Brioche (pronunciation, in French [bʁiɔʃ]; English Received Pronunciation chiefly [briɒʃ]; American English [bɹioʊʃ]) is a highly enriched French bread, whose high egg and butter content give it what is seen as a rich and tender crumb. It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust from an egg wash applied before and after proofing.
Brioche à tête is perhaps the most classically recognized form. Brioche à tête rolls are panned in fluted tins with a small spherical piece of dough placed on top. Brioche Nanterre is a loaf of brioche panned in a standard loaf pan. Instead of shaping one piece of dough and baking it, two rows of small pieces of dough are placed in the pan. Loaves are then proofed in the pan, fusing the pieces together. During the baking process the balls of dough rise further and form an attractive pattern.
Typical core ingredients for brioche dough are:
The word brioche first appeared in print in 1404, and this bread is believed to have sprung from a traditional Norman recipe. It is argued that brioche is probably of a Roman origin, since a very similar sort of sweet holiday bread is made in Romania ("sărălie"). The cooking method and tradition of using it during big holidays resembles the culture surrounding the brioche so much that it is difficult to doubt same origin of both foods.
It is often served as a pastry or as the basis of a dessert, with many local variations in added ingredients, fillings and toppings. It is also used with savory preparations, particularly with foie gras, and is used in some meat dishes.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his 1783 autobiography Confessions, relates that "a great princess" is said to have advised, with regard to starving peasants, "S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche", commonly translated as "If they have no bread, let them eat cake". This saying is commonly mis-attributed to the ill-fated Queen Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI; it has been speculated that he was actually referring to Maria Theresa of Spain, the wife of Louis XIV, or various other aristocrats. However, this should not be taken as a sleight against the working poor, as was probably misunderstood by Rousseau. The "great princess," who ever she was, was probably referring to the urban poor rather than peasants, since it was in cities that the price of bread was strictly regulated. If the poor had no bread available, then the law that maintained that fancy breads had to be sold at the regulated price, and not the luxury price, should have been enforced. Such laws prevented supplies of food from being diverted from serving the commonwealth to the luxury trades. Bakers had to think about how much expensive butter, eggs, and sugar to invest in their production. If they ran short of plain bread (or so the theory went) they would be forced to sell their rich pastries at a loss.
The word comes from Old French, from broyer, brier, to knead, of Germanic origin (bhreg)..