Brioche Buns: insider secrets for your best buns ever

If the word brioche conjures up a mental image of an oversized, buxom loaf with a rather complicated topknot – think again. Brioche buns are the simple way to enjoy this French classic.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about brioche dough: it’s rich. Packed with eggs and butter, it bakes up into a light, mahogany-brown loaf perfect for sandwiches. And if you’re making breakfast toast, don’t bother with the butter dish; a simple slather of jam is sufficient.

Brioche buns – brioche dough, shaped into burger buns – bring their signature richness to the backyard barbecue. Tender (but not crumbly), light (but still substantial), they’re absolutely perfect for a big burger and all the fixings.

But don’t stop there. A juicy grilled chicken breast with sliced avocado and homemade salsa might destroy a typical store-bought bun, reducing it to soggy crumbs. But brioche buns are undeterred by excess moisture; bring on the relish!

Have you ever made a classic brioche? Then you’ll enjoy this new twist on an old favorite.

Never made brioche? Follow these simple steps for a tasty take on burger buns.

Brioche dough doesn’t come together quite like standard yeast dough. So pay close attention to our tips along the way.

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1. Don’t skimp on the rich ingredients.

Low-fat brioche is an oxymoron. The texture and flavor of these buns rely on butter and eggs, so bite the bullet and use the full amount of both – including the extra egg yolk. You won’t be wasting the white; you’ll use it later on.

Start by putting the following ingredients into a bowl; preferably the bowl of a stand mixer, though alternatively you can use an electric hand mixer. Your bread machine, set on the dough cycle, is also a good choice.

2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, white reserved for topping
3 to 4 tablespoons lukewarm water*
10 tablespoons unsalted butter

*Start with 3 tablespoons in summer, or under humid conditions; 4 tablespoons in winter, or when it’s dry out.

Brioche Buns-15

2. Use a mixer or bread machine to make the dough.

Can you mix and “knead” brioche dough by hand? I’d recommend this ONLY if you’re a seasoned and very fit bread baker. Fully developing this rich dough by hand would probably take up to 25 to 30 minutes of vigorous mixing with a spoon; it’s so soft that only at the very end might you be able to actually knead it.

Don’t bother getting out your mixer’s dough hook; you’ll be sticking with the beater blade here – “sticking” being the key word. This dough is STICKY when it starts out, before eventually becoming smooth, soft, and satiny.

Start by mixing all of the ingredients together at medium speed. They’ll cling to the sides of the bowl; scrape them into the center, and mix some more. I use speed 4 on my KitchenAid.

Continue mixing the dough at medium speed. After about 10 minutes or so, you should see it starting to form a ball (lower left photo). Scrape the dough into the center of the bowl again, and continue to mix, scraping the bowl to help it along, until the dough is smooth and soft, perhaps sticking a bit but no longer coating the sides of the bowl.

Attention, bread machine aficionados: set your machine on the dough cycle, and walk away. The bread machine is PERFECT for making brioche dough. When the dough cycle is complete, refrigerate it overnight (instructions below).

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3. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, then refrigerate it overnight.

Brioche dough is easier to handle when it’s cold. So let it rise at room temperature until it’s noticeably puffy (top photos); then place it in a bag (no need to grease the bag), fasten the bag at the top, and refrigerate the dough overnight.

Why do I have two batches of dough going here, you ask? I was testing two yeasts: SAF Red and SAF Gold. SAF Gold helps dough with a higher percentage of sugar rise better; would it also help dough with a higher percentage of fat?

The answer is no; it works the same as SAF Red in high-fat doughs. Though SAF Red (on the left in the two photos) actually appears to work better than Gold, that’s simply because it had a half-hour head start; I mixed the Red dough first, followed by the Gold.

How to make brioche buns via @kingarthurflour

Top, mega-buns. Bottom, a combination of standard and slider buns.

4. Decide how many brioche buns you want to make.

This recipe will make six mega-buns, perfect for your half-pound burgers; eight standard burger buns; or 16 mini-buns, just right for sliders.

Divide the dough into the desired number of pieces. If you have a scale, weigh the dough before you start; this will make division totally simple.

Shape each piece of dough into a flattened round: about 3 1/4″ diameter for large buns, 3″ for standard, and 2 1/2″ for mini.

Place the larger buns in a hamburger bun pan, if desired, for extra support. Standard and mini buns will be fine on a half-sheet pan, spaced about 2″ apart. I like to line the pan with parchment, for easiest cleanup.

How to make brioche buns via @kingarthurflour

5. For smoothest shape, flatten shaped brioche buns with a tool – not simply your hands.

Since the dough is both chilled and high in fat, you’ll find it easy to work with; it feels a bit like soft, smooth clay, rather than a typical springy yeast dough.

You can get pretty smooth brioche buns simply by using the palm of your hand to flatten them. But here’s a helpful tip: once you’ve shaped the dough into a ball, flatten it with something completely flat: like a bowl scraper, or the bottom of a measuring cup (if you have one large enough). Press down firmly, then make a couple of small circles with your hand (think washing a window), to “round” the bun under pressure.

So, how come those buns in the previous photos don’t look perfectly smooth and round? I didn’t discover this technique until I was nearly done shaping them, and was discouraged with the results. Necessity is the mother of invention!

How to make brioche buns via @kingarthurflour

6. Let the brioche buns rise fully.

Because the dough is cold, the brioche buns may take longer to rise. Let them. Don’t set your stopwatch and rail against fate if they’re not nice and puffy when the alarm goes off.

If the dough is particularly cold and your house is, as well, the buns may take up to 3 hours to rise fully. On the hot summer day when I made these, they only took about 90 minutes.

And what does “rise fully” mean? Well, if you’re making them in a hamburger bun pan, they should definitely crest above the rim of the pan.

For buns on a baking sheet, they should start to “lift” off the sheet: see how their sides are bulging out just a bit, starting to become the big, rounded buns they’ll bake into? That’s what you’re after.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 375°F, with a rack in the center.

How to make brioche buns via @kingarthurflour

7. For added flavor and crunch, top with seeds.

Remember that egg white you saved, back when you were making the dough? Whisk it with 1 tablespoon cold water, and brush the resulting “egg wash” on the buns.

Then top with seeds: sesame, for a typical fast food-type sesame seed bun; or my favorite, everything bagel topping, a tasty mixture of poppy and sesame seeds, dried onion, garlic, and salt.

How to make brioche buns via @kingarthurflour

Even if you’re not adding seeds, it pays to brush the brioche buns with egg wash. On the left, an “unwashed” bun; on the right, a washed bun. Egg white adds both color and shine.

How to make brioche buns via @kingarthurflour

Some seeded, some plain – looks like these plump brioche buns are ready.

Bake the large buns for 18 to 19 minutes. Slider buns will take about 14 minutes, and standard buns something in between. The buns should be golden brown, and a digital thermometer inserted into their center should read 190°F.

Note to those who want to mix bun sizes on the same pan, as I did. Remember, the smaller ones will bake more quickly than the larger ones. When the small ones are done, grab ’em off the baking sheet with a pair of tongs (or your baker-tough, heatproof fingers – OUCH); and transfer them to a rack to cool, leaving the larger buns in the oven to continue baking.

Now there’s one caveat to all this, and it leads to our final tip –

Brioche buns via @kingarthurflour

8. It’s easy to over-bake the buns. Don’t do it.

Brioche buns will brown quickly, due to their high fat content, as well as the egg wash. And you want to err on the side of moistness. So keep your eye on the buns as they bake, and your digital thermometer handy.

No thermometer? It pays to break one open when you think they’re done. If you see no sign of raw dough at the center – take ’em out of the oven, they’re perfect.

Brioche buns via @kingarthurflour

Aren’t you craving a burger right about now?

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for 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. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Lauren, the butter should always be soft at room temperature unless otherwise specified. The recipe will say “melted,” or “cold,” if that’s what’s needed. We have a full Recipe Success Guide that includes measuring standards like this that might help answer other ingredient questions if any arise. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  1. Jerri

    I’m afraid I’ve screwed up but my dough barely rose during the hour but I went ahead and put in fridge for overnight. Almost no rise from last night till this morning. I went ahead and put in pans in 4 oz balls flattened but dough is heavy feeling and when tearing dough to make the balls it looked like a stiff playdough inside. What could have gone wrong as I measured on my scale? I used active dry yeast but let in set in my 115 degree water for 10 minutes to bloom as I have on other recipes. Help? They’ve been proofing for nearly 2 hours and hardly any rise.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Jerri, it’s difficult for us to pin point the cause of your trouble without hearing a bit more about your ingredients and method. It’s possible that there was a measuring error or a specific ingredient substitution changed the consistency of the dough. We encourage you to call our Baker’s Hotline (855-371-BAKE) so we can investigate further. Not to worry, we’ll get you back on track to making beautiful brioche buns in no time. Kye@KAF

  2. Lauren

    Well, I was convinced it was going wrong every single step along the way. Just pulled them out of the oven. Magic. Perfecto. In fact, I ate a ‘bread sandwich’ for dinner. Who needs filling? That was delicious!

    Reply
  3. marc reynolds

    Out of habit and laziness, I called the Baker Hot Line and was helped by the lovely ladies that answered with my questions regarding Brioche rolls.

    Later in the day, It occurred to me to check your website about Brioche Rolls, which I did and found a font of excellent information to supplement the Reinhart recipe I am using. His is similar.

    I need to know more about using a tablet in the kitchen. I have a few thousand recipes. They are in a recipe folders by type, and in old fashioned manila files. I am loath to uses a computer in the kitchen because of the grease etc. and because I usually make notes on the printed paper recipes. Can you make notes on the tablet? How do you keep it clean?

    Your products are great and your Bakers Hot Line outstanding.

    Marc

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Marc, we’re glad to hear you put our Baker’s Hotline to good use! We love hearing from bakers like yourself. As for your questions about the tablet, they might be better suited for those folks who actually sell the tablets, as the capabilities and functions can vary quite a bit among brands and models. We have heard of some bakers who use screen protectors and plastic cases that are easily cleaned so when you inevitably get flour and dough on your screen, it’s easy to wipe up at the end of your session. If it’s something you’re interested in, we encourage you to continue exploring it. Kye@KAF

  4. Mindy

    I’ve made this recipe twice now and it is out of this world. And while my end results both times were perfect, I do have a question. Both times my first rise was negligible to very slight. The directions call for an hour rise until puffy but your blog photos show a decided double + in volume rise. Which should it be? A one hour rise, no matter what the change in volume, or go ahead and let rise until double? The photos don’t quite match the directions (or vice versa)! Both times I got a good puffiness of my shaped buns after about 90 minutes and they popped up perfectly during baking. So, I only wonder if I’d have even better results/flavor if I let the first rise go to double in bulk.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Mindy, we apologize for any confusion. You’ll want to let the dough rise for about an hour, at which point it should have increased in size and have become quite puffy. This might mean a full double in size, but if it’s been about an hour and you’ve seen a notable increase, you can move on to the next step. On the other hand, if your dough is in a cold kitchen or your ingredients were cold and there’s barely any change after an hour, you’ll want to extend that initial rest. The flavor will be more yeasty if you let it rise more completely before putting it in the fridge. Feel free to experiment, adjusting your method slightly to get the flavor you’re looking for. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

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