Ah, brioche. I had never heard of it until a few years ago, and now I regret every year that I was without this buttery, fluffy bread concoction. I’ve watched enough episodes of The Great British Baking Show to know that I never need to attempt to make croissants (no laminating dough for me, thank you very much!), but a good piece of brioche contains all the buttery, flaky delights that a good croissant does, and with minimal effort. I’ve got to thank Deb Perelman for alerting me to that fact in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. After making her recipe for brioche chocolate pretzel buns with great success, I’ve been making brioche at home when I want a truly decadent piece of bread ever since.
This week, I’m attempting to make a truly satisfying veggie burger that you can make with minimal fuss at home. I’ll have more details on the burger and it’s inspiration later this week, but today I’m focusing on the bun. For me, so much of what goes into making a good burger (be it beef, turkey, or veggie) is the bun. You could have all the fixings in the world on there, even a fried egg, and if the bun is stale or limp or falls apart under the patty, I’m not going to enjoy it. I need a bun that is toasty on the outside and still tender on the inside, with lots of flavor and enough structure to hold up to a burger and toppings. I think that these brioche buns are up to that challenge.
This recipe is simple and requires minimal effort on the baker’s part. Last week at the library, I managed to sneak away from my happily reading (or ‘reading’ in the case of the two-year-old) kids to the cookbook section for a few minutes. I picked up a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is full of bread recipes that you mix ahead of time and let rise, then stick in the fridge for whenever you need it. I adapted their recipe for brioche, cutting it in half and forming it into buns rather than into a loaf. I forgot to add the egg wash when I baked them, but the buns still browned nicely and were crispy on the outside. And the taste! They are buttery, flaky, and tender. You could eat them for breakfast or as a snack on their own, they taste so good.
And the dough really doesn’t require that much work; you don’t need to knead it, but rather mix the dry ingredients, eggs, honey, and melted butter with a wooden spoon until it just comes together. Then you let it rise at room temperature for two hours and stick it in the fridge for up to five days. Then you form it into buns by forming it into a circle and then pulling one side of the dough out and under, repeating four times around the bun. Let it rise another 80 minutes, pop them in the oven for 30 minutes, and you’ve got yourself bakery or restaurant quality buns to do with as you please.
- ¾ cups lukewarm water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 ¼ teaspoons salt
- 4 eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup honey
- 12 tablespoons butter (1 ½ sticks), melted and cooled slightly
- 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg for egg wash, if desired
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, melted butter, and water.
- If using elbow grease, mix in the flour with a wooden spoon. If using a stand mixer, mix on medium-low speed with the dough hook, until the dough is just combined.
- Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap or kitchen towel, and allow to rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Recover and chill in the refrigerator until cool, at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- When ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge. Form it into a large loaf, then cut it into 10 roughly equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball, handling as little as possible. Starting with one side, stretch the dough out and under the bun, then rotate a quarter turn and repeat on the other three sides. Pat the top gently with your hand to smooth the surface.
- Place the buns on two lined baking sheets and let rise at room temperature for 80 minutes. Ten minutes before you’re ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake the buns for 15 minutes, then rotate the baking sheets and bake for 15 more. The buns should be evenly browned and ready to take out. Let them cool and serve!