Brioche vs Croissant

Brioche vs Croissant

Regardless of which you might prefer, there’s no question that both brioche and croissant are some of the most popular baked goods in the world.

Besides being absolutely divine, they’re also incredibly versatile.

Over the centuries, these time-tested treats have worked their way into breakfasts, lunches, dinners and masquerade just as easily as tantalizing desserts.

To many of us, they’re very similar, and in a couple of ways, that might be true but there are also things that make each of them unique.

That said, the fundamental difference between brioche and croissants is that mostly eggs are used in brioche, producing its characteristic tender, crumbly texture while croissants make use of nearly all butter with a hint of milk resulting in the light and crispy mouthfeel so many of us love.

But the differences don’t end there.

In fact, they each have their own unique history, preparation methods and much more that set them apart from one another.

So without further delay, let’s learn all about it. 

Similarity Between Brioche and Croissant

Although the point of this article is to discuss what’s different about brioche and croissants, there’s one important similarity.

Both brioche and croissants belong to a classification (or style) of baked goods known as Viennoiserie, which translates from French into “things of Vienna”.

The Viennoiserie style originated in the country of Austria and was popularized by an entrepreneur known as August Zang who is widely credited with the invention of the modern day croissant and whose influence is felt heavily to this day in French baking methods.

Baked goods in this classification are produced with a yeast-leavened dough and contain similar groups of ingredients like eggs, cream, butter and sugar but in differing quantities and preparation methods which we’ll talk about as well.

Historical Differences

The brioche is originally from France.

It’s believed that the first mentions of it occurred in the early 14th century but the exact time and place of its creation is still not known. However uncertain the origins of brioche are, the meaning of the word “brioche” is derived from the name of a tool used for kneading dough called a “brie”. 

Part of the reason for the longevity of brioche is its versatility.

It is used as bread with breakfast, lunch or dinner or as a snack. In addition, it can be filled with savory ingredients like beef or sausage and, of course, also eaten as a dessert. Here the brioche might be filled with sweet creams, fruits, jellies or jams.

While most think of the croissant as having French heritage, it’s actually of Austrian origin.

As mentioned earlier, the man most often credited with its creation and popularization is August Zang. 

After serving in the Austrian military, Zang established a Viennese bakery in Paris. Among his most popular offerings was an adaption of a traditional crescent-shaped, yeast bread roll known as a kipfel. His twist was to produce them with the aid of a steam oven, which significantly changed the finished product and gave rise to the many types of modern croissants we have today.  

Brioche Dough vs Croissant Dough

Except for a difference in the liquid component, the ingredients in brioche dough and croissant dough are basically the same – milk, butter, salt, yeast, flour and sugar.

The difference yields a tender crumb with brioche while producing a flaky crumb for croissants.

For brioche, the liquid in the dough largely comes from eggs with a small amount of milk. This has the effect of producing a more cake-like texture when baking is complete.

In contrast to eggs as the liquid component, croissants have nearly twice the amount of butter and use milk as the only liquid. In conjunction with the way in the dough is layered, a croissant will have a much crispier exterior. 

Differences in Preparation

Given that the brioche has been around longer than the croissant and is a less sophisticated baked good, it makes sense that the preparation process for it is not overly complicated.

Most brioche recipes make use of a simple two-step process known as the sponge and dough method. This approach involves allowing for a period of fermentation before adding the final ingredients to it. It’s believed that it produces better quality bread that has a longer shelf life.

Croissant preparation is more involved than brioche and is usually broken down into several phases including pre dough formation, lamination, fermentation, baking and cooling/storage. This approach is also known as a straight dough system and does not use a bulk fermentation period, like the sponge and dough method. 

Taste and Texture Differences

Owing to the slight variations in ingredients and how they are prepared, there are some subtle taste differences between brioche and croissants. More pronounced, however, is the difference in texture and mouthfeel between these two iconic baked goods.

Brioche is most commonly compared to breads like challah or Portuguese Sweet Bread when taste is discussed, while croissants usually aren’t. While this might seem trivial, the distinction is important.

In fact, some would say that a poorly made croissant is similar in structure to brioche in that it’s gotten too soft and lost the fluffy, airy, wisplike texture that’s expected of it.

For brioche, high amounts of eggs used in most recipes, means its structure is much softer and fluffier than other types of bread. In addition, the crumb is often far more tender. This translates into rich flavor, filled with butter and hints of sweetness.

Like brioche, a perfectly made croissant is also distinguished by certain traits. 

First among these is a croissant’s flakiness. It’s the inviting exterior of golden brown crust that first draws the eye. After taking a bite, the crispy outside gives way to light, feathery layers within. These inner layers are rich with the flavor of butter and hints of toasted nut.

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