Gluten Free Brioche Recipe
First of all, I have to come clean here on this gluten free recipe – I haven’t actually tasted “regular” brioche since going gluten free almost 2 decades ago, so I had to rely on references to what brioche should be like to know if this recipe came close.
So I did my homework and determined the characteristics of brioche then compared my recipe to what my research turned up.
- Yeast bread enriched with butter and eggs… Check.
- Slightly sweet… Check.
- Tender crumb… Check.
- Dark golden crust… Check.
Is this brioche just like one you would buy from a bakery in Paris? I don’t know. What I do know is that this gluten free brioche is absolutely delicious!
It produces a rich loaf of bread that is not too soft and not too dense and that lasts for days! Perfect for sandwiches, French toast and bread pudding. Perfect just sliced and eaten (especially warm).
I had seen a recipe going around the internet for Brioche, however the copious amounts of cornstarch turned me off and the recipe lacked eggs which, along with butter, is what makes brioche, “brioche!” I can understand subbing-out dairy free butter for the butter but I can’t see how a bread recipe without eggs can be considered brioche. It may be lovely bread but I am not sure I would call it brioche.
So I went and studied traditional brioche recipes, came up with a plan and then I tested and tested and tested – painstakingly changing one thing at a time and retesting until I came up with this recipe. I played with flours, adjusted ingredients and rising times and even tested different pan sizes and shapes.
I always like to share the process with you in case you’re interested. I believe that understanding what goes into a recipe and why helps you use the recipe for a springboard in case you want to go off and come up with your own creation.
Brioche is yeast bread that is enriched with butter and eggs. Use the best butter you can get or, if you’re dairy-free, use a good quality butter substitute. The eggs actually add a lot of flavor so again, use really good eggs. I prefer to use organic, cage free, pastured eggs, from chickens fed with pure grains with no animal fats or by-products – mine were from Nature’s Yoke – fresh from the Amish farm lands in Pennsylvania.
Brioche is also a little sweet. I made the bread with agave, honey and sugar. As much as I wanted the agave recipe to be the best, the one with sugar won the blind taste tests. But if you don’t eat refined sugar, agave is a great substitute. Honey came in third but still made an awesome loaf of bread.
To keep the bread light enough in texture, it requires starch. I tried potato, tapioca and a combination of the two. Tapioca alone produced the best crumb.
To make the bread a little denser and to add some whole grain goodness I used superfine brown rice flour. I actually didn’t test it with white rice flour but making an educated guess I would say it would work just fine as long as it is super fine. What I wouldn’t use is brown rice flour that isn’t milled really finely; I think it would be too heavy.
I tried making the dough in a stand mixer with the whisk and paddle attachment and in the food processor. They all worked but the easiest was using the stand mixer with the paddle attachment. I didn’t try mixing by hand, I love you all very much but I am way too lazy to mix dough with a spoon. You could do it if you put some elbow grease into it.
Loaf pan size seemed to make a difference, the best was an 8- by 4-inch loaf pan, the bread rose higher and the sides were straighter. Since my husband likes a high crust ratio I tried baking it in a ring mold – it was ok by a little dry. Letting the bread cool in the pan after baking is essential, the added structure of the pan helps the sides not cave in.
One of the challenges was getting a deep brown crust and having the inside of the bread not come out too wet. Making a ¼ deep slit down the middle (lengthwise) of the loaf helped allow steam to escape while baking handling the wetness, and doing a double coating of egg wash (an egg beaten with about a tablespoon of water) and baking the bread in the lower third of the oven produced a beautiful crust. Before baking I brushed the top of the loaf with egg wash, let it sit for 5 minutes and then brushed it again.
You don’t want to rush this recipe – when blending in the butter, take your time. Blend the butter in 1 tablespoon at a time until it is fully incorporated. Don’t try to hurry this along with melted butter (tried that!) believe me when I say this makes all the difference. Take the time to let all your ingredients come to room temperature first, the eggs and butter need about half an hour. And this recipe requires two risings. It seems that I could be a little loose with rising times. Two hours seemed perfect for the first but once I forgot and it rose for almost an hour longer, everything was fine. I also tried doing a long second rise in the fridge overnight and to my delight, it worked great! Such a great thing if you want to have freshly baked bread in the morning!
After I perfected the recipe I tried doubling the recipe because heck, if you are gonna make bread why not make 2 loaves instead of one? It worked perfectly! I even tried using the dough for a simple cinnamon bun – more on that in a later post.
The really great news is that while coming up with the recipe was complicated; the recipe itself is very straight forward and simple. Yes, it takes a little to make the dough and then there are those two risings but it is not at all difficult and it rises unattended.
- 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
- 5 tablespoons sugar (or agave nectar or honey)
- ¼ cup warm (not hot) water
- 2/3 cup superfine brown rice flour
- 1 cup tapioca starch
- 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- ¾ teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- 4 large organic pastured eggs – use divided
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter (or dairy free butter) at room temperature – use divided
Combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar and warm water in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 6 minutes.
In the bowl of a mixer whisk together the brown rice flour, tapioca starch, remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar, xanthan gum and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Put the bowl in the mixer and mix on low speed to combine. Add 3 of the eggs, one at a time, mixing each egg in thoroughly. Add 8 tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition until the butter is fully incorporated. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and beat for another minute or two until the dough is smooth. Scape the dough into a clean mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and let sit in a warm, draft free place until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours. If it looks a bit more than doubled, that’s ok.
Butter an 8- by 4-inch loaf pan with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Make sure you really coat the pan well. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into the pan evenly. With a wet spatula, smooth the top. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 45 minutes. (To do a cool rise in the fridge, cover the pan with a tea towel and let rise in the refrigerator from 2 to 24 hours. When ready to bake, uncover the pans and let the pans sit at room temperature for 15 minutes while the oven preheats.)
Place the rack of the oven in the bottom third and preheat to 350 degrees.
Cut a slit about ¼ inch deep down the center of the loaf with a sharp knife or razor blade dipped into some tapioca starch. Mix the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water, whisking well. Brush the mixture onto the top of the loaf, let sit for 5 minutes then brush again with the egg wash. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until the bread is deeply golden brown and the bread sounds a little hollow when tapped. Let cool in the pan for 15 – 20 minutes.
The bread stays moist for several days. Wrap well in plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
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