A Tale of Two (Make that Three) Brioches

When I read about the brioche variations, there was little doubt which one I would choose.  The “Rich Man’s Brioche”, in addition to its name, has the draw of containing a full pound of butter, almost 90% in terms of baker’s percentages.  But if I was going to make such a decadent loaf of bread, I had to do it right.  This meant ordering brioche molds. 

As I looked at the BBA pictures, I realized I already owned a few molds, although when I bought them I had no idea what they were.  I picked them up at a cooking store because I thought they were the perfect size for measuring dry ingredients like yeast and salt on my scale.  I have two sizes of molds, very small and sort of medium-smallish.  I knew these would not be enough for baking the brioche, so I found some online to order.  I ordered a set of four 2 1/2-inch molds, which I think are probably about the same size as my medium-smallish ones; and a 6 1/2-inch mold, to make a loaf (kind of like the one pictured in BBA).

My molds are on the way, but I got to the weekend and decided I had to bake.  I was reading the brioche recipes again and noted that PR describes the Poor Man’s Brioche as making a good pain de mie.  Since I like to bake our sandwich bread, hadn’t used my Pullman pan in a few weeks, and figured it would make killer bread pudding, I decided to go ahead and make the Poor Man’s version this weekend and the Rich Man’s when my pans arrive.

In making the two versions, I was interested in comparing a few things.  First and foremost, the taste.  I wanted to know just how much that extra 3/4 pound of butter would do for the flavor.  And second, I was interested to see the difference in how the doughs handle, as the recipe indicates that the Rich dough can be challenging to handle, while the Poor version is more like French bread dough.

Poor Man’s Brioche

I mixed the Poor Man’s Brioche dough following the BBA recipe, with the exception of the milk.  My milk was bad, so I used water for the milk in the sponge and added powdered milk with the dry ingredients.  The dough was beautiful.  The eggs gave it a rich, golden color, even before adding the butter.  It needed a bit of extra flour during the kneading stage (I kneaded on low speed in my Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer), and the dough was silky and smooth by the end of the kneading period, and much more like the bread dough I am used to than the Rich Man’s dough would turn out (more on that below).  It rose beautifully and right on schedule.

Brioche en Bucket

I used three of my brioche molds and the Pullman pan.  I could tell right away that the dough would not fill the Pullman when it rose and baked, but I decided to use it anyway. 

Buncha Brioche Dough

After proofing, I baked the brioche molds at 400 dF for about 15 minutes.  They looked and smelled fantastic.  Two of them even lived to cool.  Then I baked the loaf at 350 dF for about 40 minutes, until it registered 190 dF on my instant-read thermometer. Since I knew it wouldn’t fill the pan, I left the lid off. The loaves were beautiful.  I especially liked the shiny top crust that the egg wash gave them. 

Brioche and Friends

As for the flavor, the small loaves were a bit dry; perhaps they should have come out of the oven sooner.  The pain de mie loaf was delicious.  Tasting it, I could see how some people described it as “tasting a sweet, buttery cloud”. But alas, it did not live to be sandwich bread, as on the first taste, it screamed out to be made into French toast and bread pudding.  So I cut some thick slices for bread pudding (see the N’awlins Bread Pudding post) and some thinner slices, which I used to make some of the best French toast ever.

Brioche French Toast

I enjoyed this bread more as French toast and bread pudding than just by the slice.  I might make it again for bread pudding, and I am interested in trying it with brie en croute.  But I wouldn’t make it with the intention of using as a sandwich loaf.  My standard pain de mie recipes (white and whole grain) are much better suited for that.

Rich Man’s Brioche

My brioche molds arrived mid-week, so I started the Rich Man’s Brioche dough on Friday evening.  We were planning to go away for most of Saturday, but I gathered from the recipe that when it comes to chilling this dough, longer is better.  

A few things really stand out about this recipe.  First, it calls for a lot of yeast (1 tablespoon instant).  And of course it calls for a perverse amount of butter (one full pound).  I was also surprised to realize that the dough is not kneaded.  Instead, it is mixed, either with the paddle attachment on your mixer (as I did it) or with a spoon.  Finally, I got the impression that this would not be your standard French bread-type dough, but would be much more slack.

I mixed the sponge according to the BBA recipe, then added the eggs (all 5 of them!) and mixed well.  I mixed in the dry ingredients (still using the paddle attachment), then allowed the dough to rest for 5 minutes.  I scraped down the dough, then added one stick of butter and mixed for a minute or so on speed 4.  I repeated the scraping, adding butter, and mixing for each stick of butter.  Then I scraped the bowl and mixed with the paddle attachment on speed 4 for about 6 minutes, stopping to scrape down the dough two or three times.  The dough was very soft and somewhat gooey.

A note on ingredients.  The butter and eggs should be at room temperature.  I always set them out the night before I plan to bake to make sure they are really room temp.  There is nothing worse than waiting for ingredients to warm up when you want to bake!

Mixing Rich Brioche in KA

When I was finished mixing, it was the strangest dough.  It’s difficult to describe the consistency of this dough, but I would say it was almost what you might expect to get if you mixed cake batter and sugar cookie dough.  It was very close to the consistency of my 100% hydration sourdough starter.

Rich Brioche Dough in Bowl

The directions said to put the dough on a baking sheet, but I decided it might keep its shape better in an 8×8 baking pan, so that’s what I used.

Rich Brioche Dough in Le Crueset

I sprayed the parchment with spray oil before adding the dough, and sprayed the top of the dough and my plastic wrap as well.  Then I put the dough in the fridge for a nice, long cool down.

I didn’t get around to baking on Saturday, so I pulled the dough out Sunday morning.  It really rose in the refrigertor.  I would say it almost doubled in size.

Rich Brioche - Risen

PR says to keep the dough very cold, so I cut off a chunk and put the rest back in the fridge.

Cutting Rich Man's Brioche Dough

If I thought the consistency of the dough was strange before, this really took the cake (or should I say, butter?).  The book warned that this was not an easy dough to work with, and indeed it was strange – slippery, but quite mailable.  It felt like shaping cold butter.  I worked quickly, so as not to let the dough get too warm.  From the first chunk I measured 2.5 oz pieces, which I shaped into brioche a tetes for my small molds.  Then I got the dough back out and measured out a one pound chunk for my large mold.  The rest (about 14.5 oz) I put in a standard loaf pan.

Rich Man's - Ready to Proof

I let the dough proof for about two hours, then I brushed the small brioches with egg wash and preheated the oven to 400 dF.  The small loaves took about 20 minutes to bake, and I prepared the larger loaves while the smaller ones were in the oven.  When the small loaves were done baking, I reduced the oven to 350 dF for the large loaves, which I baked for 35 minutes.

See below for the pictures of the final product.  I really liked this bread.  It was rich (bien sur!), with a dense, moist crumb.  It didn’t need any butter and was delicious with orange marmalade.  Will I make it again?  Read on….

Middle-Class Brioche

I hadn’t planned on making all three “classes” of brioche; but so many people were posting about how much they liked the middle-class version that I decided to give it a try.  I mixed up the dough while the Rich Man’s Brioche was proofing.  It was really similar in consistency to the Rich version, but not quite as gooey.  The Middle Class dough was still quite soft, but it felt a bit more like traditional bread dough than the Rich Man’s dough.  I used the same 8×8 pan to bulk ferment the dough.

Middle Class - Ready for Fridge

It didn’t rise quite as much as the Rich Man’s Brioche, but I don’t know if that was a difference in the dough or because it only bulk fermented for about 5 hours.  It definitely rose, though, and looked like it was ready to go.

Middle Class - Risen

I measured and shaped the dough exactly the same as the Rich version and let the dough proof for about the same amount of time.  Here is the dough before and after proofing.

Middle Class - Shaped and Ready for ProofingMiddle Class - Ready to Bake

Again, I baked the Middle-Class loaves as I had the Rich Man’s version, baking the small brioches first, then the larger loaves.  One thing that really surprised me was the oven spring.  Although the dough hadn’t risen as much during the bulk ferment, it looked about the same when it went into the oven.  But here’s what it looked like coming out:

Middle Class Brioche with First Class Oven Spring!

Here are the Rich Man’s loaves (on the left), along with the Middle-Class loaves.  They both came out beautifully, but the Middle-Class loaves won out on oven spring.

All the Pretty Brioches

The crumb looked almost exactly the same (Rich is on the left).

Crumby Crumb Picture

So, how about the taste?  The Middle-Class Brioche was absolutely delicious!  Again, I tried it plain and with marmalade and loved it both ways.  And imagine my surprise when I did a side-by-side comparison of the Rich and Middle-Class breads:  I actually preferred the Middle-Class version!  I thought it tasted richer and more buttery than the Rich Man’s version. 

In the end, I was glad to have tried all three versions.  And I will definitely make the Middle-Class version again (and again, and again).  The Rich bread was really delicious; but for the extra butter and the difficulty working the dough, I think I’ll stick with the Middle Class.  And the Poor Man’s version?  I’d like to try that again to use for brie en croute, as PR recommends.  And I’d bake it just to make bread pudding and French toast with it any day.

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54 Comments

  1. February 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    [...] our Google discussion page asking each other which version we were planning on making.  Some like Phyl, of Cabbages and King Cakes, made all three.  Most of the people who made the rich man’s [...]

  2. May 14, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    [...] I’m no stranger to brioche. I made three versions of it during the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. Bubble-top brioche was one of the first [...]

  3. August 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    [...] at Of Cabbages and King Cakes who made all 3(!) [...]

  4. October 20, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    [...] in the third section of The Modern Baker is a bread with which I am quite familiar, having baked three versions from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and one from Dorie [...]

  5. September 20, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    [...] For my second recipe, I decided to make something I already know and love, Brioche. Having made all three brioche recipes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, I had an idea what to expect from the dough and resulting [...]

  6. Gina said,

    September 21, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Thank you for helping me decide…Middle class it is! Great blog as well…subscribing!

  7. July 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    [...] at Of Cabbages and King Cakes who made all 3(!) [...]

  8. June 17, 2009 at 10:27 am

    [...] at Want and Kneads looks great Katya over at Second Dinner did a Poor Man’s version  Phyl (gaaarp) is going for all THREE versions (he’s certifiably mad, I tells ya!)  Heather at Flour Girl [...]

  9. kellypea said,

    June 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    What a tremendous amount of information! My rich man’s version is proofing right now…I’m scanning to see if anyone proofed in the fridge or not considering the amount of butter. Guess not, so I’m forging ahead at room temp, which isn’t too warm. Thanks again for all your great information!

  10. June 14, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    [...] posts, you know I don’t do things the simple way. For example, I made all three versions of brioche. So it shouldn’t surprise you to note that, even though I was nervous about the braiding, I [...]

  11. Maris said,

    June 14, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Reading your post is making me wish I had bought the brioche molds. Oh well, next time!

  12. June 7, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    [...] BBA brioche experiences: A Tale of Two (Make that Three) Brioches – Of Cabbages & King Cakes If I were a rich, um … Flour Girl – Flour Girl Accidental [...]

  13. June 5, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    [...] our Google discussion page asking each other which version we were planning on making.  Some like Phyl, of Cabbages and King Cakes, made all three.  Most of the people who made the rich man’s [...]

  14. twoskinnyjenkins said,

    June 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I think it’s so cool that you’re trying out ALL the different versions of Brioche. I really wish i had that kind of energy/ time! I only made the Poor Man’s Brioche. I will try using it for french toast – it looks delicious!

    • gaaarp said,

      June 2, 2009 at 5:35 pm

      I’m not sure what posessed me, making all this brioche! I only made one of the Artos breads. But who could resist all that butter?

  15. June 2, 2009 at 12:55 am

    I loved your brioche Phyl, I think I’ll join you soon, BBA is on his way to me, you can not imagine I can not even wait
    I made your cinnamon swirl but forgot to put the pics, can I put it now or it is too late.
    Thank you Phyl for sharing us your pics and your baking adventures, it is really a joy for you and us !!
    Can I have some of your Brioche, yours looks awesome !!

    • gaaarp said,

      June 2, 2009 at 5:33 pm

      Chahira, good to hear from you! And I’m gald to hear you were able to order BBA. I remember you saying it was difficult to get ahold of in Egypt. Feel free to add your pictures on the Artisan Facebook page. and there is a BBA Challenge FB page, too.

  16. jennetcetera said,

    June 1, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I’m doing rich man’s because my hubby and brother-in-law (who are helping me devour bread like a madfamily) happen to love butter.. when they found out there were three versions they practically BEGGED me to make this version. So clogged arteries, here I come!

    I’m hesitant to make it in my loaf pans, but I’m a little nervous about trying to make rolls out of it and brioche pans are out of my budget for now. Hoping they turn out ok!!

    • gaaarp said,

      June 1, 2009 at 5:47 pm

      For my Middle-Class loaf, I made rolls and then put them in the pan. It made a beautiful loaf. It was a lot easier than trying to shape a loaf with such gooey dough, too.

  17. June 1, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for the thorough analysis. I have my middle-class version proofing right now. We’ll have it for dinner tonight. I will now be patient and give it lots of time to rise. I think 2 hours for large ones will not be long enough.

    Your breads looked beautiful.

  18. Victoria said,

    June 1, 2009 at 9:42 am

    I agree about the rich man’s loaf. It was hard to shape, almost like clay. Your middle-class loaves turned out much prettier! I wish I had stuck with the middle-class recipe.

    Of course, my boyfriend is now devouring the rich man’s loaf. I don’t have the heart to tell him how much butter is in it.

  19. Catherine said,

    May 31, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Oh they look lovely! I was wavering, but I think you’ve convinced me to go with the Middle Class… I love the loaf you made – does the lumpy, loaf-of-rolls have a name? I might try that technique. btw, I love your blog theme.

    • gaaarp said,

      May 31, 2009 at 11:29 pm

      Thanks! I don’t know if the lumpy lump technique has a name. I got the idea from someone else’s post. It came out really nice, though. I’ll probably do it again on a different loaf.

  20. Dave Reed said,

    May 31, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Wow you are ambitious! I just made the middle class myself. Which one did you use the Capri Sun in?

    • gaaarp said,

      May 31, 2009 at 9:10 pm

      LOL. You can tell I have kids! I try to find a clear spot to take photos, but it’s not that easy around here (I spend more time baking than cleaning).

  21. kelly said,

    May 31, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Wow, thank you for this comparison. It’s extremely helpful. I’d planned on making the middle class one but started feeling guilty about not going all out with the rich. (I’ve made the “poor” one before). Now I’m going to stick with my original plan and make the middle class version.

    What a sacrifice you made to get us this info – all that bread… ;)

    • gaaarp said,

      May 31, 2009 at 8:43 pm

      The sacrifice is worth it. Taking one for the team, you know. I used to say, “Guinness made me stout.” Now I have to blame the bread!

  22. Paul said,

    May 31, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Thanks for going the extra kilometer on this one, glad to see a comparison of all three. If I could justify it, I’d give the Middle Class a try as well but we’re going to be drowning in bread if I start doing doubles mid week.

    Put that one down o the list of “Bread to do again at the end”. Although, technically, I guess I won’t be doing the MC brioche version “again” since I only did the Rich Man’s.

  23. Susie said,

    May 31, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    That is great that you tried all three. I found the RICH too rich. LOL. It was actually crumbly. It did make excellent toast though.
    Great job. Nice read,
    Susie

  24. May 31, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    The poor man’s sounds really excellent. Really beautiful pullman loaf. My rich man is in the fridge, now I’m thinking I should give the poor man a try.

  25. May 31, 2009 at 1:16 am

    I am starting brioche tomorrow while visiting my MOM. I love brioche – My Mom and I will work on together. She has a Pullman pan too! Thanks for the idea. Happy Baking!

    • gaaarp said,

      May 31, 2009 at 10:35 am

      I hope you have a great time baking with your Mom. I should do that the next time my Mom visits. After all, she’s the one who started me on this journey – 30 years ago.

      My Rich brioche is proofing now. I made 5 traditional brioches and did the rest of the dough in a standard loaf pan. And I have Middle Class dough in the fridge.

  26. May 30, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks for the update and not about room temp butter and eggs. Loved the tip about the 8 inch square pan. I will be starting my brioch tomorrow (had to make a second batch of bagels for my family today – they loved them so much). Can’t wait to see your final result.

    Cindy

  27. Mags said,

    May 27, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    LOL.. sorry for the double (now triple) post. I didn’t think it went through.

  28. Mags said,

    May 27, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    I think your brioche looks lovely. I’m looking forward to shaping and baking mine tomorrow. Good job.

  29. Mags said,

    May 27, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    I ordered the petite paper brioche molds and I’m going to pretend like I know what I’m doing tomorrow morning. Wish me luck…lol

    Your results look lovely… keeping my fingers crossed here.

  30. oggi said,

    May 27, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I’m tempted to try the poor man’s version just to compare with the middle-class I baked a few days ago.

    I love the rich color of the crust. Will wait for the rich man’s version.:)

    • gaaarp said,

      May 27, 2009 at 8:08 pm

      My brioche molds got here today!!! Just in time for my weekend Rich Man bake!

  31. gammaraygirl100 said,

    May 27, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I have a kitchen aid artisan mixer too. Just got he dough hook for this challenge. My dough tends to get all caught up on the dough hook. It becomes this cylindrical mass stuck all the way up the hook and clinging to the disc that is the top of the dough hook. Is this normal?? Should I mix on a higher or lower speed? What speed do you use? The Anadama and Artos still turned out — just not confident yet. — Julie

    • gaaarp said,

      May 27, 2009 at 8:07 pm

      The dough does tend to climb the hook. Per KA instructions, you should only mix dough on speed 1 or 2. I generally use 2. If your dough sticks too much, spray your dough hook with pan spray before you start mixing.

  32. catherine said,

    May 27, 2009 at 1:28 am

    love brioche, and i’m glad you’re making different variations, so i can decide which kind to make.

    and the bread pudding recipe is great! i’ll make it for a friend who visited new orleans and has done nothing but rave about the bread pudding.

  33. May 26, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I’m tempted to try all three brioches as well, not for any good reason other than “because”. :)

    Your brioches & loaf look very nice!

  34. May 26, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    I am also curious to see how the Rich man’s and Poor man’s differ in terms of taste and texture of the dough. So thanks for baking ahead and doing the research for me. Can’t wait to read your rich man’s post for the comparison.

    Cindy

    • gaaarp said,

      May 26, 2009 at 10:14 pm

      One is pleased to be of service. :-)

      I only wish I could have made them at the same time for a direct comparison. Maybe I’ll do the Rich and Middle-class ones together (if I can figure out what to do with all that bread!)

  35. Heather said,

    May 26, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Great post! I went the middle-class route, ’cause I’m boring like that. I made six hamburger rolls and a regular loaf. My preschooler has already devoured a roll with cream cheese and is making his way through a PB&J made with the loaf. I tried a heel and some crust and it’s pretty tasty — not quite as obscenely greasy as I was expecting. I bet it’ll make outstanding French toast.

    • gaaarp said,

      May 26, 2009 at 7:34 pm

      Heather, not boring at all. In fact, after reading your and others’ experience with the Middle-Class version, I’m thinking I may need to try it, too. I guess I’d have to change the title of the post to “A Tale of Three Brioches”!

  36. Görel said,

    May 26, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Nice, informative write-up! But I’m curious about the Pullman pan, and especially the lid? What’s so special with that pan, and when do you use the lid?

    • gaaarp said,

      May 26, 2009 at 6:40 pm

      Gorel, the Pullman is a special lidded bread pan, typically 13x4x4 (inches) used to make sandwich bread. The purpose of the lid is to make a tight, rectangular loaf that, when sliced, makes perfectly square slices with a tight crumb.

      You can see the pan on King Arthur’s website at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/pain-de-mie-pan-with-lid. They also have a few recipes there, where you can see the finished product.

      • Görel said,

        May 28, 2009 at 1:26 am

        Oh, I see! Hehe, I thought one of the reasons to bake your own bread was to NOT get that square shaped slices … ;-)

  37. Jia said,

    May 25, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Handsome loaf!! I am going to make mine into loaves too. Hubby made middle-class version before and they turned out really good. I am tempted to go rich this time ….

  38. May 25, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    [...] Orleans bread pudding, guaranteed to please.  In fact, the last time I made it using my leftover Poor Man’s Brioche, I actually cried a little.  It’s that good.  My mom was visiting and showed up with a [...]

  39. Susie said,

    May 25, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    So cool looking. Tasty too.
    I am just starting my brioche just a minute ago and will be
    baking tomorrow.
    Wonderful,
    Susie

  40. gaaarp said,

    May 25, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Di, I debated about the Pullman pan for a while, too. I finally found it on Amazon for a decent price. The pan and lid were separate, but I got free shipping, and I want to say my total was around $20.

  41. Di said,

    May 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I love the Pullman loaf–another pan to add to my wishlist. =) We love French toast around here, so I’ll have to keep this recipe in mind. I’m leaning toward doing the middle version, since I want to make another batch of Dorie’s Brioche Raisin Snails.


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