Not many breakfast foods are greeted with as much delight as still-warm-from-the-oven French brioche, the ancient egg- and butter-rich muffin-size yeast creation that's just barely sweetened.
The French dip their morning brioches into strong café-au-lait or spread it with butter, jam, or marmalade and sip coffee or tea to wash down the buttery crumbs. To me, that's heaven brought to the breakfast table.
Many cuisines include egg- and butter-rich breads. Jewish challah bread is a good example, although not nearly as rich as brioche.
These yeasty creations are not like delicate tortes where recipe proportions of ingredients are sacred. Instead, the cook can feel free to adjust the recipe: reduce eggs and butter if seems too rich to you or maybe increase or decrease the sugar according to taste.
To be successful, though, there are two things to keep in mind when changing ingredient amounts. First is that plain, white all-purpose flour or white bread flour makes the best brioche. Substituting whole wheat flour simply won't work.
And second, don't reduce butter and eggs too much or you will end up with a merely good white bread.
While searching for the best brioche recipe, I concentrated on ones that started with about three cups of flour, since that produced the number of rolls I wanted.
I discovered that various recipes used two, three, or four eggs and from four to nine ounces of butter. I tried several and found that two eggs are plenty. Any more and the brioche tastes eggy.
With butter, six ounces seems right – not too rich, yet not plain or dry. The amount of sugar in the recipes varied from two to three tablespoons, which you can certainly adjust to your taste without compromising the brioche.
Although brioches are not the easiest of kitchen creations, they are doable by anyone with modest baking skill. Don't let yeast scare you away from baking. They are very friendly little creatures if you treat them right. If you follow the recipe with care, your brioches will be the pride of your kitchen. You'll find that your main concern will be not to overeat — they are hard to resist.
You can make a number of different shapes from a basic brioche recipe: round or rectangular loaf, large fluted pan shape, or tall cylindrical loaf, but I like muffin-size brioches with a little "head" or topknot stuck on top (the tête in French).
These cute little brioches have become my favorites, and I find that few people are able to stop with eating just one at the breakfast table.