recipe, giving it that ‘nutty’ or toffee-like taste.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Rising Time: 4 hours
Yields: 2 loaves
5 from 1 vote

Ingredients

Brown Butter

  • 226g or 1 cup unsalted butter

Roux

  • 65g or ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 360g or 1 ½ cups tap water

Dough

  • 10g or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 60g or ¼ cup warm tap water
  • 715g or 5 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup milk powder optional, adds flavor and softens the dough
  • 130g or ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons fine granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • browned butter* from above cooled and firm

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Method

  • Brown the butter: in a medium sized saucepan add the butter and set over medium heat. Cook and stir as the butter melts, then starts to separate (you’ll hear it sputtering and see tiny bits that look like panko at the bottom of the pan). Continue cooking and stirring frequently until the bits at the bottom all turn a toasty brown color. Immediately transfer to a heatproof bowl.
  • Before you begin making the dough, the butter should be at a soft solid, or creamy state. Chill it for about 30 minutes to get to that texture.
  • Make the roux: in a small pot, add the water and flour and set over medium heat. Cook while whisking and stirring until the mixture thickens into a paste, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Make the dough: Add the quarter cup of water to the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over it. Over the yeast add a pinch of the sugar. Stir then leave it for a few minutes to activate (if it does not foam the yeast is likely expired).
  • Over the yeast add the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, roux, milk powder and vanilla (if the roux is hot, try to keep the eggs away from it by putting the roux in one side of the bowl and the eggs in the other). Affix the dough hook and begin kneading. Once the dough starts to come together around the hook, you can add the butter, slowly - about one tablespoon at a time.
  • Knead the dough until the dough comes together again around the hook - this can take up to 20 minutes with the full amount of dough in the mixer. The dough will look soupy and separate at first but as it kneads it will become glossy and almost clear the bowl so that it’s mostly around the hook (see photos & video for reference). If your mixer is overheating, turn it off and give it a 5-10 minute break then continue kneading.
  • Set the dough in a large oiled bowl, and toss the dough around the bowl to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set at room temperature to rise until doubled, about 2 hours (in a cold kitchen this may take longer, in a warm kitchen it might be quicker).
  • Ready two loaf pans by greasing them with a light spray of oil or brushing them with butter.
  • On a floured surface divide the dough in half, each half will become one loaf.
  • Per loaf you can either divide the dough into thirds and braid them, or divide the dough into eighths. With each piece of dough, roll it out into a long oval then roll the oval up like you would a cinnamon roll. Stack the eight rolled doughs in the loaf pan and repeat the process with the second half of the dough.
  • Let the two loaves rise for about 45-60 minutes, until the dough doesn’t immediately spring back when pressed but leaves a slight indentation. Preheat the oven to 350 F and beat together the egg yolk and heavy cream. Brush over the tops of the dough.
  • Bake the loaves until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 190 F, about 45 minutes. Check them at 30 minutes, and if they are over browning, tent them with foil (I tend to tent mine at the 25 minute mark). Let cool briefly in the pan then transfer to a cooling rack.
  • Store brioche loaves in an airtight container, they’ll last about 3 days.

Notes

Recipe makes two large loaves

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  1. Hi there! I have what may be a silly question….but do you think this dough is structured enough to hold a slight filling, added in like a swirl bread? I’ve got a really special jam I’d love to use, but I thought I’d better ask since this dough isn’t one of yours I’ve tried using in this way before!

  2. Gosh almighty, is this “asking” to be made. One quickie before delving in. You ask for “17” g. yeast, and normally I always follow gram weights…but then I see or “1 tb.” Not sure if that was a typo, but I suspect the gram weight should be “7”?