Light Brioche-style Sandwich Rolls

I'm a sucker for rich breads. Somehow, croissants, challah and brioche are excluded from my general disdain for pastry and such. The line has to fall somewhere. So, I got it in my head that I was going to make brioche. I had a sandwich in mind. Brioche is tender and barely sweet, and full of butter, eggs and milk. So, I got to Googling.

Julia Child's recipe has 12 tablespoons of butter and four eggs...

King Arthur Flour is great for bread recipes. But wow... ten tablespoons of butter and three eggs...

Epicurious uses just eight tablespoons of butter...

All of a sudden it was time to re-think. I'd make something brioche-ish (say that three times fast!).

So I Googled a bit harder. There was a less-rich recipe that had gotten around a bit. NYT had published a light brioche sandwich roll. Smitten Kitchen recreated it. This was it. Not only did I have a *much* lighter recipe, but of course it was going to work, because it got passed around and there were pictures. Any fool (read: me) can post a recipe up on the Internet, but that doesn't mean it's going to work. I felt good about this one.

So we start like we start, with yeast foaming up.So this is yeast, warm water, milk, and honey (my adaptation).

And in a large bowl, bread flour, AP flour and salt. Whisked.

Per the recipe, I took my very softened butter and worked it into the flour. I used a scant bit more butter than the original recipe, because I used skim milk rather than whole.

The flour to butter ratio didn't make a lot of sense to me for this technique. This is what we do with crackers and pie crusts and I'm just used to there being more butter. So the butter was gone and a lot of unbuttered flour remained, but I did my best.

I added the bubbly yeast to the flour/butter mix.

And a beaten egg.

And stirred until it started to get dough-like.

So, the next line in the recipe is this: "Scrape dough onto clean, unfloured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes."

But I have a nice mixer, I don't do that sort of thing by hand anymore. So I dumped it into my mixer and set it to knead. Plenty of the other recipes I read said to use a mixer, and the King Arthur recipe and the Julia Child one kind of say you can't do it without a mixer.

So after 10 minutes I had a near-liquid.

I figured I had to dump it only an unfloured counter and move on as instructed. Unfloured, wow, that's bold. Hm.

So scoop it up and slap it down?

How about just spend the time scraping it off my hands? The dough was incredibly sticky. I tried to work it. I tried hard. But finally, I had to bust out the flour. Actually, look at my hands, finally I had to yell for Sous Chef Brian to open the flour and just dump it into my "workspace."

It was rainy out. Maybe that was part of it. Either way, I added a quarter cup of additional bread flour at this point. I worked it into something kind of like a ball and put it in a bowl to rise.

I was fairly certain things weren't working out at this point.

Two hours later, the dough had really risen. Like, risen, formed a skin and deflated.

So when I turned it out onto my board, it was like this.

Oh, that's perfect. Now I'll just hit that with the bench scraper to cut it into eighths, and we'll be all set.

I was absolutely certain things weren't working out at this point.

With the help of quite a bit more flour, I managed to get eight lumpy balls.

It was an ordeal.

So those balls rose for about half an hour - the recipe said one to two hours, but despite the cool, rainy weather, something in this dough was set to rise quickly.

Now egg wash. I really don't like to do egg washes when I'm just cooking for the two of us. I don't see the point in making it shiny and brown, and I don't like the waste, but things had gone poorly enough that I wanted to go by the book.

All this leftover egg/water mix got trashed.

My shiny rolls were ready to go into the oven.

But the oven needed to preheat for a few more minutes, so they sat on the counter.

Notice how my pictures are dark and shadowy? Yeah, that's because I got a new lamp. It's the wrong lamp. But I didn't realize how wrong until it fell down and landed on my ready-for-the-oven-brioche.

Yeah. At this point, the brioche were obviously disappointed in me.

But hey, the oven was at 400. So I put them in, sad faces and all, with a pan of water. Seven minutes, turn, ten minutes (recipe says 15 total).

 And they looked like rolls. Pretty rolls, even.

And they cut like rolls.

And they tasted awesome. Not like a guilt-ridden pastry, but like an awesome sandwich roll. Soft and light, a little bit sweet. Just a little bit.

This recipe is cross-posted at Saturday’s Mouse, where I’m working on making food out of food. 


  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour, divided

  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 cup warm water

  • 3 tablespoons skim milk

  • 2 2/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 eggs, beaten, divided

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast


  • Warm the water and milk to body temperature or just above, mix in honey. Sprinkle in yeast and set aside to get foamy.

  • Whisk together all purpose flour and 3 cups of the bread flour with the salt.

  • Beat one egg.

  • Add foamy yeast mix and beaten egg to flour/salt mixture.

  • Stir to combine and form a dough.

  • Work the dough until smooth and elastic - I had difficulty with the mixer and chose to go by hand. Use extra flour if necessary.

  • Set dough in a covered bowl to rise until doubled in size.

  • Divide risen dough into eight equal pieces. Roll into balls (I needed extra flour to do this) and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled again.

  • Preheat oven to 400 and set a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack.

  • Brush remaining beaten egg over rolls and bake 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown on top. Turn sheet once during baking.


  • Prep time: 1 hour

  • Cook time: 15 mins

  • Total time: 3 hour 15 mins

  • Yield: 8 rolls