Once a symbol of luxury, brioche is a classic, egg and butter–enriched French bread that is traditionally baked in a circular, fluted pan. Crowned with a smaller globe of dough, it becomes brioche à tête. The richness of brioche stands up to intensely savory foods like foie gras and also works well in decadent desserts. Shortly before the French Revolution, shortages of plain bread were common in poor communities. To curb starvation (and prevent uprisings), the law required that fancier breads like brioche had to be sold at a lower, regulated price. The expression “Let them eat cake,” frequently misattributed to Marie Antoinette, actually stems from this 18th-century mandate.
Brioche is no longer inciting revolution, but it is showing up on many plates at the Beard House. In fact, Michael Giletto will serve it twice, placing fennel aspic on slices of caramel brioche with fried salsify and tarragon mayonnaise; he will also whip up some brioche bread pudding to appear beside a fennel pollen–dusted filet.