On Thursday night, after finding out that yet another packet of dry active yeast was still alive, I finally decided to carry out a goal of mine since maybe five years ago: baking no-knead brioche. Funnily enough, as much as I adore brioche and think it’s likely one of the top five best breads on earth, I haven’t made it since 2012. Yep, that’s right: that means it’s been ELEVEN YEARS since I last made this incredible, ethereal buttery bread. Back then, I made brioche the “old fashioned” way, which meant making sure that literally everything, from the bowl, the counter, the spatula, the utensils, EVERYTHING was super cold. The idea is that to make a really luscious, buttery, almost flaky brioche, you need to allow the butter never to fully melt, otherwise the dough would just get far too sticky, which means you couldn’t knead it without making a total mess. This would THEN require you to add more flour… meaning you’d eventually just get a glorified challah. To be clear, I am in no way knocking challah because challah also ranks quite high up there for one of my favorite breads, but brioche is just not challah, and challah is not brioche.
So when I heard about America’s Test Kitchen’s innovative version that would remove the kneading completely, I was floored. No kneading? How is that even possible? What else is blasphemous about this — it uses MELTED butter as opposed to ice cold butter.
Of course, since the ATK version came out, many others have modified it and made it… a little healthier to say the least. The version of the recipe I used uses two sticks of butter for two standard sized loaf pans, which, if you can imagine without chuckling, is actually considered LIGHT for brioche, especially in comparison with ATK’s original recipe, which uses far more butter. And instead of kneading the dough (with melted butter, which is still very shocking to me as someone who has only ever made brioche the traditional way), you “fold” the dough from bottom to top several times over the course of about two hours. As each 30 minute period passes, the dough becomes easier to work with, more pliable, and slightly less sticky.
Well, I made the original dough on Thursday night. I let it proof in the fridge for almost two days. And today, we came home early from our Saturday outing so I could shape my loaves and bake. And WOW – I am never going back to the traditional method of brioche ever again: The brioche proofed beautifully and baked up with this gorgeous brown shade, almost flaky on the top. And the crumb was moist, buttery, spongy, and perfect…. If I do say so myself. This recipe is definitely a keeper, and I’ll take folded brioche over kneaded brioche any day now!!!!