Jeffrey Hamelman’s Brioche

I was saving this one up for the end of the month as I had a birthday and I thought a birthday brioche would be just the thing. That, and a lovely outing with my family for dim sum made for a fine celebration.

All the other Mellow Bakers who have made this one have enjoyed it. Pop over to the board to read their posts here. The recipe has been written up on several of their blogs, here is Zorra’s lovely chocolate filled brioche, Cathy’s great step-by-step post and Lien’s cute chicken baby brioches amongst many others. I’ve added my ‘numbers’ and brief instructions at the end of the post, though you really need the book for all the detail.

briocheI had two goes this month at making the brioche. I got in a complete muddle about the yeast and the columns, not helped by the fact that there is an error in one of the columns, which I knew about, but then managed to forget by the time I came back to make the brioche the second time.

For those of you who have not seen this book, each recipe is laid out with three different sets of weights and measures. The first, on the industrial scale is in pounds, the second (Metric)  on a small bakery scale is in kilos, the third set is the Home set, and is in ounces and cups and teaspoons.  Three different sets, all giving you a different final dough weight and there are errors in several of the recipes. Most of these have been picked up and annotated and there is a pdf of the errata sheet available here.  I find the layout of this book challenging, even after baking from it now for several months.

The first time I made the Hamelman brioche, I made a very small quantity, I used the Metric column and divided by 10%.   The first lot I made took forever to rise, I got into a muddle about the yeast quantities and I think I used too little.  I used the instant yeast, chilled everything, mixed the dough, put it in the fridge overnight and then made little balls and put them in tall muffin cases, originally used for mini panetonnes last year.   The finished balls were light and airy, but didn’t fill the cases and though delicious looked a bit like muffins.

Last weekend I made the dough again, this time using fresh yeast from a local bakers and converting the Home column to grams. I had forgotten about the errata. So one way I ended up with 13 grams of yeast, but then when I checked it against the Baker’s Percentage table I ended up with 34 grams of yeast. Hmmm….  I checked with the other Mellow Bakers about converting from instant yeast to fresh yeast and in a complete crisis of confidence, emailed King Arthur Flour and asked them too. Everyone confirmed that they use a conversion ratio of 1:3 and that I was on the right track.  Robyn solved the mystery of the two sets of numbers by kindly reminding me that there was a mistake in the Home column. There are great advantages to having a friendly forum to go to for help and advice!

The Kenwood liked having a full load of dough to work with, and mixed away purposefully. I stopped every now and then and attempted to sheet the dough, i.e. hold a blob by the corners and see if you can let it stretch gently out into a smooth sheet of dough. After twenty minutes of mixing, I decided it was good to go, I could see the strands of gluten and it looked smooth and shiny and to be honest, I had had enough by that point. An hour at room temperature, it shot to the top of the bowl. I degassed it furiously, it was alive with hissing bubbles – that fresh yeast! – and put it in the fridge to calm down overnight.

Second time around I was determined to use the brioche moulds I had picked up ages ago. I have looked at loads of instructions for shaping brioche a tete but I wasn’t very good at it. I am not very keen on working with the dough even when chilled. I can’t quite explain why, but I find it difficult to shape. I tried to roll out a strand, to make into a twist and it just wouldn’t roll out for me.  I worried that if I overhandled it the butter would start to melt and the dough would get oily, so I went back to making what I hoped would work – my brioche shapes are best described as characterful! They reminded me of cottage loaves by the time they came out, leaning here there and everywhere.

The pay off:  the aroma of brioche baking on a chilly weekend morning has got to be one of the best things ever! Warm brioche, soft apricot jam, a little sunshine – Zeb agreed, reminding me of his French origins.   We loved this bread; its butter content means that it can’t be an everyday bread, but for holidays or special days or treats, it’s worth doing, life as a home baker wouldn’t be complete without a brioche once in a while.

In conclusion, I hope I haven’t given a bad impression of making this. It is in fact relatively straight forward if you follow the instructions. Chill all the ingredients, chill the water, chill the mixing bowl. Mix for the right length of time. Leave the dough over night, shape and bake. Just make sure you have your ingredients all weighed out correctly first and read the whole recipe through. I’ve got the hang of it now!

And always, but always, serve it warm. Cold brioche, like cold croissants, just isn’t right.



My version of this brioche (adapted ever so slightly from Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman)

520 g bread flour
160 g high gluten/very strong bread flour
7 little cold eggs making 340 grams
60 g chilled water
11 g salt (less than stated in the original)
82 g sugar
340 g chilled butter, softened with a rolling pin, but still cold when added to the dough
34 g fresh yeast


Chill everything, even the mixing bowl. If you are using your hands to mix, regularly cool them down.

Mix everything apart from the butter for at least 5 – 7 minutes. You will get a very firm dough. The eggs must be completely incorporated. I mixed the water, eggs, sugar and yeast together first and then added the flours and the salt.

Then you add the chilled butter, piece by piece, and knead/mix till you have a smooth satiny dough, it takes forever and in theory you should be able to hold a piece up gently by the corners and watch it ‘sheet’.

When you are happy with the development of the dough, tuck some clingflim over the top, so no air can get in, leave for an hour at room temperature. Degas after an hour and put it in the fridge overnight. If you remember, degas it again a couple of times while it is in the fridge.

Shape the following day, and allow to almost double in size before applying eggwash to the top. I baked mine at 195 C. The four loaves took approx 30 minutes to bake. Cool on a rack for at least a minute before EATING!

I’ve just had to correct this as I left out the sugar, I blame Brydie’s Nana!

32 thoughts on “Jeffrey Hamelman’s Brioche

  1. Abby

    Looks beautiful, Joanna! I love your brioche-a-tete picture! I have not had luck with shaping those…but this recipe tastes so good, I guess I don’t really mind how they look! =)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Abby, it’s not easy to shape this dough, I made the top balls quite large. A long time ago I tried with a different dough, and the top balls sort of disappeard into the bottom ones… Only one came out straightish, the one at the top of the post and my sister had that one :) But it is so good! You were absolutely right :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi Debra, I want to see pictures of Italian bakeries and panettone and pandoro and other goodies soon, I am sure there are all sorts of treasures in Lucca on the baking front…. ;)

  2. Suelle

    These look very good. It doesn’t really matter about a bit of lop-sidedness for home baked goods – it’s the taste that matters.

      1. Suelle

        That lonely brioche is crying out for a chocolate bread and butter pudding; Delia’s recipe is quite good!

  3. Lien

    Love your brioches! I wonder if there is a trick to keep those ball in the middle on top, as mine went sideways as well.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      You are supposed to make a hole in the big one, and then a pointy bit on the little one and put them together that way, I’ve looked at lots of you tube videos and books, but if the boules aren’t perfectly balanced, evenly shaped etc, they will always lean, practice, practice, practice, make a thousand, like Malcolm Gladwell says and then we will have ‘got it’ ;) (or had a coronary after all that butter)

      Have you ever tried making an English cottage loaf, they are always leaning over too :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      The glaze is egg wash, the magic egg wash that turns everything golden, plus the colour from the eggs in the dough (seven medium eggs, a pack and a half of butter all went into those four brioches – outrageous but worth it once in a while!)

  4. heidiannie

    I made brioche years ago – watching a video some monk made- for my mother. It was good- but only she and I really liked it. My husband and sons went more for a standard white bread and so I haven’t made it since. Yours looks so good- I think I’ll try it for tomorrow morning. Thanks for the reminder, Joanna!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Heidi I’ve added my numbers for this brioche at the bottom of the post. I reduced the salt, and my eggs weren’t quite right so I used an extra small egg and maybe a little less water. The water should be at about 40 F. I really hope you get to make it – it’s fab! :)

  5. drfugawe

    As a frustrated cookbook author (aren’t all we food bloggers out of that mold?), I can understand the occasional error or omission -I’ve been known to go back and correct one of my old posts- but it seems to be a disease among bread book authors. I think I know the reason why – I’ll bet that most of these authors are using non-baker proofreaders (no author or publisher in their right mind would dare go to press w/o one or more proof-readings). How many times have you been reading a cookbook and just by perusing the ingredients, you recognize an error – well, I contend unless a bread book proofreader has the experience and perspective of a baker, they won’t catch those errors.

    Dan Leader is another bread author with a rep for errors in his books – but that may be more because he has actually set up a website with the errors noted, and I give him much credit for that move. But I think Hamelman has created an environment for errors with his 3 columned charts – that calls for a herculean effort of proofreading, and apparently one that neither Wiley’s team, or Hamelman’s own assistants were up to.

    Many years ago I spent a lot of time on an old bread forum on Usenet where Peter Reinhart openly asked for and received a lot of free baking trials of his upcoming book recipes – I was one of those assistants. He would supply a base recipe (or formula, as he liked to say), but then he welcomed any suggestions re potential changes to his base recipe, and of course, any notes re our experience. I often wondered just how much stock he put into those suggestions and input. and whether he actually put them to test in his own trials – or if all of that was just intended to increase the sale of the upcoming book.

    Makes one wonder, doesn’t it!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      You put it much better than me, Doc. That’s exactly it, an ‘environment for errors’. The other problems I have with the book, don’t laugh, is that it is all too easy to turn over two pages at once and not notice you are on the next recipe and sometimes I think ‘oh yes the five grain loaf’ without realising there are two or three five grain loaves, all different. Sigh. I should have a better handle on the book by now. I love the breads these formulae make, but I don’t enjoy the process of reading the ingredient list one little bit. I have a Dan Leader book, which I used when I first baked and was too inexperienced to ‘see’ the errors and made some dreadful breads because of it. Nearer to home, one of the reasons, and there are many, that I am such a Dan Lepard fan is that he is accessible, either via his forum or by email and he responds always if you have a specific query about the ingredients in a published recipe of his. It makes a huge difference. Having said that, there is the Baking Hotline at King Arthur Flour and they responded within 24 hours to my query. KAF being where Jeffrey Hamelman is based, so he is accessible too.

      I recently helped a bit on a trial that Norm and Stan asked for volunteers for on the Fresh Loaf, did you join in with that one? It will be interesting to see how that book comes out when it is published.

      1. Robin

        Well done for tackling a new recipe from Hamelman! Every time I think about trying one I haven’t done before I know my first job is to make sense (and notes) of the recipe. I take the metric measures and divide them down to manageable amounts (I can’t be bothered with Imperial anymore – or whatever they call it in the States – and as for cups……). Hence, my copy of the book is filled with little scraps of paper where I can keep track of amounts.
        Oh for a European edition.

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          Hence, my copy of the book is filled with little scraps of paper where I can keep track of amounts.
          Oh for a European edition.

          Hi Robin!

          You sound just like me, except I have indecipherable rubbed out pencil scribblings as well as the little scraps of paper (is that a ‘9’ or a ‘0’?) Maybe we should offer to do the job Robin? As for European editions, it’s all very well American writers, saying, well there’s online conversions and so on, I know there are, but it would require a whole lot more work. I think what makes me bemused about all this, is that presumably these people work in commercial settings and I don’t believe for one minute they create their recipes or keep their own notes, in cups and sticks and spoons, so why can’t they use their own metric/imperial measurements in their books? Anyway, there are some fantastic books out there, I can think of Maggie Gleazer’s book Artisan Baking (American) who gives all the numbers in a really clear, sensibly laid out way, in fact her book is a model of how to lay out good baking instructions. And I was recently given an Australian book for a gift, Wild Sourdough by Yoke Mardewi, haven’t baked anything yet from it, but again beautifully laid out, and gives you clear measurement choices. I haven’t baked yet from these, so don’t know if there are ‘typos’ in there, but they are clear and inviting and friendly looking.

  6. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Mmm Brioche… they look mighty fine Joanna. The added deliciousness of apricot jam (could there be any other jam more perfectly paired?) Happy Birthday too! Hope you had a lovely day.

    ps. Thanks for the link back :-)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Thank you! I loved your Nana post, so it’s one way to get other people to read it – she jumped into my mind as I scrabbled back to add the sugar to the recipe. One reason I don’t write out ingredient lists very often, I don’t concentrate and I always miss things out ;)

  7. minadott

    Lovely Brioche

    did not realise that Jeffrey was at KAF…that was my source of panettone papers and Fiori di Sicilia last year…also the source of lots of v expensive hardare….will have to investigate further

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Jeffrey Hamelman is the Director of KAF’s Bakery – according to their site he opened it in 1999 together with their teaching facility.

      It’s a great brioche, you saw what my nephew said about it on FB ;) I was stunned, he never eats my bread usually…too many bits…

  8. spiceandmore

    Gorgeous. Now I really want some brioche with that lovely looking jam….
    sigh. Not quite gluten or dairy free is it?..:(

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I have seen brioche made with sourdough, and with much less in the way of eggs and butter but never with no eggs or butter. Brioche is basically a yeasted cake, masquerading as bread I’ve decided. I saw the oat drink makers have something they describe as cream, and I’ve come across soya cream. Maybe there is a way of making a light soft bread with one of these products and a mix of other flours, though the recipes I’ve seen for gluten free usually include oil don’t they? And there are egg subs out there too. I haven’t had experience of using them yet. Maybe the Intolerant Chef or Gluten free Girl have some ideas on the subject?

  9. Jacqueline

    Wow! What a great post. Got to get me some brioche moulds. But gosh, the main thing I noticed is the snowy photo at the top of your page. Has there really been that much snow over there? Amazing.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      There is stack loads of snow and it is very very cold for the UK. The jet stream is doing something untypical for the time of year. Friend in the East of England reported 2 foot of snow yesterday. It changes all the time, we have less in Bristol than elsewhere, not much around today.

      How’s the antipodean sunshine? :)

  10. Susan

    Hello, I just stumbled on to your posts just now, hence the late comment. Instead of having to remember errata with slips of paper for recipes why not write the corrections onto the cookbook. In fact, I wrote the correction in a cookbook borrowed from my local library to benefit future borrowers. However, I did write them in pencil (also noting that the source was from the author’s website) in case someone wanted to erase them because that was defacing the book.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Susan, thanks for your comment. The good news is that as of this month (Jan 2013) in the UK and from last year in the US you can buy or borrow the 2nd edition of Bread and it has all been updated.

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