Cheese Brioche Buns: we're golden!

OK, let’s get straight to the point here: Easter > dinner > ham > leftovers > sandwiches!

And when you’re talking ham sandwiches, surely the word “cheese” can’t be far behind. Yes, there are undoubtedly those who enjoy plain… ham… sandwiches.

But for the vast majority of us, it’s ham and Swiss. Or ham and Cheddar. Or perhaps even ham and Kraft American Singles (don’t worry, we’ll never tell!).

What if (my favorite two words in the test kitchen) I enhance the bun itself with a generous shot of cheese, as well as layering a few slices atop the ham in the sandwich?

“What if,” indeed. Hello, Cheese Brioche Buns!

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Brioche, in case you’ve never experienced it, is a classic French bread. Unlike France’s signature baguette, brioche is loaded with eggs and butter, giving it rich texture and a bright-gold interior. So adding one more dairy note – cheese – to this sumptuous bread is a natural.

Let’s see how it’s done.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

First of all, if you choose to make these rich buns, you might as well choose top-notch ingredients. Nellie’s Eggs are part of Pete and Gerry’s Organics. They’re local; cage-free; and we like the company very much.

Ditto Cabot, a neighbor of ours here in Vermont. Their new line, the Farmers’ Legacy Collection, includes some outstanding cheddars. And their butter is reliably fresh and good; it’s all we use here in our King Arthur Flour test kitchen.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Our first step is probably a change from how you usually make cheese bread – we’re going to process the flour and cheese together.

Why? Oftentimes grated cheese gives yeast bread or rolls a speckled appearance — but not in the case of these buns. Blending the recipe’s flour and cheese in a food processor grinds the cheese super-fine, allowing it to disperse throughout the buns completely rather than make “freckles” on their crust.

So, put 2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into chunks, in the work bowl of your food processor. Process until quite smooth, with no significant chunks remaining.

Don’t have a food processor? You might be able to do this in a blender. No blender? You’ll have to resort to grated cheese; understand that your buns probably won’t look quite like ones made with finely ground cheese.

Want to use cheese powder instead? Go right ahead. Use 1/3 cup cheese powder, and increase the amount of butter in the recipe by 2 tablespoons.

Combine the flour/cheese with the following:

1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk at room temperature, white reserved
1/4 cup lukewarm water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Mix everything together to make a rough, sticky dough. Knead the dough — using a mixer or bread machine — until it’s smooth and starting to become shiny.

We don’t recommend kneading this dough by hand; it’s too sticky, and because of the fat it takes a long time for the gluten to develop. 

Here’s the best method I came up with for kneading with a stand mixer (we use KitchenAid stand mixers in our test kitchen):

1. Beat with the beater attachment for 2 minutes at medium-high speed (KitchenAid speed 6).

2. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and repeat, beating for 2 minutes. By this time, the dough should have begun leaving the sides of the bowl; if it hasn’t, scrape and repeat once more.

3. Switch to the dough hook, and knead for 4 to 6 minutes at “kneading speed” (KitchenAid speed 4), until the dough is smooth and shiny.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 1 hour. It won’t go crazy, but will definitely expand a bit.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Cover the bowl again – I keep a good supply of clear shower caps handy for just this purpose – and refrigerate the dough overnight. This will make it easier to shape, and yield smoother buns.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator about an hour before you want to shape the buns.

Notice its texture; this is unlike the typical yeast dough you might work with. Instead of being smooth and silky, it feels like modeling clay. Rather than stretch when you grab it, it breaks. Don’t worry; this is fine.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces; each will be about 85g.

What’s the easiest way to divide dough into 10 perfectly equal pieces? First, weigh it (in grams, preferably), and divide by 10; this gives you the target weight of each bun.

Next, break off two pieces of dough, each weighing the target weight (about 85g). You now have two buns, and one larger piece of dough.

Divide the larger piece of dough into eight pieces simply by dividing in half; then in half again, then in half again.Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Shape each piece into a ball; working with the chilled dough is exactly like working with clay or Play-Doh, so it’s easy to shape.

Position the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving space between them. Using the bottom of a measuring cup or other flat surface, flatten the balls to about 3 1/2″ diameter.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Cover the buns, and let them rise until they’re quite puffy. This may take up to 3 to 4 hours, depending on how warm your rising environment, and how cold the dough.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make an egg white wash by mixing the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon cold water. Brush it over the buns.

Bake the buns for 20 minutes; tent loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the buns are golden brown, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of one reads about 190°F.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Remove the buns from the oven, and cool them right on the pan, or on a rack.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Here’s the difference between brushing the buns with an egg white wash (left), and leaving them plain (right). Shine on!

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

At last! Ham sandwich. With chips and half-sour pickle spears, of course.

Note: As these buns cool, they stiffen up considerably, the result of the butter and cheese both solidifying back to their natural firm state. I like to reheat the buns just before serving, either with or without their sandwich filling.

Try filling a bun with ham, mustard, and sliced cheese, then wrapping it in foil, and heating in a toaster oven for 10 minutes or so. The bun softens, the ham warms, the cheese melts, and all in all you’re in for one sigh-inducing sandwich.

Now, there are other ways to go with brioche dough – none of them classic French, but hey, let’s not hog-tie ourselves to tradition, right?

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

The dough for these Cheese Brioche Buns fits very nicely in a 9″ x 4″ pain de mie pan.

By the way, classic pain de mie is France’s take on England’s fine-grained sandwich bread; so we’re actually mixing traditions, not straying from them.

Cover the pan; using the lid as a cover is fine, so long as you remember pull back the lid to check the loaf every now and then. Let the loaf rise for 3 to 4 hours, or until it’s nearly reached the top rim of the pan. Add the lid, and place the pan on a middle to lower rack in a preheated 350°F oven.

Bake the bread for about 45 minutes, or until a digital thermometer inserted into the loaf’s center registers at least 190°F. Remove the lid for the final 5 minutes or so of baking, tenting it with aluminum foil if it’s already as brown as you like.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Toast, French toast, grilled sandwiches – here we come!

For a little fancier presentation, try a brioche braid:

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Divide the dough into three pieces, and shape each piece into a 12″ log. Braid the logs.

I like to start in the middle, rather than at one end; you tend to get a more even braid doing it this way. Position the three logs as shown at top right; braid to one end (bottom left); flip the loaf over on its back (bottom right), and braid to the other end.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Place the braid in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. Let it rise, covered, until it’s just about even with the top of the pan. Again, this may take up to 3 to 4 hours, depending on how warm your rising environment, and how cold the dough.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

Brush the risen loaf with egg white wash…

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

…and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven, tenting the loaf lightly with aluminum foil after about 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Cheese Brioche Buns via @kingarthurflour

We’re golden!

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Cheese Brioche Buns.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Amy

    PJ, can you talk through why you’re using AP instead of bread flour here? Is it that you want a more tender, less chewy texture and are willing to sacrifice some rise to get it (if I’m guessing correctly about what the difference in gluten will do here)?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Brioche is typically a tender product, and we find our AP flour has enough gluten to provide structure while still maintaining tenderness. You’re welcome to use bread flour if you’d like. Laurie@KAK

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Exactly, Amy. I’m more focused on lack of chewiness (which comes across as tenderness) than I am on rise. I like the close-grained, dense texture of this bread; it feels in character with cheese and eggs and butter. Bread flour would tend to add chewiness. Good question; thanks. PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Lisa, alas, we don’t. GF yeast bread is quite a challenge. You might try adding some grated cheese to these dinner rolls, however, and see what happens; I suspect they might be quite good. Enjoy – PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Nancy, we don’t currently have this information available, but we recommend using this recipe calculator to help you figure out the nutritional information for this or any recipe. Barb@KAF

  2. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, R.J.- Brazil

    Is always a great pleasure to start learning new tips specially about something we never heard before.
    I bake here a yummy potato bread and it asks for cheese added directly at dough. I never grated cheese finely and mixed with flour and then added to my bread doughs. So, it´s really a great tip. I really noticed that grated cheese, not mixed with flour, when added to bread sometimes contributed to kind of glue points at crumb.
    Great post!!!!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Robert, the yeast is able to convert the starch in the flour to sugar, so sugar is not a necessary ingredient. Barb@KAF

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      You can absolutely give it a try. Our mix is a bit sweeter than this recipe, but will still make great buns. ~ MJ

  3. Sherri

    This looks wonderful! Can the buns be frozen? With a small household, I’m afraid that they wouldn’t all get eaten before going stale.

    Reply
  4. Anna

    Clarification regarding speed for kneading yeast dough on the Kitchen Aid 7-qt mixer: it’s actually speed 2 with the spiral dough hook. Not all KA mixers recommend the same speed for certain tasks, referring to the manual would be a good idea if the baker is unsure.

    Reply
  5. Judy

    Can this recipe be adapted to the 13″ pain de mie pan? I really want to make a loaf instead of rolls and that is the size pan I have. Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, you sure may. Portion the dough into 1 1/2 – 2 ounce portions. Line them up in rows of 2 to equal 8-10 buns. Any left over dough bake in another loaf pan, muffin pan or simply as buns. Enjoy! Elisabeth@KAF

    2. Stan

      Please explain how you can have dough left over using a larger pan when making a loaf without having to double the recipe. Thanks.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Stan and Judy, I think Elisabeth may have misunderstood the question and was explaining how you could make the rolls in the larger pain de mie pan. To make a loaf of bread that would fill your pain de mie pan, I would recommend doubling this recipe and pressing the dough into your pan so it is approximately half full (if you plan to use the lid). You will definitely have some extra dough to make some rolls with. The larger pan really needs about 1.66 times the amount of dough as the smaller pain de mie pan, but that gets a little complicated, unless you’re using a scale. By weight you could multiply all the ingredients by 1.66 and that should give you the correct amount of dough for the larger pan. Barb@KAF

  6. Linda

    I make a lot of my breads using the Cuisinart…a la Julia child’s recipe for basic French bread. Why not, after blending the cheese and the flour, just continue adding the rest of the ingredients to the processor?
    I would mix the flour and cheese, add the dry milk and pulse to mix. add the butter and pulse to make a crumbly mix, beat the eggs and the yolk, proof the yeast briefly in the water, mix with the eggs and slowly add to the running processor. Process for about 30 seconds, place in an oiled bowl and proceed.
    I would be sure the eggs were cold and the butter cold and cut into 12/ inch cubes. When processing dough in a food processor it’s not too hard to over heat the dough

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Linda, we don’t write or test many of our recipes using a food processor because it can be so easy to both overheat and overwork the dough. It sounds like you are already familiar with the process and its inherent risks, though, so no reason not to give it a shot. Be sure to use the duller dough blade (rather than the metal one) and keep the kneading in the processor to a minimum. Mollie@KAF

  7. Melissa

    This is fantastic! I spent a few years working at a bakery where the traditional brioche buns were delicious and very popular. Over the years, I’ve made a few brioche loaves at home, but had never once considered straying from tradition (or mixing traditions, as you point out). Thanks for inspiring me to look at brioche in a whole new way.

    Reply
  8. Jan H

    I have a Bread Proofing Box, what temperature should I set it at? I usually use Platinum Yeast if that makes a difference. Thanks!

    Reply
  9. Sandy

    How do you think it would turn out if I used 1/4 cup lukewarm milk instead of the 1/4 cup dry milk and 1/4 water? I don’t typically have dry milk in my pantry, wondering what the benefit here is.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sandy, using the dry milk will give your dough more tenderness, flavor and keeping quality, however the recipe should work without the dry milk. Just substitute lukewarm milk for the water and leave out the dry milk. Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Vicky, I would recommend using the bread machine for mixing and kneading, but then allow the dough to rise at room temperature. Since this dough is going to be refrigerated overnight, I think the dough may end up being too warm if it goes through the entire dough cycle in the bread machine. Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, use the Basic cycle and pull them out after the rise. Shape, rise, then bake in your home oven. Laurie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I would take a look at the owner’s manual for deciphering what speeds are medium-high and kneading. We hope you will try this recipe and good luck! Elisabeth@KAF

  10. Valene

    I made these buns today. They hardly rose at all and ended up very dense almost biscuit texture. Any thoughts why this would happen? I let them rise for 6 hours after I formed them into buns this morning.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Valene, if you happened to measure the flour by volume and scooped your flour into the cup, you may have inadvertently added too much flour to the recipe, causing the dough to be too stiff and not rise well. When measuring flour by volume we recommend this method. If this doesn’t sound like what happened with your dough, we’d love to help you troubleshoot this recipe further. Please give us a call at the Baker’s Hotline (855-371-2253). Barb@KAF

  11. Donna

    May I freeze these buns before baking them? If so, when would be the best time to do so? Then how long should I thaw them, and let them rise before baking? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Donna, I think your best best is to shape the buns right after the dough’s initial 1-hour rise, then freeze immediately, without letting them rise as buns. They can remain frozen for about 2 weeks before their texture will start to suffer. Let them thaw and rise at room temperature before baking; this will take some time, perhaps as long as 8 hours. If possible, I’d advise doing a test first to nail the time (thaw one or two to see how long it takes for them to be oven-ready). That way, you don’t run the risk of severely underestimating or overestimating the time necessary. Good luck – PJH

  12. Nana

    I loved this bread! There is no visible cheese but it was full of cheesy flavour! Just one question. I usually bake with metric, hence follow baker’s percentage. The yeast quantity was 1 tbsp… It sounded a bit too much so I used one sachet = 7g. The salt was 1&1/4tsp and I added 6g. Do you think this is right quantity?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Nana, often brioche recipes call for a bit more yeast (hence the 1 tablespoon called for in this recipe), but if you found the buns rose well with one packet of yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons), then that amount should be fine. A tablespoon of yeast = 9.45 grams. You added a bit less salt than the recipe called for (about 7 grams), but that shouldn’t be a problem either. We use teaspoon and tablespoon measurements for ingredients that are added in very small quantities because some home scales are not very accurate when weighting such items. Barb@KAF

  13. Frank

    Could you make this dough and scale into buns using the same technique as the freeze and bake rolls? I want to use this dough to make homemade Runzas ( it’s a Nebraska thing) any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Frank, while you can use the freeze and bake roll technique with most yeast dough, brioche is very unique. It can take up to 20 minutes of kneading until everything is incorporated, and it is a very soft, sticky dough that’s hard to handle until it is refrigerated overnight. These processes are key to getting the right final texture in the buns. If you’re looking for a cheesy yeast dough where you could use the freeze and bake technique, check out our recipe for Cheddar Cheese Bread. This dough might be just right for your Runzas! I hope that helps! Kye@KAF

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