Melt the butter either in the microwave in 10-15 second increments or over a double boiler.
Combine the butter, milk, sugar, and yeast and set aside for 5 minutes for the yeast to activate (this isn’t necessary when using instant yeast).
Step 2: Create the brioche bread dough
You can mix the dough manually or with a stand mixer. Combine the yeast mixture, flour, salt, and cream into a bowl or mixer and mix into a sticky dough, then knead until smooth and tacky. This is a moist dough, so stickiness is normal.The kneading will take around 10-12 minutes in a stand mixer with a dough hook or 15-20 minutes by hand (up to 30 minutes). When ready, the dough should be smooth and velvety.When using a stand mixer, it’s ready when you can lift the dough hook, and the dough lifts cleanly from the bowl.
Step 3: Leave the dough to rise
Leave the dough to rise in the bowl for an hour in a warm location, covered well with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.If it’s winter or you live somewhere where it’s cold, you can preheat the oven to its lowest temperature, switch off the oven, and leave the dough to rise in the off oven. During this time, it will double (or even triple) in size.
You can prepare your loaf tin during this time too by greasing it with a little oil, butter, or cooking spray.
Step 4: Shape the brioche loaf
Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface and cut it into 4 equal pieces. You can do this "exactly" by measuring each piece. However, you can also do this by eye.
Flatten each piece until it’s about a couple of inches wider than your loaf tin and an even thickness throughout. You’ll end up with a rectangular piece like those photographed (see blog post).
To shape each piece, fold in about an inch on both sides (so it will fit your loaf tin) and then roll it up.Alternatively, you can create a Nantaise loaf, divide the dough into 8 pieces, roll them into small balls, and then place those in the bread tin in two rows. For a braided loaf, split the loaf into three pieces and roll into logs around the length of your loaf tin. Press the three strands together on one end, braid, and press again on the other end, then tuck in the pressed end and place in your loaf pan.
Step 5: Prove the brioche dough a second time
Arrange the four pieces into your prepared loaf tin and brush lightly with a bit of milk (or water) to stop the dough from drying. Leave to rise again for 30 minutes, or until it doubles in size once more.This second proof can take up to two hours, depending on the temperature and climate, so just keep an eye on it and try to keep it in a warm location. To test that it’s ready, lightly poke one side of the dough. When it’s ready, it should only bounce back slightly (if at all). If it bounces back completely, it needs more proofing.
Step 6: Bake the brioche dough
Brush the top of the brioche dough liberally with egg wash (milk and egg) - this will give it a lovely shiny crust. Then bake in the oven at 350ºF/175ºC for between 25-30 minutes until golden brown and puffed up.Feel free to use an egg wash alternative such as honey mixed with milk or butter or simple milk and melted butter mixture. Each option will affect how shiny the brioche loaf ends up.
If the brioche bread looks like it’s browning too quickly on top, then you can place a baking sheet on the rack above your tin to stop the bread from burning or even cover the loaf with some foil.
Remove the brioche loaf from the oven and allow it to cool fully before slicing (or tearing).
How to Make Ahead and Store French Brioche Bread
Make ahead: you can prepare this dough up to two days in advance. After kneading the dough, rather than leaving it to prove in a warm place, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for up to two days. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor - it will also rise but at a slower rate. Don’t panic if it hasn’t completely doubled in size, as you’ll still be doing the second proof.You can also freeze the unbaked dough - read my FAQs for all the details.Store: store the baked French brioche in an airtight container/bag for several days. Due to the enriched dough, it stays wonderfully soft for 3-4 days! Alternatively, store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.Freeze: to freeze the baked brioche loaf, wrap it tightly in foil while it’s still slightly warm and then place in a freezer-safe bag, removing all excess air. Seal the bag and freeze for up to two months.: To freeze the baked brioche loaf, wrap it tightly in foil while it’s still slightly warm and then place in a freezer-safe bag, removing all excess air. Seal the bag and freeze for up to two months.
Recipe Notes & Variations
Don’t open the oven door: when baking brioche, it’s important to leave the oven door closed until the loaf has a developed crust and is fully risen. Otherwise, you may end up with a brioche loaf that has fallen flat.
It’s best to use a stand mixer: while it’s technically possible to make it without, because the enriched dough is sticky and soft, it takes longer to knead and even longer to knead by hand - sometimes up to 30 minutes! For that reason, I recommend using a stand mixer for brioche bread if you have one.
Test the yeast: if you haven’t baked in a while, it’s always a good idea to check your yeast to make sure it’s still active. Do this by combining a little yeast with water and sugar, then rest for a few minutes. It should start to foam and become bubbly. If it doesn’t, then don’t attempt this French brioche recipe.
For egg-free brioche: I haven’t tested this recipe without eggs. However, I plan on using my vegan leopard-print brioche loaf to share a vegan brioche loaf soon, so feel free to follow me on Instagram or my blog to know when it’s posted!
For gluten-free brioche: I haven’t tried this recipe with any gluten-free flour, so I can’t guarantee results. However, if you want to try, I recommend using general all-purpose GF flour like King Arthur’s or Bob’s Red Mill.
Optional add-ins and variations:
Vanilla: scrape the seeds of a vanilla pod into the dough when mixing.
Extra sugar: if you want more of a sweet brioche loaf, feel free to add in a little extra sugar - just be careful, as extra sugar will also make the dough slacker.
Orange zest: you can then use the oranges to make fresh orange juice.
Poppy seeds: to sprinkle over the egg-washed bread before baking.
Dried fruit: like raisins, sultanas, apricots, etc. Soaked in hot water or even rum.
Chocolate: chocolate chips are an easy (and delicious) addition to this homemade brioche bread. In fact, I recommend adding chocolate chips AND orange zest.
Cinnamon: add some directly into the dough or sprinkle a pearl sugar and cinnamon mix over the brioche loaf before baking.
Glaze: if you’re making a sweet brioche loaf, feel free to create a simple glaze to drizzle over the baked loaf. Combine powdered sugar with a bit of milk and lemon juice until it reaches the desired consistency.