Originally brioche à tête, brioche is a type of sweet, rich French bread made with butter and sugar. The traditional shape of a brioche is that of a round lump topped with another smaller round lump or topknot (hence its original name, meaning "with a head"), though in modern times it is usually baked in regular loaf or muffin tins.

The word "brioche" probably derives from the Norman broyer, to pound. (A Norman specialty is the bread "pain brie".) Some think, however, that the bread was given its name due to first being baked in the French town of Brie, or that it was made using Brie cheese. A Greek version of brioche is tsoureki or Easter bread; this nests an egg (dyed red) and is sprinkled with sesame seeds. It may also be involved in some Greek orthodox ceremonies. In Germany brioche is known as Kugelhupf, and in Corfu it is called fogatsa, from the Italian foccacia.

To make a loaf:

Ingredients

1/2 a cup of milk
21/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
21/2 cups of plain flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
6 tablespoons of butter (unsalted if possible)
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs (but two small eggs are better than three small eggs, if that's all you have).

As with all dough-making recipes, everything you use should be warm (at least room temperature). Make sure you take the eggs from the fridge when starting, as adding cold eggs later will cause the mixture to curdle.

  • Find a suitably sized pan (maybe 8"x4"x2")or muffin tray and grease.
  • Put the milk over a low heat until warm, and pour into a smallish bowl.
  • Whisk in the yeast and one cup of flour.
  • Cover bowl. Get another, bigger bowl.

  • Mix the sugar, salt and butter with an electric mixer, on the lowest setting.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, while mixing. Then sieve in the remaining flour and mix again.
  • Scrape the yeast mixture from the other bowl into the larger, and mix together until it looks smooth.
  • The messy bit
    • Flour a surface. Turn the dough onto it and fold it over itself for a while to elasticate it.

    • * Here you can add anything you like, if you want to make your brioche a little less plain. Cinnamon is a nice addition, or alternatively, add raisins, honey, banana slices &c. Melted chocolate could also be mixed in before the dough is taken out of the bowl.
    • Mould the dough roughly into the shape of your tin.
    • Fold each side about an inch towards the centre. Ensure it stays folded by pinching the seams.
    • Fold the sides again, right into the middle. If your dough is too sticky and refuses to stay where you put it, don't worry. I've found that shovelling it into the tin with a spatula works just as well.
    • Transfer to the tin, seam side down, cover it and let it sleep for about an hour. If using a loaf tin, it should only be half-filled to allow the bread to rise.
    • Turn the oven on after forty-five minutes to gas mark 4 (180oC, 360oF).
    • Slice a line down the top of the bread, to make it look impressive. Bake it in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until brown outside and golden inside.
    Brioche can be stored for about a week (stale slices make very good toast) or frozen. It can be topped like any bread with cheese and so on, used for croûtons or bread pudding, or made into a cake by putting more sugar and/or cherries into the mix.