New Year, New (Sugared Cardamom) Brioche

January  5, 2018

I can't think of many things more comforting on a cold winter's day than baking bread. The heat of the oven warms the kitchen, and the scent of yeast and sugar fills the air. Then, of course, you get to tear into a steaming loaf, breaking off the heel and slathering it with butter that melts and pools into rich puddles.

Whether you're a regular yeast bread baker, a novice, or have never even attempted it at all, this brioche recipe is far simpler than it looks. The loaf emerges from the oven looking all kinds of fancy with its lofty bubbled top crusted in Swedish pearl sugar, but the dough itself is one of the easier ones to work with because it's enriched with so much butter and eggs, making it soft and supple and silky.

Into the oven, you go. Photo by Posie Harwood

The dough follows the classic ratio of a brioche (softened butter, eggs, and milk are added to give richness and flavor), but I've added in a generous spoonful of ground cardamom. I absolutely love the flavor and aroma of cardamom, and the delicate, airy texture of this bread is a nice canvas for the boldness of this particular spice. To take the bread further into dessert territory, I sprinkle Swedish pearl sugar over the top for a crunchy, sugared crown. Swedish pearl sugar is a beautifully snowy-white sugar that doesn't melt in the oven, so the texture is nice even after baking. You can skip it if you like, but I highly recommend trying it (it's also wonderful on top of scones, muffins, and cookie dough).

Pearl sugar is optional (but recommended). Photo by Posie Harwood

This bread is such a joy to shape: Rather than fuss about with braiding or slicing, I simply divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and plop the balls into a loaf pan. As they bake, they press together to form a pretty, billowy surface. Since the dough is so rich, you don't need to flour your hands or the counter to work with it. Bonus!

Spread with lemon curd! Photo by Posie Harwood

The final texture of the loaf is almost impossibly light, and it pulls apart easily into thin, cotton candy-like strands. Enjoy it on its own or spread it with jam or butter. I like topping a piece with lemon curd, or toasting a chunk of it and serving it under a scoop of ginger ice cream to match the cardamom. A plate of that, a fire roaring in the grate, the snow swirling outside, and there's not much more we could need.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Allison Troup Jensen
    Allison Troup Jensen
  • Yvette Jansen
    Yvette Jansen
  • BakerRB
  • Nancy
  • Posie (Harwood) Brien
    Posie (Harwood) Brien
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Allison T. January 8, 2018
Hi Posie,

This sounds and looks perfect! I would love your recommendation on a gluten free flour I could substitute the all purpose with please?
Posie (. January 8, 2018
Hi Allison! I've never tried it with a GF flour, but the two I'd always recommend are the Cup4Cup flour from Thomas Keller which bakers seem to have great success with, or King Arthur's Measure for Measure flour, although that is less ideal for yeast breads, so you could also try their GF all-purpose flour. Good luck!
Yvette J. January 6, 2018
Hi Posie, this sounds awesome! As a European and a experienced baker (always based on weight and not volume), I'm a bit nervous when using cups in baking. Could you indicate how much grams/ounces is a cup of flour according to this recipe? Thanks so much!
Posie (. January 6, 2018
Of course! Should have added that. I use a measurement of 4 1/4 ounces of flour for 1 cup.
BakerRB January 6, 2018
This sounds great. My dad makes a cardamom braid (wreath shape) for Christmas morning most years. It's so delicious fresh and soft and slathered with butter. We didn't have it this year, but maybe I can try this by the end of the 12 days of Christmas to have a variation on the tradition. Thanks for the reminder.
Nancy January 5, 2018
Posie Harwood...this one looks and sounds delicious. I also love and use cardamom frequently. But for those who don't love it, suspect this recipe will work without it or with another spice, yes?
Posie (. January 5, 2018
Absolutely. Totally fine to leave out or swap something else in like cinnamon or nutmeg or a blend of a few spices!