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. Amanda

    I’m in the process of making this recipe – it’s in the fridge now. When I was mixing, it looked nothing like the pictures (not as sloppy – even added a bit more water), but I followed the directions and it did rise to about double in size. Should I be making “plan b” buns, or is this likely to be ok? Have company coming tomorrow for pulled pork sandwiches 🙂

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you have a hamburger bun pan, the sides of the buns will be held in by the pan shape so they won’t spread out/flatten during the rise or bake. Work with the brioche dough cold to shape the buns. It may be wise to make the plan B dough and rolls as only the brioche bake will be able to tell you for sure if you really need those plan B buns. If the plan A buns work, you can freeze either set of buns for later. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  2. Joanna

    Hi, I love making brioche of all types, but with these buns I have trouble with them falling a fair amount when they come out of the oven. When I bake brioche loaves, I leave them in the loaf pans for about 10 minutes to prevent this. However, I am at a loss for what to do with these free standing buns. I am making standard size (2 3/4 oz) buns. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like the buns may be a little over-proofed, Joanna. Try reducing the rising time for the shaped rolls and see if it helps. Jon@KAF

  3. Steve

    My dough did not rise at all…followed the directions. My dough appeared incorporated as per the directions sooner than the recommend time…did i over mix the dough?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi there,
      Yes, you can make these rolls any size you choose. The temperature will remain the same for baking, and you will need to reduce the baking time according to how large or small you make them. ~ MJ

    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Mary. We’ve made a LOT of brioche dough in our test kitchen bread machines. Yes, it will work just fine. Susan

  4. Inge Del Nevo

    I find that my buns most of the time during rising go side ways raather than high. How can I improve. I also like to use Spelt flour. Is that the same baking method? Thnaks looking forward to your advice.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Spelt flour may not have the same strength in baking that wheat does but you are perfectly free to experiment and use the same method, possibly modifying the mix times. Things slump sideways when the dough is too slack, or when the dough isn’t shaped tightly enough. Slack dough may have too much moisture in it. We have some videos on our site that show how to tightly shape dough- give them a view. A third option would be to use a pan or mold to hold them, like our hamburger pan. Happy baking! Laurie

  5. mikegriese

    I really like the flavor of the buns, but I am having a problem with texture – they are consistently coming out more crumbly than I would like. They are rising nicely, don’t appear to be overbaked in terms of browning, and I take them out of the oven as soon as they hit 190 – any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Crumbly = dry, so first watch your flour measurement. Be sure to stir the flour, sprinkle into the measuring cup then level – this will yield a cup of flour that weighs 4 to 4.25 ounces. A “heavy” cup of flour or incorporating too much flour during kneading will result in drier, crumbly brioche. This very rich dough should still feel soft and supple, like pressing on your cheek with your index finger. Second, home convection ovens may dry out baked buns, so use your oven on a traditional bake setting. Last, be sure to follow the tips from the blog about ingredients and mixing – or call our Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-2253 and we can do more trouble shooting with you. Happy Baking!

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