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).

Brioche Buns-16

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. Katherine Putnam

    Could you explain the reason why dry milk is in the recipe? I looked above to see if you have already answered this question, so forgive me if this is a repeat question. Could liquid milk — and less water — ever be substituted or would the effect not be the same?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Katherine, the dry milk adds flavor, tenderness, and nutrition to the brioche buns. You can use liquid milk to replace the water in the recipe and omit the dry milk powder if you like, but the buns won’t be quite as light or high-rising as they otherwise would be. They’ll still be delicious, though! Kye@KAF

  2. Georgi

    I make the dough for these yesterday. I used the dough setting on my bread machine but when it was finished, and I took the dough out, it was dripping with butter. I know for sure I used the correct amount. This morning I took the dough out of the fridge and shaped it and placed on cookie sheet, as directed, but I did 12 rather than 6. 3 hours later, they have barely risen. Any thoughts? I wonder if I should have let it knead twice yesterday.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Georgi, it sounds like a couple of things might have been happening here. First, brioche dough does take much longer to knead than unenriched yeast doughs. We usually find that it needs 15-20 minutes in a stand mixer, rather than the usual 7, so it’s very possible that your dough needed to be kneaded longer. Unincorporated melted butter also makes us think that the butter and/or the dough may have gotten too warm during mixing and kneading. While we want the butter to be room temperature when mixed in, it shouldn’t be so warm that it’s melted. If the same thing were to happen again, we’d recommend letting the dough cool back to room temp, then continuing to knead until all the ingredients come together into a very soft, smooth ball. Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

  3. Betsy

    Yum! It’s too hot to make these now, but when (if) it cools off, I’m up for these. Thank you for testing regular vs gold yeast as I just received my order for gold and wondered if I should use it in “rich” recipes even when they don’t specifically call for it. Nice to know it would work and is better for sweet but not necessarily “fat” breads.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t tried that, Jan, but we imagine it would work. If you decide to give it a try, we’d suggest using the directions from our recipe for New England Hot Dog Buns for guidance. Happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  4. Connie Mckeehen

    This may sound silly but can I use a 6 quart food grade tub with a lid in place of a plastic bag?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Absolutely, Connie. We chose to highlight a different rising container here, but we usually recommend using a dough rising bucket like that or a covered bowl. Mollie@KAF

  5. Christi

    Is there a substitute for the dry milk? Maybe water or milk? The last time I purchased your dry milk it expired before I even used half of it, so I felt like it was very wasteful. I really want to make these brioche hamburger buns. Also, can this recipe be used to bake a loaf? If so, what size pan would I use? I’ll be sure to let you know how my buns turn out. I really appreciate that you have so many great recipes and that you take questions and answer them so quickly!
    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Christi, you could replace the water with milk, and simply leave the dried milk out of the recipe. This would make a relatively small loaf, so I would try baking it in an 8.5×4.5 inch loaf pan, for about 30-35 minutes, but be sure to keep an eye on it. Bryanna@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Betsy, softening it first makes it easier to work in the dough. Just don’t melt it, though. Good luck — enjoy this fabulous bread! PJH

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Corinne, not with the filling, no. You could freeze the buns and fill just before serving, though, if that works for you. PJH

  6. Cathi

    Referring to making the dough in my Zojirushi bread machine. Your blog says to take the dough out when the dough cycle is completed. Does that mean that you let it run the entire dough cycle with the first rise, or do you take out the dough after the knead cycle?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Cathi, let the machine finish its cycle, meaning the first rise happens in the machine. Suswan

  7. Jason Kippen

    In Australia here haven’t seen all purpose flour ( maybe it’s there and i haven’t seen it) can i use another flour like self raising flour or another substitute?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sounds like you should give our Baker’s Hotline a call to talk about substitutes. We’ll need to know what you do have access to in order to make the best recommendation. A higher protein content flour like bread flour can work, but it will make the buns a bit less tender and the dough will need slightly more water. You’re also welcome to try using a whole wheat variety, but again the buns won’t be quite as soft. Self-rising (or self-raising) flour isn’t a good choice because it already has chemical leaveners added to it, which will negatively impact the texture and rise. Feel free to give us a call if you need more information: 855-371-BAKE(2253). Kye@KAF

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