The Fresh Loaf

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Brioche au Levain (recipe)

foolishpoolish's picture

Brioche au Levain (recipe)

Brioche Au Levain 

(makes 1 medium or 2 small loaves)   

Firm Starter

100g AP flour
50g (approx) water
50g ripe storage starter (mine is at 100% hydration)

Mix the flour and starter, adding just enough water to make a firm white dough ball.

Proof for 5 hours at room temperature or until well over doubled in volume.


Final Mix

200g all purpose flour 
200g bread flour
80g sugar
7g salt (more if using unsalted butter)
200g firm white starter
100g (approx) milk 
150g butter (soft enough to easily mix)
3 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp lemon extract + grated zest of 1 lemon (optional) 

Beat the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt and bread flour together into a smooth paste. Set aside for at least half an hour.

Brioche Au Levain Egg Mixture

Mix the all purpose flour and milk, using just enough milk to make a smooth stiff dough. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.

Knead the starter and flour/milk dough together well. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.

 Brioche Au Levain Dough 1

Fold the egg mixture into the dough, a little at a time.  This will get very messy but stick with it.  It will come together eventually.  


Using frissage (  incorporate the butter into the dough, a little at a time.

You will end up with a very slack, shiny dough which barely holds together.

Apply a few french folds ( to increase strength in the dough.  Allow the dough to rest for an hour in a bowl. 


After resting, turn out the dough onto a well floured surface.

Divide and shape as desired (traditional brioche à tête may not be possible with such a slack dough).

Place into appropriate baking tins and cover loosely.

Proof until doubled in bulk (up to 8 hours!)

Brioche Au Levain Ready To Bake 

Preheat the oven to 400F

Very carefully brush the tops with beaten egg and score lengthwise with a serrated blade.

Bake the brioche for 30 minutes (or until a poked skewer comes out clean). If the top crust gets too brown then cover with foil for the remainder of the baking time.

Allow to cool for at least half an hour.  Enjoy!





rainbowbrown's picture

That looks incredible. Thanks for posting the recipe.

Janedo's picture

OK, I'll definitely give that a try. I'll do it in bread pans but using the four ball technique. I like it to be able to full apart at points. I'm so happy to find a full sourdough brioche. Thanks!


PaddyL's picture

Doesn't it feel wonderful, miraculous, and magical when the dough rises like this?  I've saved your recipe to my favourites and will definitely be trying this one out in the near future.  I am impressed!

foolishpoolish's picture

Thanks Jane, Paddy, Rainbowbrown 

I look forward to seeing and hearing about how you find the recipe.  

Note: The lemon zest and extract are listed as optional in the recipe I posted but I can't stress enough how well they work with the other flavours in the brioche. 

Janedo's picture

In France, the classic addition to brioche is orange blossom extract. It's heavenly!

I'll try it out very soon, probably this weekend.


carthurjohn's picture


Thanks for this lovely suggestion. Any idea what rate to use this at? I used 1 tspn per loaf and it wasn't strong enough but I can't find anything on the net about what rate to use it at.



JMonkey's picture

This looks fantastic! Wow.

luv2bake's picture

Drooling here! That looks delicious!

cordel's picture

Thank you so much.  This sounds fantastic, and I shall have to try it.  I have been hoping someone would post a sourdough recipe for brioche.

foolishpoolish's picture

Apologies if my terminology is a little confusing. I think I may have made it sound a little more mysterious than it really is.  All I meant by 'Ripe Storage Starter' is a sourdough starter that has reached the peak of it's activity after previously feeding it (in much the same way that a poolish or biga will reach maximum activity before sinking)

Hope you enjoy trying it.  Love to hear how you find it.





carthurjohn's picture

Thanks for this great recipe. I've been looking for a recipe like this using sourdough for some time. Thanks also for the tip about frissage, it worked well to get the butter into the dough.

I'm in the middle of making it at the moment, but one thing that I have had a problem with is the stickiness of the dough. I found it impossible to do the folding and it was so soft and sticky that there was no way I could shape it.

Any thoughts about how to handle the dough in this condition? Or what should I have done differently?  I normally use oil (on my hands and the worksurface) to prevent it sticking, I must admit I was reluctant to overflour the dough and the work surface to make it more manageable.

The shape certainly won't be as good as yours, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed on the taste!


foolishpoolish's picture

The dough is sticky, there's no denying, so I think you are right on course so far.  Conventional shaping as you've found is hard/impossible. The shape you see in the photographs simply comes from proofing in a loaf tin.

The proofing will take a while (don't expect huge rise - 1 1/2 - 2 times size).  I simply egg-washed and then scored down the length of the loaf before popping in the oven.  

You should get a lot of the volume from the dramatic oven spring.

Good luck. I'm sure you'll do great.  Do let me know how it goes!




carthurjohn's picture

Thanks for your reply.

I'm very pleased with the results. The loaves were a bit misshapen when they came out because I didn't slash them, but the oven spring was fantastic and actually the proving in tins was very forgiving as far as the overall shape was concerned.

I used the lemon zest but then used orange blossom water (1 tspn per loaf) instead of the lemon juice. I don't think this was enough but it was the first time I had used it so didn't want to overdo it.

Does anyone know what the correct usage rate for orange blossom water should be? 

Thank you very much, FP, for sharing this great recipe with us.


nina_p's picture

Old post, but maybe helpful to someone: the Tartine olive oil brioche recipe-- or at least the adapted version I found here, don't have the book-- has orange blossom water at 50 g for 1000g flour, or 5%. Not sure how  that jibes with traditional ratios. May be notable that it also has a crapload of honey (!), & also high-ish eggs vs butter(?). 

Am currently in bulk rise w/ that formula (well, half, split 'em- other half maple syrup/ brown butter/ cardamom)... so I can't speak to the results, nor to orange blossom water generally-- it's a more recent acquisition-- rose water, which I had previously, gets soapy, so have been v judicious with it. Today I was super-nervous to dump in that much (+ then an uncalled-for zest of a tangerine I had around, & some almond extract per something I saw somewhere) but at the moment dough smells vaguely floral, not like a perfume shop, so fingers crossed.

Considering anise seeds... because I'm that nuts.

foolishpoolish's picture

I'm so pleased to hear that the loaves turned out well.

Regarding flavourings, I didn't put in lemon juice either.  I used a lemon extract (oil of lemon which I assume is extracted from the lemon zest mostly).  Orange blossom water sounds delightful (and more authentic!) though I'm not sure how much to use either.




trailrunner's picture

trailrunner: I am new here on this site today. Hello. I have used Bernard Clayton's Breads of France Cookbook since 1978. In it he has a recipe for  Pogne de Romans. I make this every year for Christmas. I buy my orange flower water from a Greek supply house. To give you an idea of amounts to use, he has 6c. unbleached flour and 6 eggs with 1/2 # butter in the dough portion of the recipe. There is a starter also with 1c flour .  For this volume it calls for 1/4 c flower water. This gives a perfect fragrance without being overpowering. I hope this helps you decide the volume of flower water to use in other recipes. c

dwithiya's picture

This looks beautiful and I would like to try it. I live in India though where it is quite warm now..about 35 deg C. I wanted to check if the final proof is at room temperature or in the fridge?

Huong's picture

Hi! I've brioche using your recipe. But I don't know why my loaves taste sour. I proved at room temp until they doubled, then baked. The proofing took more than 8hrs, about 14hrs. Is that the reason why my loaves taste sour. Pls help me. Thank you

cavoletto's picture

I just created a profile on this website (I use to lurk sourdough recipes over here :) just to let you know how amazing this recipe is!! I make two loafs a week, then slice and freeze them, and it's y family's favourite breakfast item :) Two baking notes: I always need to ad quite a bit more milk then the indicated 100g to get a stiff dough (I never measured but suspect I might ad as much as an extra 50g), also I use vanilla, powder and extract, in stead of lemon.

Again, please take this from a european who grew up on french pastry, this brioche is delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe! <3