Tahini (or Peanut Butter!) Brioche

November 23, 2016
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 2 pounds dough (enough for 2 loaves or 12 dinner rolls)
Author Notes

The original recipe for tahini brioche comes from Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick's cookbook, Soframiz. Figuring that tahini isn't unlike peanut butter in the arenas that would matter here (texture and fat content), I played Mad Baker-Scientist and replaced it for the tahini, one for one, in Maura's original recipe. (Cry "American obsession with peanut butter," if you must.) Where the tahini is a sophisticated, subtle background note, the peanut butter comes through strong. Six tablespoons of peanut butter goes further than six tablespoons of tahini—enough to make your kitchen smell like you're baking cross-hatched cookies; enough to make the final loaf taste like a peanut butter sandwich but without the tacky stickiness.

A note or two on the recipe:

This recipes requires a stand mixer and it requires you to use it a lot—like nearly-30-minutes-of-active-mixing a lot. Do not start a riveting podcast right before you embark.

My peanut butter dough was much softer than the tahini dough. It required 5 to 10 minutes of additional mixing in order to for the gluten window to form—and even then, it was delicate and fairly wet. I added flour to the bowl and to my hands when I transferred it from the bowl of the stand mixer to the bowl for its first rise. But don't worry: The dough does rises in refrigerator for six hours and will be much easier to work with after its chill out time.

A sprinkling flaky salt on the top of the peanut butter loaves before they bake will counter the PB's sugary leaning.

You can freeze the dough after it's final rise. Keep it in the freezer for up to 5 days, thaw it in the fridge overnight before baking, and then allow it to come to room temperature before proceeding.

You can also freeze the baked loaves or rolls or buns. Let it come to room temperature before reheating it gently in a low temperature oven. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • For the sponge:
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, warmed to 100° to 110° F
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • For the dough and the finished loaves:
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 6 well-mixed tablespoons tahini or smooth peanut butter
  • 1 3/4 sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • Fillings like jams or preserves (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk
  1. For the sponge, combine the milk, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (you need a stand mixer). Whisk by hand to dissolve the yeast, then whisk in the eggs and stir in 1 cup of the flour. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup over the top (don't stir it in). Cover and set aside to proof until there are cracks in the top layer of the dough and it's very soft to the touch, about 30 minutes.
  2. To make the dough, add the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, egg yolk, and tahini or peanut butter to the bowl with the sponge. Use a dough hook to mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Scrape down the sides, then increase to medium speed and mix until you just see the dough come together around the dough hook, 8 to 10 minutes. It's important that the dough is developed before you incorporate the butter, so try not to rush the process.
  3. Scrape the sides of the bowl, mix again on high speed, then add half the butter, working on medium speed. Once the first half of the butter is incorporated (you no longer see lumps)—this takes minutes, not seconds—add the second half. Continue mixing until the dough is silky smooth, 10 to 15 minutes (when I used peanut butter, this took closer to 20 minutes!). Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough comes off the bowl, about 1 minutes. If you take a little piece of the dough and stretch it, you should see a gluten window, which indicates that the gluten is developed (when I was working with the peanut butter dough, I had to repeat the high-speed minute intervals a few times in order to achieve this elasticity; even then, it was still fragile/delicate).
  4. Lightly flour a bowl or plastic storage container. Scrape the dough into the container and press it out in a flat rectangle. (Since the peanut butter dough was so soft, I used a generous amount of flour both in the bowl, on my hands, and on the dough's surface.) Fold the two sides in to meet in the middle, then flip over and press it out, back into a flat-ish rectangle. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours, or up to overnight. After refrigerating, you can shape the dough. You can wrap the shaped loaves and freeze them for up to 5 days.
  5. To make the loaves, lightly flour a work surface and butter two 9-inch loaf pans. Divide the dough in half, then roll one half into a 2- by 6-inch rectangle, divide into three long strips, braid together, and tuck into the loaf pan. Repeat with the second piece of dough. (You can also make the second piece of dough into balls, then pile those into the loaf pan.) Alternatively, this is a place where you can go wild! Spread jam over the dough then roll it into a log and either tuck that whole roll-up into the pan, or slice into cinnamon bun-like swirls and tuck them in haphazardly (or in an organized fashion).
  6. To make rolls, butter a 9-inch springform. Then divide the dough into 12 pieces and use a cupped hand to gently roll each one in small circular motions against the surface to form a tight ball. Arrange them in the pan in a single layer, with 8 around the circumference and 4 in the center.
  7. Cover whatever you've shaped loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size (2 to 2 1/2 hours for the loaves; 1 1/2 to 2 hours for the rolls). To test to see if they've proofed properly, press down on the dough with your finger: It should feel pillowy-soft and spring back almost all the way, still leaving a small indentation.
  8. Heat the oven to 350° F. Make an egg wash by whisking together the eggs and the milk. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds over top, if using (flaky salt is also a good addition here). Set on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes for the loaves, 15 to 20 minutes for the rolls.
  9. Let the loaves cool in their pans on a wire rack. For the rolls, snap off the outside of the springform pan, then let cool on the pan bottom on a wire rack.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tim D.
    Tim D.
  • emma leonardi
    emma leonardi
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
  • KA

7 Reviews

Tim D. January 7, 2017
Hi - I was just about to start this and noticed that while the recipe list calls for 2 eggs in the sponge, the directions below in step 1 do not indicate what role those eggs play. Can you please clarify this? Thanks!
Sarah J. January 7, 2017
Sorry about that! They get whisked in after you've dissolved the yeast. I'll update the recipe now!
Tim D. January 7, 2017
Perfect! Thanks for the quick response. Back to the kitchen I go!
Sarah J. January 8, 2017
Let me know how it went!
KA January 6, 2017
Is there a method to make this without a mixer? Mine just broke! Thanks.
emma L. December 4, 2016
Can I make this without yeast? I am gluten free and I can never make recipes with yeast work :(
Sarah J. December 4, 2016
Hi Emma! I'm afraid you can't make brioche without yeast. But we have lots of other good gluten-free baking options. Maybe start here?