Food & Drink: Revel in the riches of brioche: This delicious bread, made with large quantities of butter and eggs, is France's best invention

Packed to the hilt with eggs and butter, brioche is the French baker's star-turn. Good brioche is not very easy to find over here and many commercial brands are far too sweet, but it is not that difficult to make your own. If you fancy fresh brioche for a late Sunday breakfast, start it off on Saturday in the late afternoon, then leave the dough in the fridge overnight and finish the final proving and baking in the morning.

Bought or home-made, never waste stale brioche. It makes the best toast in the world; almost worth getting up for on Monday morning.

Plain brioche

It is hardly plain, with all that butter and all those eggs beaten in, but this is a good basic recipe made with a processor or electric mixer. When proving the dough, particularly that last session, be careful not to let it rise too much (judge by eye, rather than time), and once it has doubled in bulk, whip it into the oven before it becomes too lumpenly uneven. Over-proved dough will be dry and greasy.

Below I make two suggestions for embellished brioche, one with walnuts, which I first tasted at the now closed White's Restaurant in Wiltshire, and another for a subtly sweeter, orange brioche.

Makes 1 large or 2 medium loaves

Ingredients: 1/2 oz (15g) fresh yeast

2fl oz (60ml) warm milk

1oz (30g) sugar

1lb 4oz (560g) strong plain flour

1 heaped tsp salt

6 eggs, lightly beaten

10oz (280g) unsalted butter, softened

1 egg yolk

Preparation: Cream the yeast with the milk and sugar and leave in a warm place until frothing (5 minutes or so). Fit the dough hook into the processor. Sift the flour with the salt, and spoon into the processor bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture and the eggs. Whiz to a soft dough and keep beating for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Beat the butter into the dough gradually. Keep beating until the dough is smooth and glossy and elastic. Roll into a ball, place in a floured bowl and dust with flour. Cover with a damp tea-towel and leave in a warm place (but not hot, you do not want the butter to start oozing out) until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 -2 hours.

Punch down and knead briefly. Return to the bowl, cover with a cloth and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but better still overnight. The dough should once again have risen, and should be light and spongey. Beat the dough until it feels springy. Grease either two long thin loaf tins - 9-10in (22.5-25 cm) long, by about 3in (7.5 cm) wide - or an 8in (20cm) cake tin. For loaf tins, divide the dough in two, then divide each piece into four and roll into balls. Place them in the tin, so they are almost touching. For a cake tin, divide the dough into 8 and roll each bit into a ball. Place seven of them round the edge of the tin and one in the centre.

Beat the egg yolk lightly with 1tbs water, and brush carefully over the surface of the brioche. Leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk - another 1 1/2 hours or so.

Bake mixture in loaf tin for 30-35 minutes, or in cake tin for 40-45 minutes, at 200C/400F/gas 6 until browned. When done, ease the sides away from the tin and the loaf will slip out. Double-check it is cooked through by tapping the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it is done. If not, return it to the oven for 5 minutes more. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Walnut brioche

At the final kneading stage, add 8oz (225g) chopped walnuts. Bake in long loaf tins so it can be sliced. This is particularly good toasted, or with savoury or sweet dishes (try it hot with ice-cream, and chocolate or butterscotch sauce).

Orange brioche

Double the quantity of sugar to 2oz (55g). At the final kneading stage, knead in the finely grated zest of one orange. I like this one baked in a cake tin and cut into wedges at teatime. It would also go well in the brioche and butter pudding.

Brioche and butter pudding

Possibly the best bread and butter pudding I have ever tasted. I cannot claim much credit for it, however. Ever since Anton Mosimann developed his Dorchester Hotel version of this old favourite, other chefs and cookery writers have taken it to their hearts. I thought brioche (use a bought one if you do not have time to make your own) would be good for bread and butter pudding, then discovered half-a-dozen recipes where it is used. Both Nigel Slater and Annie Bell tear their brioche up and fry it - a clever touch which I have appropriated. From Alastair Little, however, comes the most brilliantly simple modification: serve it chilled.

Serves 8

Ingredients: 2oz (55g) mixed raisins and sultanas

brandy, calvados, or poire william liqueur

8oz (225g) brioche

4oz (110g) unsalted butter

3tbs plum, peach or apricot jam

15fl oz (425ml) milk

15fl oz (425ml) double cream

vanilla pod, slit open

a pinch of salt

5oz (140g) castor sugar

4 eggs

Preparation: Soak the raisins and sultanas in alcohol for at least 2 hours, longer if possible. Tear the brioche into pieces. Melt half the butter in a frying pan and fry half the brioche pieces until golden brown. Wipe the pan out, then repeat with the remaining brioche and butter. Place the fried brioche pieces into a dish that is about 2in (5cm) deep, and just large enough to take the brioche in a single layer. Drain the raisins and sultanas and scatter over the brioche. Take 3tbs of their soaking liquid and warm with the jam in a small pan, stirring until evenly mixed and just runny. Drizzle over the brioche.

Gently heat the milk with the cream, vanilla pod and salt, until it comes to the boil. Draw off the heat, cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Whisk the eggs lightly with the sugar, then pour in the warm milk mixture, stirring constantly. Strain the mixture over the brioche. Stand the dish in a roasting tin, and pour enough hot water in to cover half-way up the sides. Bake at 160C/325F/gas 3 for about 45 minutes until just firm. Serve hot or warm or chill it in the fridge overnight and serve the next day

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us