The Art & Science of Brioche

A basket of freshly baked brioche served as pre-dinner bread in the Empress Room at the Fairmont Empress Hotel/ Photos by Ellie Shortt

Victoria’s Fairmont Empress Hotel is famous for many little luxuries, but one of the most talked about items at this landmark doesn’t cost a penny. It’s the amazing brioche that they serve complementary to guests dining in the Empress Room as a pre-dinner bread. This signature recipe is the creation of executive pastry chef D’Oyen Christie, and includes a glaze of olive oil mixed with thyme, oregano and garlic from the hotel’s rooftop garden.


Chef Christie has been impressing with his pastry and dessert making skills for many years as a Fairmont chef, and there’s no doubt making a knockout batch of brioche is just one example of his immense talent. Along with his finesse, Chef Christie remains respectful of the science behind baking, especially when making this beloved brioche. I was fortunate to have a personal brioche lesson with this culinary master, and was reminded of some important factors many home cooks often forget.


The window test: gently stretch the dough until it creates a see-through “window.” If it breaks, the dough is not quite ready.

Firstly, one should always be conscious of seasonal variation, especially when considering how it affects the chemistry of wheat and dairy products. Heat and humidity fluctuations brought on by weather changes can often affect the pastry making process as well. In terms of important tricks, Chef Christie demonstrated the window test*, by gently stretching the dough until it creates a somewhat see-through “window” without breaking. If it breaks, that means the dough is not quite ready, and may need more mixing or moisture. Another trick is slightly heating the milk so that it helps facilitate the yeast activation process. Adding the flour between the yeast and the sugar can also help this process, as Chef Christie explains that direct contact with sugar can sometimes kill the yeast.


So if you feel brave enough to take on brioche, try your hand at this hard-to-resist recipe. Although a disclaimer should be made, that without Chef Christie’s magic touch, it might not be quite the same.


Fairmont Empress Hotel

721 Government Street

Victoria, British Columbia





  • 1kg all-purpose flour
  • 84 grams granulated sugar
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • 170 grams butter
  • 34 grams dry yeast
  • 17 grams salt



Continue to mix until you see all the dough collecting from the sides.

Place yeast in a mixer with a dough hook attached. Place flour on top, followed by sugar and salt. Add eggs and warmed milk, and start to mix on slow speed for about four minutes. As the dough starts to clump together, switch to medium speed, scraping down sides with a spatula. Continue to mix until you see all the dough collecting from the sides. Stop the mixer and do the window test*.


With the mixer on medium-slow speed, add the butter small pieces at a time (if butter is not incorporating properly, you can stop the mixer and manually kneed the dough to help with this process). Once all the butter has been added, increase the speed to medium, and mix for about 4 minutes. Form the dough into a smooth round shape, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 1 hour until it doubles in size. Punch back the dough, and then break off small pieces, rolling them into balls of about 1.5 inches in diameter.


Place the balls on a baking sheet, spread at least 2 inches apart and let “proof” for about 1 hour

until they’re almost doubled in size. To test them, gently poke with a finger. It should bounce back when ready. While they proof, make a mix of finely chopped thyme, oregano garlic and olive oil. Lightly brush mixture over tops of the brioche once they have finished proofing. Sprinkle a bit of kosher or sea salt on top of the brioche just before putting them into the oven.


Empress Executive Pastry Chef D’Oyen Christie with a fresh batch of brioche

Bake at 375°F until golden brown and fluffy inside, and serve warm.



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