Rich, eggy, and buttery, these fluffy rolls have a soft, pillowy consistency—they’re like regular hamburger buns on steroids. You’ll want to slice and fill them with your favorite juicy burger to give it its due.
The not-so-well-kept secret to brioche dough is butter, and plenty of it. Its origin is French (mais, oui!), probably in Normandy where butter rules, and dating as far back as the 17th century. While it is most often made into a savory bread or roll, it also answers the call of the sweet tooth, filled with custard, cream or jam.
Brioche is a very versatile dough, and in practical terms, because of its richness, it keeps well, and despite its softness, is sturdy enough to stand up to a juicy burger — especially when slathered with butter and toasted it. Read up on How to Grill the Perfect Burger and you have a match made in barbecue heaven.
Brioche is worth making for burger buns, but it’s also great to have this classic pastry technique in your back pocket to turn into other goodies. You can also use brioche as a vehicle for butter and jam or fill them with your favorite sandwich filling like chicken salad, egg salad, or pulled pork. Let your imagination run wild!
What is Classic Brioche?
While these rolls are going to take a little more time and effort, they are not out of reach for the home cook, and in hands-on terms, not as time consuming as you might assume.
This recipe is based on the classic method of making a sponge or starter and letting it rise for 45 minutes or so. Add eggs and flour to the sponge to make a soft dough and knead it for about 8 minutes in a stand mixer. Add cool but creamy butter to the dough and when it is fully incorporated, let the dough rise for about an hour at room temperature.
At this point it’ll be very soft and sticky, and truthfully, would be impossible to shape. Perhaps that’s the reasoning behind the traditional method of giving it an overnight rest in the refrigerator. It rises more in the fridge and the dough stiffens, so shaping it the next day is much easier.
Finally, the rolls get an egg wash just before baking and emerge puffy and golden from the oven.
Tips for Success with Brioche Burger Buns
Any time you make something new it can be challenging, but these tips should help you navigate the some of the recipe’s finer points.
- As you knead it and add butter to the dough, don’t hesitate to scrape down the bowl and the dough that creeps up the dough hook from time to time. It will eventually come together to form one dough ball so don’t panic!
- Cold dough is easy to work with and shape. Once you take the dough out of the fridge after its overnight rise, work quickly. If it becomes warm and unmanageable, put it in the freezer for a few minutes until it firms up again.
- Weigh the rolls to make them all the same size. If you have a scale, weigh the dough and then divide the weight by 8 to determine the weight of each roll. Start by cutting it into wedges and make adjustments as needed. If you don’t have a scale, don’t worry; just eyeball it. Perfection is overrated.
- Before flattening the dough on the baking sheet, space the rolls about 3 inches apart.
How to Adapt the Recipe
If you’ve never made brioche before, I urge you to follow the recipe as is. I would say that is sound advice any time you try something new, especially in baking. Then you can experiment with a much better likelihood of success once you are familiar with the technique.
Here are a few brioche swaps, substitutions, and alternate ideas:
- If you want to use whole wheat flour, use whole wheat pastry flour or half all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid than white flour, so you will have to decrease the flour or increase the liquid to make adjustments.
- Make slider buns by dividing the dough into 16 pieces and shape them in the same way.
- As far as toppings go, lightweight seeds like sesame, poppy, or minced dried onions are excellent; just be sure to brush the rolls with egg wash so the seeds adhere.
- Skip the egg wash altogether and brush the buns with melted butter when they come out of the oven, too.
How to Store, Freeze, and Thaw Brioche Rolls
Store completely cooled buns in a plastic zipper bag for up to 3 days. (Warm buns will encourage condensation in the bag which will make the bread soggy).
For longer storage, wrap each roll in plastic and then freeze in a zip top freezer bag for up to 3 months. To thaw, unwrap them and let them sit at room temperature on a rack for about 20 minutes, or pop in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.
Brioche Hamburger Buns
- For the sponge:
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup lukewarm water
- For the dough:
- 4 large eggs
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature, unsalted butter
- For the egg wash and topping:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Flaky sea salt (for sprinkling), optional
Make the sponge:
In a small bowl, whisk the yeast and flour together. Add the water and whisk gently until blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise at room temperature for 45 minutes
Make the dough:
Add the sponge to the mixer bowl and beat with the paddle attachment over medium speed. Add in the eggs, one at a time, incorporating them into the dough. Stop and scrape down the bowl as necessary.
Beat in 1 3/4 cups of the flour, the sugar, and salt. The dough will be sticky with a consistency of thick cake batter.
Knead the dough:
Switch to the dough hook and with the mixer on low speed, add the remaining 2 cups of flour in 1/2 cup increments.
When all of the flour has been incorporated, knead for 8 minutes on medium-low speed, stopping to scrape the down the dough hook occasionally. The dough will be firm but still on the sticky side.
Add the butter:
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes before incorporating the butter. (This allows the gluten to relax and makes incorporating the butter easier.)
With the mixer running on medium and the dough hook still attached, add the butter to the dough 1 tablespoon at a time. Wait until the butter has been fully incorporated before adding the next tablespoon.
After the final tablespoon has been added and incorporated into the dough, continue to knead for an additional 5 minutes.
Once the butter has been thoroughly absorbed, the dough will be soft and sticky. Scrape it into a clean bowl, shaping it loosely into a ball.
Let the dough rise at room temperature:
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
Let the dough rise in the refrigerator:
Press the plastic wrap onto the surface of the dough and let rise in the refrigerator overnight (8 to 12 hours).
Shape the buns:
On a floured board, turn out the cold dough and press it into a flat circle that’s about 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into 8 wedges. If you have a scale, weigh your dough (whole) and divide it by 8 to determine the weight of each bun so they will all be of equal size.
Hold a piece of dough in one hand and draw the edges in toward the center to form a ball. The dough will be quite soft and will not seem stretchy.
Place a dough ball on the board with the smooth side on top. Cup your fingers on one side of the roll and move it in a circular motion, drawing your cupped hand towards your thumb and using the friction on the board to shape it into a ball.
epeat with remaining rolls. You should not need to re-flour the board. You want a little stickiness to help you shape the balls.
Final shaping and rise:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the balls of dough 3 inches apart on the baking sheet and press them flat so they are about 3 1/2 inches across. Cover the dough balls with a lightweight dish towel and let rise until puffy and almost doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven:
Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Brush with egg wash:
In a small bowl, beat the egg and 1 tablespoon of water with a fork until thoroughly combined. Using a light touch to keep from deflating the dough, use a pastry brush to brush the rolls with the egg wash. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt if desired.
Bake the bread:
Bake the rolls for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, sounds slightly hollow when tapped and reaches an internal temperature of 190°F.
Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool. Slice and use for your favorite burgers, sandwiches, and salads.