In the kingdom of bread, brioche reigns supreme. It has deservedly earned its place on the throne because it is rich in fresh creamery butter which is slowly added to an egg enriched dough. Understandably, some revolt when trying to appease the demands of this dough, because admittedly, it can be torture to work with the gloopy mass. You’ll wonder how you will ever get bread to stop making you its slave.
However, with time and patience, your loyalty will be rewarded. With a night’s rest, this dough will almost magically transformed. It will have soldified and be much more managable. Now, as a collaborative partner, the dough can be fashioned into all sorts of glorious shapes and sizes from modest rolls to dressed up ‘brioches a tet’.
However, since the butter content is so high, it can turn greasy in the blink of an eye… so make sure you work quickly!
The crowning glory is pulling a fresh batch of brioche from the oven and devouring it within mere moments (even though I should have heeded the directions and waited out the torturous 20 minutes). Who will have time to declare war when this bread beckons at you with its buttery richness and pull-apart, soft crumb.
Peter Reinhart can be thanked for this indulgent bread, which I got from his book, ‘The Bread Baker’s Apprentice’.
Rich Man’s Brioche
1/2 cup unbleached bread flour
1 tbsp instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm whole milk
5 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt (I used fine sea salt)
2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature (use high quality butter! you can taste the difference)
1 egg, whisked until frothy, for egg wash
For the Sponge:
Stir together the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the milk until all the flour is hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for 20 minutes, or until the sponge rises and then falls when you tap the bowl.
For the Dough:
Add the eggs to the sponge and beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add to the sponge and eggs and mix for 2 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes to allow the gluten to develop. Then, while mixing on medium, add in the butter one quarter at a time, allowing the butter to be fully assimilated before adding more. Continue to mix for about 6 minutes more. You will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl during this time. The dough will be very soft and smooth.
Line a sheet pan with parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Transfer the dough to the sheet and spread it to form a large rectangle, about 6 inches by 8 inches. Mist the top with spray oil and cover the pan with plastic wrap. Put this in the refrigerator and chill at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Remove from the fridge and shape while very cold (into pretty little shapes or brioche a tet if you have the molds) . If it warms up or softens, return it to the fridge. No matter what shape you do, only fill the molds or pans half way to allow for expansion during proofing.
Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Proof the dough until it nearly fills the molds or loaf pans, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Gently brush the tops with egg wash. Cover the dough with plastic wrap that has been lightly misted with spray oil. Continue to proof for another 15 to 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400F for petites brioches a tete, or 350F for larger shapes. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes for petites brioches a tete, or 35 to 50 minutes for larger shapes. (rotate the bread half way through for even baking)
Remove the brioches from the pans as soon as they come out of the oven and cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes for small brioches and 1 hour for larger shapes before serving.
(this post can be seen on Yeastspotting too! http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/)