Mmmmm...what a tasty treat. I'm imagining it in all sorts of ways...in bread pudding, french toast, with jam, whipped cream, chocolate...the possibilities go on and on. Sweet and savory. I've no idea what possessed my to bake a brioche bread. I guess it's just one of those things that I decided after some pondering was quite out of the norm for me to bake, and so worth trying. I like to break out of the norm. Oh yeahhhh. But really. I don't quite bake/cook a lot of french inspired things. They just have never really turned me on, ya know? Plus, I don't think I had ever tried a brioche bread before today, and with the numerous ravings I read from numerous online blogs I decided I had to give it a go myself. I have to say also that I expected it to be a bit more tedious to make with all the complaints I read about the consistency of the dough. After a good 2 hours in the refridgerator, shaping was really no big deal, albeit a bit sticky. Nothing a mom can't hande. ;) I am now possessed with the idea to try all different ratios of butter to flour and all different methods and recipes for brioche. Not one recipe I read was the same and I am now dying to compare a few for good measure (and it tastes delicious, right?). It's almost like a blank canvas except that it also tastes amazing by itself. And I will skip all the brioche history and explanations for other blogs since there is plenty out there to find and I am not so inclined yet that I want to re-write my own history. I'll save that for the Irish and Italian goodies (no disrespect intended). Or, maybe when I am more culinarily inclined, my interest will persuade me to delve deeper into brioche and French baking and cooking in general. For now, this brioche will have to do.
1/2 cup unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm whole milk (90 to 100 degrees)
Mix the ingredients for the sponge in a bowl together until the flour is fully hydrated. Cover with plastic and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour. I like to stick mine in an empty microwave and use the timer on the microwave, just be careful that no one actually turns the microwave on.
5 large eggs
3 cups unbleached bread or all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur's)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
Whisk together the eggs and the sponge until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the sponge and eggs and stir until all of the ingredients are combined and the flour is evenly hydrated. Let this mixture rest for 5 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
Work the butter into the dough. It is easiest to do this by warming the butter to room temperature and then working it in a few chunks at a time. This is easiest (and most fun) to do by hand. Continue working the dough for 5 minutes or so after the butter has been incorporated. The dough will be very soft and moist.
If you have parchment paper, line a sheet pan with it and then spray the parchment with oil. If you don't, just oil the pan well. Pour the dough from the bowl onto the pan and spread it to make a large, thick rectangle, approximately 6 by 8 inches. Mist the top of the dough with oil and cover the pan with plastic. Put the pan into the refrigerator until the dough is thoroughly chilled, at least 2 or 3 hours.
Spray two 9x5" bread loaf pans with oil or nonstick spray. Remove the dough just before shaping: you want to work with it while it is as cold as possible.
Cut the dough with a very sharp knife into four long strips. Make two dough twists by overlapping two pieces of dough until a "twist" is formed. At this point you should have two pieces of dough that resemble a french twist doughnut. Tuck each twist into a bread pan. Don't worry if the dough does not fill out the pan, it will rise to meet the volume of the pan. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for two hours (once again, I like to use the microwave for this as it is relatively warm and dark).
Preheat the oven to 385 degrees F. Brush the dough with an eggwash made from one beaten egg. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!!
Barely adapted from thefreshloaf.com, originally adapted from the Bread Baker's Apprentice (what is known as a "Middle Class Brioche")