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Brioche Loaf & Cheese Brioche Loaf

Le Havre would not be Le Havre if one did not see braided brioche loaves in a dozen windows on a walk through the inner city. Most of these would be brioches aux raisins secs, with a number of brioches au fromage to be found here and there.
These two fine loaves can be made by dividing the brioche dough into two equal pieces–adding diced-up Gruyère or Swiss cheese to one portion, and 1/2 cup of currants or raisins to the other. Each is braided and given an egg-milk glaze to produce a rich, deep brown crust. Each is delicious. Each is Le Havre.

There is a surprise in a slice of the brioche au fromage. The cheese bits will have melted to leave tiny glistening pockets.


1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105°-115°)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup (1/3 pound) diced Gruyère or Swiss cheese
1/2 cup currants or raisins
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

Baking Sheet:
One baking sheet, greased or Teflon


Preparation: 15 minutes
The dough will be divided into two portions–one for the cheese and the other for the currants or raisins–after the mixing and before the first rising. This is an easy dough to prepare in a heavy–duty mixer. In a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast into warm water. Allow to dissolve and become creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of flour, and the sugar and salt. Beat in the electric mixer 2 minutes at medium speed, or for an equal length of time with a large wooden spoon or rubber scraper. Add the butter in small pieces and continue beating 1 minute. Stop the mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, and the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, beating thoroughly with each addition. The dough will be soft and sticky and must be beaten until it is shiny, elastic, and pulls from the hands.
Mixing: 10-20 minutes
If mixing by hand, turn the dough onto the work surface. With dough scraper or putty knife, lift and turn dough–again and again. Use the hands to lift the dough and crash it down against the table top. It will cling to the hands and utensil in the beginning, but after 12 to 15 minutes of active kneading, dough will begin to pull away from the hands as it is worked. If using a heavy-duty mixer, beat at medium speed for 10 minutes.

Divide: 5 minutes
When the dough is glossy and elastic, divide into two bowls. Stir currants or raisins into one, and cheese into the other.

First Rising: 2-3 hours
Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature (70°-75°) until dough has doubled in volume.

Refrigeration: 5 hours or longer
Do not stir down before placing in the refrigerator for a minimum of 5 hours or overnight. The rich dough must be chilled before it can be shaped.

Shaping: 15 minutes
Take one of the two doughs from the refrigerator. It will be cold and hard but will become easier to handle after it has been kneaded for a few moments. Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll each into a long strand of 12 to 16 inches. Don’t rush the dough or it may tear if lengthened too quickly. Move from strand to strand to allow pieces to relax. When strands are completed, place them parallel and braid from the middle, carefully pinching the ends together. Turn bread around and complete the braid.

Place the braid on the baking sheet and repeat for the second bowl of dough.

Second Rising: 1-2 hours
When both braids are completed, brush with egg-milk glaze and set aside uncovered until dough has doubled in volume. If the dough had been chilled for a long period in the refrigerator it will take longer for it to warm and rise. (My overnight dough in the refrigerator has an inside temperature of 45° when I take it out, and it is 2 hours before it climbs to 70°.) Brush the loaves with glaze again midway through the rising period.

Baking: 40 minutes at 400° F
Preheat ov

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