Chocolate brioche bread is an enriched yeasted bread that is layered with slightly sweetened chocolate filling. This delicious pastry can be served for breakfast or dessert.
Brioche is an enriched yeasted dough. In other words, compared to bread that's only made with flour, water, yeast, and salt (a lean dough), this enriched dough has additional ingredients consisting of sugar, eggs, milk, and butter. It produces a rich and buttery bread that is still soft and tender. To enhance this already delicious dough, I have added a layer of slightly sweetened chocolate and rolled the dough into individual pastries that can be served for breakfast or as dessert. It's a beautiful presentation that's especially nice to serve for the holidays.
Pastry can be intimidating and sometimes difficult to execute because of the many components that can go into just one dessert. Brioche, on the other hand, may look complicated to make especially chocolate brioche with all its layers, but in reality, it's not. When you use a mixer, the dough can easily be mixed and then refrigerated overnight. Once proofed, it is cut, rolled, filled, shaped, proofed, and baked. All simple steps to execute and the result is well worth it.
What you need to make Chocolate brioche
Stand mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook
2 medium bowls
Baking sheet pan
All-purpose flour. For this particular recipe, all-purpose flour is used. You may think because it is a bread dough, you would use bread flour. However, since we are using the dough to make a pastry (and not just a bread), we do not want to sacrifice texture for structure. In other words, all-purpose flour has a lower protein content and will produce a more tender bread than bread flour, which is ideal for this pastry.
Instant yeast. Add yeast straight to the dough ingredients. Activating the yeast in warm water before adding to the dough is not required. You can find instant yeast at the grocery store also under the name of rapid-rise yeast.
Granulated sugar. Although sugar is added to the dough, brioche is not a very sweet bread. Instead, it adds only a bit of sweetness. The richness of the dough comes more from the eggs, butter, and milk.
Salt. A little salt helps to balance the sweet flavors in pastries. Just a little bit goes a long way.
Eggs. There are several reasons eggs are added to brioche dough. One is to add richness to the dough (as well as to the color of the dough, hence the more yellow color of the dough). Another reason eggs are added is to add moisture to the dough. Eggs contain water and, when added to the kneading process, help moisten the dough, which in turn helps develop the gluten. Lastly, the protein content of eggs contributes to the more dense texture of brioche bread compared to a lean dough.
Milk. Brioche dough uses milk instead of water. The proteins in milk help contribute to the browning process of the dough. In addition to the eggs and butter, milk is another ingredient that enhances the flavor of the bread (aka "enriched dough").
Butter. Butter is one of the ingredients that makes brioche an enriched dough. There are a couple of reasons for using butter in this bread. The main reason is to yield a richer flavor. Additionally, the fat in butter will surround the air bubbles in the bread and stabilize them, resulting in a bread that has a crumb made of many tiny air bubbles once it's baked. For this recipe, and in baking in general, always use unsalted butter.
Cocoa powder. This adds the chocolate flavor to the filling. Either unsweetened natural cocoa powder or dutch process cocoa powder can be used.
Honey. This will add some of the sweetness to the filling. Additionally, the consistency of the honey will contribute to making the filling spreadable.
How to make chocolate brioche
- Mix the dough. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and milk, and mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and check the consistency of the dough. If it is still super sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour, and mix for another 5 minutes. Continue this process two more times so that the dough mixes for a total of 20 minutes (including the initial 5 minutes). Only add enough flour until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. It will still be slightly sticky to touch, which is normal.
- Add half of the butter while the mixer is on low. Once it is incorporated (about 3-4 minutes), add the remaining butter, and mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until the butter is fully incorporated, and the dough is elastic and shiny. Place dough in a lightly floured mixing bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to proof at room temperature for 1-2 hours or until dough doubles in size.
- Stretch and fold the dough, and refrigerate overnight.
- Make the chocolate filling. In a mixing bowl, beat butter until light and creamy. Beat in the sugar until light and fluffy and then add remaining filling ingredients and mix well.
- Roll the dough. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and divide it into four equal parts. Working with one piece at a time, roll each piece into a 7" x 12" (18 cm x 30 cm) rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Add flour as needed so that your dough does not stick to your surface. It is essential to keep the dough that you aren't working with in the refrigerator. The warmer the dough becomes, the more difficult it is to work with.
- Fill the dough. Using an offset spatula (a knife will work too), spread the filling across your rolled dough, leaving a 1/2" (1.25 cm) border along one of the long edges on each of the rectangles. Brush the bare edge with water and tightly roll the dough into a log and seal with the wet edge. Gently roll log until it is 15" (38 cm) long (careful not to squish all the filling). Cut in half, and place in freezer for about 5 minutes to making shaping easier.
- Shape the dough. Using a serrated knife, slice brioche log in half lengthwise, allowing 3/4" (2 cm) uncut. With the cut side facing up, place the right side of the dough over the left side and continue to repeat with all the dough to create a "braid." Brush a little water on the ends, twist the dough into a circle and pinch ends together. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and repeat with each log.
- Final proof. Loosely cover chocolate brioche with a kitchen towel, and allow to proof at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Bake. Brush each chocolate brioche braid with egg wash, and bake in an oven preheated to 350°F/177°C for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Tips and takeaways
- To make brioche dough, it is necessary to use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Incorporating softened butter into the dough is quite difficult by hand. If done by hand, the butter would get too soft (even begin to melt because of warm hands), and it would be difficult to incorporate all of the butter into the dough because it would stick to your hands and work surface.
- Depending on the weather, the temperature of a home, etc., room temperature can vary kitchen to kitchen. If your oven has a built-in proofer, you can more consistently proof your dough. But have no worries, if you do not have a proofer, you can still proof your bread in your oven (my quick and easy tip). Typically I will turn my oven on for about a minute to add a bit of warmth and bring it to an ideal room temperature. I immediately turn it off and place my covered dough in the oven to proof. You do not want a hot oven, just a temperature that is closer to room temperature (about 75°F/24°C).
- Allowing the brioche dough to proof in the refrigerator overnight will yield the best tasting brioche. A cold overnight rise adds flavor and tenderness to the bread. Additionally, it allows the gluten to relax, which makes it easier to shape the dough.
- Be sure to place enough space between each chocolate brioche. Six brioche braids fit comfortably on a 3/4 sheet pan (21" x 15"/53 cm x 38 cm). The final proof will cause each braid to puff up (as well as while it bakes).
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