The brioche is a rich, light kind of unsweetened bun, or cake, very commonly sold, and served to all classes of people in France, where it is made in great perfection by good cooks and pastry-cooks. It is fashionable at some tables, though in a different form, serving principally as a crust to enclose rissoles, or to make cannelons and fritters. We have seen it recommended for a vol-au-vent, for which we should say it does not answer by any means so well as the fine puff-paste called feuilletage. The large proportion of butter and eggs which it contains render it to many persons highly indigestible; and we mention this to warn invalids against it, as we have known it to cause great suffering to persons out of health. To make it, take a couple of pounds* of fine dry flour, sifted as for cakes, and separate eight ounces of this from the remainder to make the leaven. Put it into a small pan, and mix it lightly into a lithe paste, with half an ounce of yeast, and a spoonful or two of warm water; make two or three slight incisions across the top, throw a cloth over the pan, and place it near the fire for about twenty minutes, to rise.
In the interval make a hollow space in the centre of the remainder of the flour, and put into it half an ounce of salt, as much fine sifted sugar, and half a gill of cream, or a dessertspoonful of water; add a pound of butter, as free from moisture as it can be, and quite so from large grains of salt; cut it into small bits, put it into the flour, and pour on it one by one six fresh eggs freed from the specks; then with the fingers work the flour gently into this mass until the whole forms a perfectly smooth, and not stiff paste: a seventh egg, or the yolk of one, or even of two, may be added with advantage if the flour will absorb them; but the brioche must always be workable, and not so moist as to adhere to the board and roller disagreeably. When the leaven is well risen spread this paste out, and the leaven over it; mix them well together with the hands, then cut the whole into several portions, and change them about that the leaven may be incorporated perfectly and equally with the other ingredients: when this is done, and the brioche is perfectly smooth and pliable, dust some flour on a cloth, roll the brioche in it, and lay it into a pan; place it in summer in a cool place, in winter in a warm one. It is usually made over-night, and baked in the early part of the following day.
It should then be kneaded up afresh the first thing in the morning. To mould it in the usual form, make it into balls of uniform size, hollow these a little at the top by pressing the thumb round them, brush them over with yolk of egg, and put a second much smaller ball into the hollow part of each; glaze them entirely with yolk of egg, and send them to a quick oven for half an hour or more. The paste may also be made into the form of a large cake, then placed on a tin, or copper oven-leaf, and supported with a pasteboard in the baking; for the form of which see introductory page of Chapter XXIII (Cakes).
Flour, 2 lbs.; yeast, 1/2 oz.; salt and sugar, each 1/2 oz.; butter, 1 lb; eggs, 6 to 8.