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I know the original brioche recipe is supposed to be slightly sweet, but I really enjoy a brioche hamburger bun that one of my local bakeries does and it's really savoury.

I tried making brioche several times now, and the maximum amount of salt that I used was 7g (for like 340g of flour), but it ended more sweet than savoury every time.

I know this may sound like a simple answer: just add more salt, but I'm afraid of doing so because I know salt negatively affects yeast development.

Can I just add more salt until I like it and it won't affect the dough rising so much, or maybe should I remove some sugar? The recipe I follow calls for 35g sugar (again considering 340g flour) plus 60g milk which is already slightly sweet.

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  • Is there any fat in the recipe (beyond what the milk contributes)?
    – Stephie
    Nov 18, 2021 at 15:06
  • yes about 50g of unsalted butter
    – rschpdr
    Nov 18, 2021 at 15:53
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    You say “really savory” is it possible that your bakery is adding savory flavorings to their buns?
    – Debbie M.
    Nov 18, 2021 at 16:02
  • yes that may be the case, like some kind of artificial butter flavoring that is already salty. Can't tell for sure, there are no ingredients in the packaging.
    – rschpdr
    Nov 18, 2021 at 17:48
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    Have you considered adding diced ham/bacon and/or cheese, and baking a "meatbread" brioche? Adding actual savoury flavours would probably make your bread a lot more savory than just adding salt.
    – nick012000
    Nov 19, 2021 at 11:01

4 Answers 4

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Brioche is not necessarily sweet. By definition it is a bread with a high butter and egg content...an enriched dough. Also, salt does not necessarily = savory. Umami defines savoriness. Fermentation increases umami. It is one of the reasons we enjoy bread in the first place. Adding more salt will just make your recipe more salty. I would consider reducing the sugar, and consider the quality of the milk, butter, and flour you are using.

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    I wonder how much of the sweetness comes from lactose in the milk. Yeast won't digest that unlike sucrose - though with that much sugar going in, the will be sucrose left too. Starting from that point I wonder about replacing (some of) the milk with water+fat. I'd even wonder about water+olive oil instead of milk, for extra umami
    – Chris H
    Nov 18, 2021 at 15:43
  • @ChrisH certainly some...and that could be a way to experiment. Milk does add to the richness of brioche, but it can be played with.
    – moscafj
    Nov 18, 2021 at 15:47
  • Milk is essentially water, fat (if not skimmed), lactose, and a little protein. I assume the richness comes mainly from the fat
    – Chris H
    Nov 18, 2021 at 15:54
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    It sounds like a fun experiment, as every test gives you brioche.
    – Chris H
    Nov 18, 2021 at 16:13
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    @rschpdr Savory just means a combination of flavors that taste like "not dessert". Salt is usually a component of that, but it's not sufficient on its own, it's the whole balance of flavors that matters. It's also cultural, certain flavors are read as sweet or savory even if an impartial observer might think otherwise. (Example: Salted caramel can be very salty, but also very sweet--definitely not at all savory. On the other hand, you have sweet sauces like tomato sauce or bbq sauce which are parts of savory dishes and definitely do not belong in desserts.) Nov 19, 2021 at 15:19
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I can think of a couple of ways of increasing the savoury flavour of brioche.

First, reduce the sugar. As Moscafj noted, Brioche is a rich bread, and made so by the presence of lots of fats/oils and protein from the eggs and butter. It does not need to be sweet necessarily. I think you could easily halve or quarter the sugar without affecting the end result too much, it certainly won't affect the rise.

Second - add some savoury flavouring. You may be able to do this by using a cultured butter, which are less sweet than regular butters, but I doubt that your favourite burger place is doing this. What I would think they are doing is using a less sweet dough and adding a savoury compound, probably as a wash to the bun before baking, but maybe added into the dough.

For the savoury flavour, I would start with onion powder. This should add a slightly sweet, but savoury flavour to whatever it is added to. If this is on the outside of the bread, it will be the first thing encountering your tongue/palate when you bite into the bun. I would mix onion powder into an egg wash and brush over the top of the buns. This will make the bun glossy and have that umami hit you are looking for. You could also try garlic powder, or a mix of the two, but be careful with either so as to not make them over-powering.

Lastly, you could add a savoury seed to the outside; sesame, poppy seeds or even chia could work.

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  • that wash before the baking process is interesting but I suppose a salted butter-based wash would burn considering the time the bread needs to bake right? Thanks for the answer!
    – rschpdr
    Nov 19, 2021 at 14:51
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From Wikipedia:

Brioche is considered a Viennoiserie because it is made in the same basic way as bread, but has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the extra addition of eggs, butter, liquid (milk, water, cream, and, sometimes, brandy) and occasionally sugar.

So basically, the additional sugar is not necessary for your bread to be (and taste like) brioche; even many recipes online includes the sugar to be optional.

Although this is not traditional, I find that adding a bit onion powder into bread makes them smell and taste really savory. I would recommend you trying that, or adding just a little bit herbs to the dough.

(When using a bread machine I would sometimes add large chunks of fresh onion, as the paddle in the machine grinds it down well when it mixes & kneads the dough).

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I've been thinking about this some more from the point of view that you're trying to imitate something commercial.

One thing with commercial cooking is that you can never rule out outright cheating. It wouldn't surprise me if the baker was adding monosodium glutamateto the dough. This is an artificial source of umami (savoury) flavours. They'd still need to reduce the sugar, as MSG+sweetness has a slightly odd flavour

You can buy it as a food additive. It's not something I cook with, so at home I'd try a tiny bit of yeast extract instead - not enough that you'd really taste it, at least at first. I think this would be a more suitable source than soy sauce.

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