French Baking Classics
When I am in France, there is nothing more I enjoy for breakfast than a lovely light, flaky croissant or a pain au chocolat, dunked in coffee of course, as is the French way! But, my favourite “Viennoiserie” pastries, or should I says bread buns, are brioche; any kind of brioche is welcome on my kitchen table, as they come in many forms, from Brioche Nanterre, which is baked in a regular loaf tin to Brioche Parisienne and the little Brioches à Tête, both of which are baked in fluted metal tins (or in fluted waxed cases) and are perhaps the most recognisable of the brioche shapes. Brioche is usually eaten for breakfast, brunch or as a sweet treat with coffee, but recently they have started to make an appearance in savoury recipes, with brioche burger buns being “de rigueur” and bang on trend over the last few years, although in France, brioche dough is often used for “en croute” recipes and savoury “amuse bouche” appetisers.
Today’s recipe for Brioches à Tête is very easy, as I mix and knead the dough in my Kenwood strand mixer for ease and speed. If you have time, you can of course start kneading these buttery pastries by hand, but there is nothing wrong with having a helping hand now and then! The other great thing about this recipe is that the dough is popped in the fridge overnight for a slow rise, meaning that it’s all ready for baking the next day, which is fabulous for lazy weekend breakfast and brunch. If you want to use the recipe for burger buns or for “Fillet of Beef en Croute”, then reduce the sugar in the recipe to a teaspoon – the mixing, kneading and proving will be just the same, although you will need to shape the dough differently according to what you are using the brioche dough for.
I hope you will try my Brioches à Tête recipe, if you do make them you will be rewarded with a batch of 8 golden-glazed, buttery and fluffy bread buns that taste utterly divine! Don’t take my word for it though, give these delicious buns a whirl – the recipe is also easily doubled for 16 wee hat-topped bread treats too, perfect for larger gatherings and special events such as Mothering Sunday, Easter, Christmas or Valentine’s Day. I served mine with some of my homemade Pink Gooseberry Jam last time I made them, as seen in the photos, but they are also wonderful with lemon curd, chocolate spread and all manner of fruit jams and conserves. That’s it for today, I will be back this weekend with some more recipes as well as some travel, hotel and restaurant reviews, so do keep popping back to see what’s new! Have a wonderful day, Karen
Please note, my lovely Brioche buns are served on The Caravan Trail Penzance and Beach Break flatware, as part of my ongoing collaboration with Churchill China as their Official Caravan Trail Blogger. For more recipes using this and other china in the range, please visit this page here:
History of the Brioche:
The first recorded use of the word in French dates from 1404. It is attested in 1611 in “Cotgrave’s A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues”, where it is described as “a rowle, or bunne, of spiced bread” and its origin given as Norman. A similar type of bread, called tsoureki (τσουρέκι), is also traditionally baked in Greece for the Easter weekend.
In France it developed as “a sort of bread improved since antiquity by generations of bakers, then of pastry-makers … with some butter, some eggs, sugar coming later … it developed from the blessed bread [pain bénit] of the church which gradually became of better quality, more and more costly, less and less bread; until becoming savoury brioche”. In the 17th century “pâté à tarte briochée”, “a pain à brioche pauvre … [using only] 3 eggs and 250 grams of butter for 1 kilogram of flour” was introduced. The terms “pain bénit” and “brioche” were sometimes used together or virtually interchangeably.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his autobiography Confessions (published posthumously in 1782, but completed in 1769), relates that “a great princess” is said to have advised, with regard to peasants who had no bread, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”, commonly translated inaccurately as “Let them eat cake”. This saying is commonly mis-attributed to Queen Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI.