Good morning, and happy almost-July. If you haven’t made your Independence Day food plans yet, then Virginia Willis’s Fourth of July picnic is perfect for you. It’s packable and portable, and it has the added advantage of being more healthful than traditional picnic fare.

Also in Food this week, Cooking for One columnist Joe Yonan finds inspiration for great bean recipes from author Crescent Dragonwagon. And The Process columnist David Hagedorn takes you step by step through the creation of a spectacular cake that can be made in stages, then assembled and frozen in advance.

Pretty much all of the folks I just mentioned will be with us for today’s Free Range chat. (Which reminds me: No chat next week. Even journalists deserve a holiday, right?) Stop by at noon for a star-studded hour, and bring your questions.

Meanwhile, here’s a leftover question from a previous chat:

Do you have a recipe for brioche for use in a bread machine?

Interesting question, and glad you asked. I was on a brioche hunt recently because I needed a few slices to test what turned out to be a ridiculously simple and amazingly delish recipe called Baked Fruit Brioche, which you’ll find at the end of this post.

I hit most of the big markets before finally scoring some at Whole Foods. At one point I considered making it. But even though it probably has been 20 years since I last baked a loaf of brioche, I still remember it as kind of an ordeal.

So I sympathize with both your hankering for brioche and your desire to make it yourself in a less migh-maintenance way.

Back to your question of whether I have a bread-machine brioche recipe. As it happens, I do, but I’ve also got two caveats.

1. As the recipe writer himself acknowledges, it’s not going to come out the same as the rich, buttery, eggy loaf you can buy at a French bakery (or make yourself, without a bread machine).

2. We haven’t tested it, so no guarantees. But I’m familiar with the writer, so it should be okay.

Brioche Loaf

This isn’t proper brioche, one of the glories of French baking, but it has the hallmark egginess and sweetness. An excellent loaf for a coffee break, or as a base for fresh berries with whipped cream, thick yogurt or fromage blanc. Toasted, it would do well with a creamy, buttery chicken liver parfait.

From “80 Recipes for Your Breadmaker,” by Richard Ehrlich (Kyle, 2011).

2 / 3 c up milk

2 1 / 4 cups bread flour

3 large eggs

1 / 4 cup sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing

1 / 2 teaspoon salt

1 1 / 2 teaspoons instant yeast

Put the milk, flour, eggs, sugar and butter in the bread pan, followed by the salt and yeast. Use the Knead/Dough setting. When it is complete, remove the kneading paddle and close the lid. Let the dough rise to roughly twice its size (about 1 hour).

Brush with the melted butter and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the loaf sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles.

Baked Fruit Brioche


A little like bread pudding but without the milk or cream, this dessert is best made with slices of fresh stone fruit -- mango was our favorite -- but canned fruit, available year-round, is a fine substitute (see NOTE). The original recipe calls for canned apricots.

We found Euro Classic Imports Authentic French Brioche at Whole Foods Markets.

Serve plain or with creme fraiche, vanilla ice cream or lightly whipped heavy cream on the side.

  • Three 1-inch-thick slices from a loaf of brioche (4 3/4 ounces total); may substitute 3 medium croissants, cut in half horizontally
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup apricot jam
  • One or two 14-ounce cans apricot halves in light syrup (may use any sliced fresh stone fruit in season, including mangoes, apricots and nectarines)
  • 1 tablespoon superfine sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut each slice of brioche in half to make 6 pieces and butter generously on both sides. Lay the slices in an ovenproof dish just large enough to hold them, and spread them with the apricot jam.

Drain the canned apricot halves, reserving some of the syrup, and lay them cut side down on the bread, about 3 halves per piece. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the reserved apricot syrup and sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bread is slightly crisped and browned at the edges. Serve hot.

NOTE: To make this with fresh fruit, cut the fruit into quarter-inch-thick slices. Use the slices to cover the tops of the 6 buttered, jammed bread pieces. Top with the sugar and bake as directed.

Adapted from "Home at 7, Dinner at 8," by Sophie Wright (Kyle, 2011).