It should come as no surprise that brioche is one of my favorite breads to make. I’ve always loved how buttery and soft the inside becomes, with a delicious and golden crust. Since I have already made so many babkas, I wanted to try something different, both in terms of flavor and shape. Luckily, we had a handful of lemons from the garden that needed to be used!
This lemon rosemary brioche is shaped as a pull-apart bread, meaning that each layer should come cleanly off the next. It’s filled with butter, infused with lemon, rosemary, and thyme, and topped with a lemon syrup for added flavor and a beautiful shine. Most of the lemon flavor comes from the butter filling, however, the bread itself is delicious on its own.
This recipe makes enough for two loaves. You can shape your bread however you want, whether you want to make plain rolls, this butter-filled pull apart loaf, or separate rolls on a baking sheet. This recipe could even be adapted to make babkas! I would recommend making the full recipe, only because one loaf may be too little for a stand maker. And I highly recommend you use a stand mixer. Although doable, this dough is so sticky and loose that it’ll take much longer to do by hand.
I shaped this loaf similarly to the beginning steps of a babka, meaning that I spread the lemon butter onto a rolled out rectangular piece of dough. Then, I rolled it into a long log. To get this shape, I cut slices off of the log. It’s basically what you would do for cinnamon rolls, except you want to cut them in an almost triangular shape (one side is thinner than the other). Finally, you’ll want to place each slice into the loaf pan, with the thinner sides touching in the middle. This is what creates this almost fish-tail shaped loaf!
The lemon butter is made by simply whipping butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, rosemary, and thyme together. It’s got a great flavor and could be used for lots of different things, so I would recommend you make more than the recipe calls for.
Meanwhile, the lemon syrup is just a simple syrup made of lemon and sugar that you’ll make while the bread is baking. You’ll want to make sure it is cooled before pouring over the hot loaf so that it’ll better soak into the crust. While this step is entirely optional, I highly recommend it. It gives the bread a beautiful shine and helps to add another layer of lemon flavor.
This beautiful loaf is just dying to be displayed at a brunch or breakfast. Since it’s shaped as a pull-apart, it’s perfect to share with family and friends. Although it’s best right out of the oven (we were burning our hands trying to taste it right out of the oven!), it can be reheated a day or two after. Sprinkle with some pearl sugar or powdered sugar and enjoy with a warm cup of tea!
Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Lemon Rosemary Brioche
For the brioche:
- 1/2 cup warm milk
- 9 g active dry yeast
- 2 tsp honey
- 5 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2.5 oz granulated sugar
- 17.6 oz all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp lemon zest
- 8.8 oz unsalted butter, softened and cut into four portions
For the lemon butter:
- 7.3 oz unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
For the lemon syrup:
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sugar
Make the brioche dough:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the warm milk, yeast, and honey. Whisk to combine. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, until foamy. Make sure the milk isn't too hot, or else you'll kill your yeast.
- Add eggs and yolk, then whisk gently to just break the yolks.
- Add vanilla, sugar, flour, sea salt, and lemon zest. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a shaggy dough.
- Attach the dough hook to your stand mixer. Knead the dough on medium-low speed for about 5 minutes.
- Add the first portion of butter to the bowl. Mix with the dough hook until the butter is mixed fully into the dough, about 2-3 minutes. Repeat with the other 3 portions of butter, making sure to mix fully after each addition.
- Once all the butter is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough for 15v minutes on medium-high. You'll know the dough is finished when it is soft and tacky, but it no longer sticks to your fingertips.
- On a lightly floured surface, turn your dough out of the bowl. Lightly flour your hands and the surface of the dough. Gently fold in the edges of the dough towards the middle a couple of times. Carefully flip the dough ball over, and shape the dough to form a tight ball.
- Transfer the dough back into the mixer bowl or another large bowl. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and deflate gently with your hands. Fold in the edges again as before, pressing them into the center. Flip your dough over and tighten the dough into a ball with a smooth surface. Transfer back into the bowl.
- Cover and let it chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. You can let the dough sit in the freezer for at least 3 hours and then the fridge for 1-2 hours, but I recommend the overnight rise.
Prepare the lemon butter:
- Place all ingredients into a small mixing bowl. Beat the ingredients together until butter is whipped and smooth, and everything is well distributed.
- Transfer butter to a container and refrigerate until needed.
Shape the brioche loaves:
- Remove chilled dough from the fridge. Butter and dust two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. You can also use muffin tins to make smaller buns as well.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and deflate it gently. Divide into two equal portions.
- Work with one dough portion at a time, keeping the rest in the fridge while you work. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one dough portion until it becomes a large rectangle. It should be slightly less than 1/4-inch thick.
- Spread the lemon butter onto the dough with a spatula. Cover the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
- Starting from a long side, start rolling the dough into a tight spiral. Keep going until you get one large log.
- Cut pieces off of your log of dough diagonally (so that each piece ends up triangular). Place each piece into the pan so that the small ends meet at the middle. It should look kind of like a fishtail braid. Continue for the whole log.
- You can make this recipe into a babka by slicing the log down the middle and twisting each strand around the other. You could also turn these into rolls by simply portioning out the dough and rolling them into balls.
- Cover your loaves and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 325°F toward the end of the rising time.
- Bake for about 35-45 minutes. The tops should be browned and a tester should come out clean if poked into the center.
Make the lemon syrup:
- Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until the syrup has slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Let cool.
- Take the loaves out of the oven. Pour the cooled syrup over the loaves. You want the loaf and the syrup at different temperatures, so either pour cooled syrup over a hot loaf or hot syrup over a cooled loaf.
- Let the syrup dry slightly. Flip loaves out onto a wire rack to cool completely.