The Best Sourdough Brioche with Vanilla & Lemon

Sourdough Brioche
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Soft and fluffy, with just the right amount of vanilla and lemon zest, this is our Best Sourdough Brioche we’ve ever made! Ideal for luxurious breakfasts, this brioche with a slight sourdough tang lends itself just as perfectly to savoury accompaniments. Just imagine a slice of toasted brioche topped with creamy scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (just skip vanilla, if you wish).

Back in the day, when I worked at one of the Ottolenghi delis in London, I would be very excited to go to work in the morning knowing what I am having for breakfast. Yes, a lovely freshly baked brioche bun, generously buttered… sometimes with jam… Ever since, I’ve been the biggest fan of this French bread and have made numerous variations of it. This sourdough brioche version took me a fair few attempts to perfect, but I think I’ve got it. It is by far the best sourdough brioche recipe, that surpasses any other brioche I’ve ever tasted!

OK, so here’s the bombshell – it takes TWO DAYS to make, but there isn’t that much hands-on time. Mostly, time is spent proving and resting the dough.

Day 1: In The Evening

All you need to do on Day 1 is to feed your starter just before you go to bed. For this recipe, I use a stiff levain (see below). Just mix all the levain ingredients together and leave at room temperature semi-covered for around 9-10 hours.

The recipe will give you 120g of stiff levain, but we only use 100g in the brioche dough. As you probably know, sourdough starter is sticky, so I have accounted for for 20g of it sticking to the bowls, jar and spoons 🙂

Stiff Sourdough Starter

Whilst I normally use a 100% hydration starter (equal parts of water and flour), I am making a stiff levain this time. I’ve learnt about this from Maurizio at The Perfect Loaf and it seems to work wonders in this brioche. Using a stiff levain means less water, which allows me to use more eggs and milk to make this brioche taste even better!

An improtant thing to keep in mind is that stiff starter is much slower to rise than your normal 100% hydration starter. Therefore, it’s perfect if you want to leave it overnight to wake up to a ready-to-use levain. I normally use 1 part starter : 2 parts flour : 1 part water, however, if your kitchen is much warmer than 17-18° C overnight, you may want to adjust the ratios (e.g. 1 part starter : 4 parts flour : 2 parts water).

Day 2: In the Morning

The first step is to mix all the brioche ingredients, except for butter, and bring to a ball. You don’t need to work it to develop gluten at this stage – just make sure it all comes together.

The hard work begins once you incorporate the butter. Bit by bit, add your butter into the dough, knead and slap the dough around. It will get VERY STICKY, but try not to add too much extra flour. I promise, the dough will feel much firmer and less sticky on Day 3! It will take at least 12-15 minutes to incorporate the butter and make the dough feel soft and elastic, with a beautful shine to it.

Your life will be much easier if you have a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment. It will, nonetheless, take at least 10 minutes of kneading.

Whichever way you’re working your dough, it should be much firmer, less sticky and look glossy and elastic at the end of it. Pop it into a buttered bowl, cover and leave to rise at room temperature until it doubles in size.

It’s difficult to put exact timescales on this prove. It could take 4-6 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Just be patient and look for a great rise. When doubled, pop the covered bowl in the fridge until the next morning.

Day 3: In the Morning

It’s baking day! However, you’ll need a bit more patience 😉

The dough should feel quite firm and easier to work with. Knock the air out by rolling it into a log. Then divide it into 10 equal balls. Shape each piece of dough into a tight ball by stretching sections out and folding them into the centre (see video below).

Line a loaf tin with baking parchment. Place the balls in the tin snugly. I like to use a rather narrow loaf tin. That way your sourdough brioche balls will rise upwards, and won’t expand sideways. This will create a taller loaf that’s great to slice and toast.

Cover the tin with clingfilm and leave to prove again in the warmest spot of your house. I tend to heat the oven on the lowest setting for 2 minutes, then turn it off and place the tin in the oven whilst it’s cooling. However, if your kitchen is warm (21-24° C), you can simply leave it on the counter top. The second prove will take about 4 hours. Again, you are looking at how much your dough is rising. Just before it doubles, you’re ready to bake. Don’t let it overprove though, as your brioche may collapse whilst baking.

Preheat the oven to 200° C Fan. Then gently brush the top of the brioche with eggwash. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes until it’s becoming dark golden brown.

If you wish to slice your brioche, you need to cool it completely. But if you’re impatient, just like me, cool it for 15 minutes and then start pulling the balls apart and tucking into the Best Sourdough Brioche Loaf!

In the unlikely event that you have some Sourdough Brioche leftover and you’re wondering what the best way to use it may be, we recommend making some of the following:

Sourdough Brioche

The Best Sourdough Brioche Loaf

Soft and fluffy, with just the right amount of vanilla and lemon zest, this is our Best Sourdough Brioche we've ever made! Ideal for luxurious breakfasts, this brioche with a slight sourdough tang lends itself just as perfectly to savoury accompaniments. Just imagine a slice of toasted brioche topped with creamy scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.
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Prep Time 2 d
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 2 d 30 mins
Course Breakfast, Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine French
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

Stiff Levain:

  • 30 g sourdough starter unfed
  • 60 g plain flour
  • 30 g water

Brioche:

  • 240 g strong bread flour
  • 30 g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 60 ml milk
  • 100 g levain
  • 5 g salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or 1 vanilla pod (optional)
  • 1 lemon zest only (optional)
  • 110 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk for the eggwash

Instructions
 

Day 1: In the Evening

  • Add water, unfed starter, and flour together and mix well until combined. Place into a bowl and leave to rise for 8-9 hours (overnight) until doubled in size. This will make 120g of levain, but only 100g will be used in the recipe (extra levain is allowed for the amount that sticks to the bowls, jars, spoons, etc)

Day 2: In the Morning:

  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together strong flour, sourdough levain, sugar, eggs, milk, salt, vanilla paste, and lemon zest. Combine together and knead into a ball. You can knead by hand (although be prepared for a sticky dough) or you can simply use a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment. Knead only enough to bring it into a ball, at this stage.
  • Cut your room temperature butter into small cubes. With the mixer running, keep adding one cube of butter at a time and carry on until butter is fully incorporated and the dough looks soft, elastic and glossy. This will take about 10 minutes.
    If you're kneading by hand, Knead the butter into the dough – it will become very sticky. Once incorporated, keep slapping the dough onto the workbench for about 15 minutes. At the end of it, the dough, should feel soft and elastic and much less sticky
  • Grease a large bowl with some butter or oil and pop a ball of dough into it. Cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave to proof until it doubles in size. This will greatly depend on the temperature of your kitchen and can take between 3-6 hours. Just be patient and make sure it has a good rise before carrying on to the next step.
  • Once doubled, place the ball with your brioche dough in the fridge overnight.

Day 3: In the Morning

  • Line a loaf tin with baking parchment. We used 1.8 litre narrow loaf tin. I like using a narrow loaf tin to have my brioche loaf taller.
  • Take the dough out of the fridge. Scoop it all out onto a lightly floured work surface. The dough should feel much firmer and not very sticky at this stage. Knock the air out of the dough by rolling it into a log.
  • Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a tight ball with a smooth surface by pulling out the egdes and folding them out into a middle (see video above).
  • Arrange dough balls into the tin. Cover with tea towel or cling film and find a warm spot for the balls to prove again for 4-6 hours. Ideal temperature would be 21-23°C. I normally turn my oven on the lowest setting for 2 minutes, turn it off and put my brioche tin in the oven, unless its warm in the kitchen. Your brioche balls should just about double in size, but don't let them overprove.
  • Once proved, heat the oven to 200°C Fan. Whilst pre-heating, lightly whisk your egg yolk. Gently brush the top of your brioche loaf with the eggwash.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes until dark golden brown. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before pulling it apart. If you wish to slice it, cool your brioche loaf completely.
Keyword Brioche, Brioche Loaf, Lemon Brioche, LIght Brioche, Soft Brioche, Sourdough Brioche, Sourdough Brioche Loaf, Vanilla Brioche
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