A Truly Authentic Brioche Recipe
I've often wondered what brioche actually was in the 18th and 19th centuries. Over the years, I've collected dozens of recipes, in both French and English, from that time. And while they're all fairly similar, I never had one that I could call unimpeachably authentic.
Then, a few weeks ago, I finally found what seems to be the most credible source possible: "The French Cook", 1815 edition by Louis Eustache Ude. Not only did he work in Louis XVI's kitchens, but his father was a chef (in the traditional sense) to Louis XVI, as well. His measures are as follows:
"In Paris we call to make a brioche with twelve pounds of butter, as we reckon a bushel of flower to weigh sixteen pounds. In this case we take sixty eggs, we ascertain whether they be all good, and to these we add a quarter of a pound of salt, the same quantity of sugar, and half a pound of yeast…" Louis Eustache Ude, The French Cook p.461
In baker's percentages that's 100% flour : 75% butter : ~41.3% egg : 1.6% salt : 1.6% sugar : 3.1% liquid ale yeast
Of course the flour and yeast are nothing quite like what we use now. The flour would have been stone milled from soft white wheat and then hand-bolted -- to yield something in between modern pastry flour and AP flour, yet with much of the wheat germ still present. And then the yeast was a totally different animal -- straight from the local ale brewer -- whose method of preparation and incorporation he details in the full recipe.
How bread flour and milk came to be such common ingredients in modern brioche recipes is puzzling. They really create something else that's not brioche. Add a new major ingredient and use the wrong flour in any other bread, and no one would think you're making what you claim to be. Maybe it should have another name? Fauxoche?