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By Ian Farrell

SAN FRANCISCO, 26 MAY 2010 — I make brioche everyday at Oracle to serve for breakfast and throughout the day. It is a highly enriched French bread thought to have originated in the Normandy region, whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb. It has a dark, golden and flaky crust and is normally just served plain. The ones I make at Oracle are topped with a crunchy almond mixture before baking and then filled with a Meyer lemon cream when cooled. Another variation is filled with cream cheese filling and then baked with a slice of Seville orange that has been slowly cooked in syrup for 4 hours.

Meyer lemons are very popular in California but are a native of China, only introduced here in 1908. It’s thought to have been a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange. The fruit is yellow and rounder than a true lemon with a slight orange tint when ripe. It has a sweeter, less acidic flavor than the more common lemon (Lisbon or Eureka are typical grocery store varieties) and a fragrant skin. While trees produce fruit throughout the year, the majority of the crop is ready in winter through spring. 

The cream and almond glaze can be made ahead of time. The brioche can also be made ahead of time, wrapped well and frozen in little balls for up to two weeks. They just need to be taken from the freezer the day before, placed in molds in the refrigerator and the following day proofed and baked.

Editor's Note: And while its origins may be French, brioche is part of a family of baked goods known as "viennoiserie" (Viennese buns) that include croissants, pain au chocolat, pain au raisins or brioche de Nanterre (brioche loaf). Brioches are traditionally served at breakfast or as an after-school treat. But it is fresh from the oven that brioches deliver their luxurious aroma. 

Ian Farrell: Lemon Cream Brioches with Almond Glaze
Photo: Josephine Leung

Lemon Almond Glaze


4 ounces sugar  
2 ounces almond
2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch     
2 teaspoons vanilla extract  
2 egg whites  
1 teaspoon lemon zest


Grind whole almonds and sugar in a food processor.

Place in a bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and mix until a smooth consistency is reached.

The mix can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.


Lemon Cream


5 ounces Meyer lemon juice   
3 eggs    
1 egg yolk   
6 ounces sugar
4 ounces butter
8 ounces whipping cream

Whisk lemon juice, whole eggs, egg yolk and sugar in a stainless steel bowl to combine.

Place over a pot of simmering water and continue to whisk until it reaches a temperature of 180 F, or until it’s hot to the touch. It should take about 15 minutes if the water is just under a boil.

Remove from heat and allow to cool to 140 F, or warm to the touch.

Chop up the butter and whisk into the lemon mix. The remaining heat in the mixture should be sufficient to melt the butter.

Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming on the mixture. Allow to cool completely.

Whisk cream until soft peaks form. Fold into lemon mixture and refrigerate until needed. It will hold for 3 days.

Any leftovers can be frozen until needed.


Brioche Buns


10 ounces bread flour   
4 ounces milk   
2 eggs
1 egg yolk 
1 ounce sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 ounces butter

Using a kitchen aid mixer and a dough hook attachment, mix all ingredients except butter on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and mix until dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Turn mixer off.

Take cold butter from refrigerator and soften by kneading on a table or beating with a rolling pin. The butter should still be cold and pliable but not soft (like play dough).

Turn mixer back on and at medium speed start adding the butter to the dough little by little. You have to be certain not to add too much butter at once or to take a long time to add the butter. If you take too long, the dough will heat up and soften the butter making the dough greasy. It should come away cleanly from the sides of the bowl and look smooth and silky.

Place the dough on a pan dusted lightly with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove dough from the refrigerator the following day. Divide the dough into two ounce pieces and roll into little balls using the palm of your hand and the table. If the dough starts to stick, sprinkle a little flour on the table. You want to have a nice smooth shaped ball of dough.

Brush a muffin pan or brioche molds with melted butter, or spray with baking spray. Place buns in the molds seam side down They should be no more than half full. Allow to proof for 2 hours at a temperature of 75-80F. The dough should double in size.

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Using a pastry brush, brush buns with a little egg wash (1 egg whisked with a little milk or cream and a pinch of salt). Place a tablespoon of almond glaze on top of the dough. Dust liberally with powdered sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes until dark golden brown.

Allow to cool slightly in pans (no more than a few minutes) before removing and placing on a wire rack to cool.

To Serve

When cool make a little hole in the bottom of the buns. Pipe lemon cream into the buns until they puff out a little.

Dust with a little more powdered sugar and serve immediately.

A native of Kilkenny, Ireland, Ian Farrell is Executive Pastry Chef at Oracle Corporation where he turns out a line of cakes, pastries and signature truffles for the software giant's campus cafes, French- style patisserie and executive dining rooms. Chef Farrell also offers classes throughout the year on baking and chocolate making.

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