Sourdough Brioche – A Challenging Recipe
Brioche is a classic French bread known for its rich and tender crumb due to its high butter and egg content. Once you taste an authentic brioche, you will never forget the flavor and will only want more of it. Although the highly enriched nature of brioche dough is what gives the bread the amazingly pillowy and soft texture, it also makes brioche one of the most difficult bread to make. If panettone is the Mount Everest of baking, then brioche might be the Annapurna of baking. Making brioche with yeast is not easy. Baking brioche naturally leavened with sourdough starter becomes a real challenge. However, if you follow my baking journey long enough, you know I like challenges. So, I started out on my quest to make the best sourdough brioche. 💪🏻
Disclaimer: This recipe is not for beginners. But once you get the hang of it, you will be super proud of yourself! 😆
The Key To Making The Best Sourdough Brioche – Stiff Starter
For this recipe, it is especially important to use lievito madre (stiff starter), instead of your normal 100% sourdough starter. Being a highly enriched sweet dough, the sourness from liquid sourdough starter doesn’t really work well in sourdough brioche. This is why bakers usually prefer using lievito madre in enriched dough. Lievito madre is a stiff sourdough starter that is often used in Italy. It is not only active in nature, but it also has a very mild flavour profile without any sourness. All these make it very suitable to leaven enriched dough with high fat and sugar content, such as panettone and brioche.
Lievito Madre vs Stiff Starter
Making lievito madre is a complicated and time-consuming process, which requires a lot of attention and care, just like keeping a pet. If you do not want to go through this process, you can simply convert your 100% sourdough starter to lower hydration by feeding it with less water. I tried baking this sourdough brioche recipe with both lievito madre and stiff starter. They both worked similarly. However, there is a noticeable difference in the level of rise and sourness in the final product. The one leavened with lievito madre had a much better oven spring and milder flavor. While you will be able to taste a hint of tanginess in the other one, it’s very subtle and some people might even enjoy it.
The Sourdough Brioche Dough
If you are making sourdough brioche for the first time, here are some notes for you regarding the dough consistency, The initial dough ball (before adding butter) will be a bit stiff and sticky, but please don’t add more liquid. I have tested this recipe a couple times, so I would suggest you to follow it precisely. After the initial stage of kneading, you will add in the softened (not melted) butter slowly. This is the critical point where it will make or break your sourdough brioche. The dough will start to turn more sticky and seem to be slack. However, I can assure that as long as you keep kneading, the shaggy sticky mess will turn into a lovely glossy, elastic dough ball.
After that, you can test for window pane. And when you achieve the window pane stage, you can place the dough in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. I find it much easier to shape after firming it up in the freezer. Now, you are almost at the finishing line. All you have to do is to divide and shape them into 6 dough balls, place them into a lined pullman bread pan. Then leave it to rise at a warm place for 2-4 hours until it doubled in size. I left mine in the oven with the light turned on (around 28°C or 82°F).
The crumb of this sourdough brioche is one of a kind. At first sight, it may look like the crumb of sourdough shokupan. However, after tasting it, one will know that they are totally different. It’s silky and buttery. It’s almost too delicate to touch, yet so fluffy. It’s stringy and soft.
Sourdough Brioche (Vegan)Course: SourdoughCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: High
This sourdough brioche is so silky and buttery. It’s almost too delicate to touch, yet so fluffy. It’s stringy and soft. This recipe makes one brioche loaf in a 450g pullman loaf pan.
- At 7am, feed your Lievito Madre or Stiff Levain, leave it at a warm place and let it rise until doubled or even tripled (depending on the strength of your starter). I left mine in the oven with the light turned on (around 28°C or 82°F).
- Once the levain has peaked, add all the brioche dough ingredients (except butter) in the mixing bowl of the stand mixer. Mix until everything is incorporated and the dough has strengthened. The dough will look a bit stiff and sticky, please don’t add more liquid
- Gradually add in butter, the dough will start to turn more sticky and seem to be slack after the butter addition. However, keep kneading and eventually the shaggy sticky mess will turn into a lovely glossy, elastic dough ball. I added the butter in 5 separate portions. Only add more butter once the previous addition has been fully absorbed by the dough. Continue to knead for 15-20 more minutes or until reach window pane stage.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover and leave the dough in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. This step is crucial for easier shaping.
- Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface then divide into 6 equal portions. Form each portion into a ball. Place the balls into a lined pullman loaf pan.
- Let it proof at a warm place until the dough rise double in size or when it reaches the 90% mark of the pan. Mine took approximately 3.5 hours at 82°F (28°C).
- Preheat oven at 360°F (180°C). Brush with egg wash. Bake in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.