Buttery, eggy-delicious, and versatile, Brioche is not available anywhere within at least an hours drive from my house, so when I want it I make my own.
So deliciously RICH and EGGY flavored and it is not difficult to make, at all. Hands-on prep is less than an hour, although you must make the sponge for the dough several hours in advance but it's so worth it!
I don't make it very often, but when I do I usually follow Julia Child's recipe. Most recently I tried Ina Garten/The Barefoot Contessa's version. It was excellent.
Here is one recipe, enough dough for one large and a few mini-brioches, or 20 mini-brioches (1 3/4 ounce of dough, each.) This time I divided the dough, making one large, conventional Brioche, and several mini-sized ones. Though the recipe looks long, it's not complicated at all.
1/2 cup warm water
Scant Tablespoon dry yeast (or 1 package dried yeast)
3 tablespoons sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 Tablespoons), at room temperature
For egg wash finish: 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
This version is made using a large stand mixer. For the amount of mixing brioche dough requires, I feel it is a rather daunting task to attempt by hand. But you may be much stronger than me!
First, butter a very large bowl and set aside. (The dough will later rise in this bowl.)
Next warm the bowl of the stand mixer with very warm water. Dry the bowl, and in it combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Mix with your hands and allow to stand for about 5 minutes (until the yeast and sugar dissolve.)
Attach the paddle attachment to mixer and add the eggs to the bowl, beat on medium speed for one minute, scraping bowl once or twice. Reduce speed to low and add two cups of the flour and the salt. Mix for 5 minutes; then add 2 1/4 cups more flour, mix for an additional 5 minutes. The dough will be very loose and floppy. Scrape the dough into the prepared (buttered) bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove the dough bowl from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, grease 1 large brioche tin and 6 or so mini tins, OR 20 mini brioche tins. Set aside.
Place the dough in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, proceed to add the softened butter in chunks, and mix for 2 minutes, add in additional flour as needed to make a ball.
When a ball has formed around the dough hook, turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and divide the dough, one large piece and 5 or 6 smaller pieces, OR if you are making mini-brioches into 20 (1 3/4-ounce) balls and place them in the buttered tins. If you are making the large brioche with the traditional "top-notch" decoration, roll a smaller round ball for the decoration. With your finger push a deep indentation into the center of the large brioche and press the smaller ball into the indentation, pressing down carefully but firmly to allow it to adhere.
Cover the tins with a damp towel and set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 2 hours, or a bit longer, depending upon room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When the dough has risen, gently brush the top of all with the egg wash and bake for 20 to 40 minutes (depending upon the size of the brioche pans.) The minis are usually done in 20 minutes.
To test; the tops should spring back and the breads should sound a bit hollow when tapped. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
There are many ways to enjoy brioche; simply toasted, or sandwiches, or a base for delightful entrees. But one of my very favorites is Pain Perdu (Lost Bread), which I'll highlight in my next entry.
If you don't have brioche available to you, I recommend that you make some yourself. It is very satisfying, and one of the easier breads to make as it requires very little hand work, providing you have access to a stand mixer. If you are fortunate enough to live near a good bakery, don't bother!
Coming up soon: Pain Perdu