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If you love butter, you’ll live for this brioche bread. This recipe produces two loaves, each containing a whole stick of butter—so you can imagine how rich each fluffy bite will be. 

Brioche is a yeast dough that falls firmly into the enriched dough camp. Unlike simple lean doughs (think French bread or pita bread) that only need flour, yeast, water, and salt, enriched dough also has sugar, butter or oil, eggs, and milk or cream. The added fat changes the dough’s behaviour at each stage and yields a tender bite and a soft crust. 

What kind of flour should I use? 
We went with AP flour for this brioche recipe, but you can use bread flour or substitute half of the flour for white whole wheat flour. The critical thing to remember is that the texture of the brioche will change depending on the kind of flour you use. Flour with a higher protein content will form more gluten, resulting in a chewier brioche loaf. AP flour has 11-12% protein, bread flour has 12-13% protein, and white whole wheat flour has 13-14% protein. 

What kind of yeast should I use? Active dry or instant yeast will both work in this case; because we’re blooming the yeast in the sponge portion of the dough, the type of dry yeast you use has no impact on the final product. Yeast has to be alive to be effective, but you may get a packet full of dead yeast every now and then. To avoid starting your dough with dead yeast, pay special attention to the sponge to ensure it produces air pockets before proceeding. If the dough is flat with no bubbles, start again with a fresh packet of yeast.  

Can I make this dough by hand? Technically, yes, but the stand mixer will genuinely make your life 100x easier for this recipe. Because of the extensive amount of mixing that’s required to develop the gluten properly and the slow, gradual addition of butter, doing this by hand will result in a very long, very arduous process. If you’re without a stand mixer, but you absolutely must have fresh brioche, try working with a half batch to yield 1 loaf. Your arms will thank you!

This dough seems very wet and sticky! It is a very moist dough! Enriched with lots of eggs and butter for that insanely delicate crumb and fatty goodness, the dough will be quite sticky initially. This recipe uses large eggs measuring about 54 grams each. If your eggs run larger, use only 5 eggs to avoid an overly wet batter! Stickiness is a hallmark of enriched dough, so trust in the process and have the patience to let the gluten develop fully before adding in the butter.

How do I know when the gluten has developed properly? The windowpane test is a reliable way to check for gluten development. To perform the test, take a small piece of dough and slowly stretch it out in opposite directions: if the dough becomes thin enough to appear semi-transparent (like a pane of glass in a dirty window) before it tears, you’re there! You’ll have an extra desirable chew in the bread once your dough gets to this stage. The surface of the dough should look shiny and smooth, and well-hydrated. If your dough struggles to pull away from the sides of the mixer, chances are you need to increase the mixer’s speed. Stay nearby the mixer! You might have to hold it in place as it dances across your counter top with vigorous agitation.

How should I add the butter? Slowly and with great patience. The butter addition process should take no less than 10 minutes. If you add the butter in too fast, it will not “emulsify” into the dough and result
in an oily, broken dough. It’ll still bake off well enough, but do it right, and your dough will look satisfyingly smooth, glossy, and plump. Like laminated dough, if your climate, kitchen, hands, or tools are particularly warm, it can cause the butter in the dough to separate and seep out. To combine warm temperatures, pop the dough into the refrigerator for a few minutes when you feel it start to become greasy.

Should I let the dough rest overnight? It’s up to you! Generally, more time means more flavor when it comes to food. Aside from making the dough easier to handle, letting it sit in the fridge overnight is basically a slow fermentation that helps it develop a subtle depth of flavor. Because we’re already letting some fermentation happen by using the sponge mixture, overnight proofing is unnecessary if you’re looking to bake immediately. Or, if you’re like me and love freshly baked bread straight out of the oven, bake one loaf on the day of, and save the other half of the dough to bake for the next day!

How do I know if my dough is over-proofedUnfortunately, a final result that tastes like fermented, hoppy beer-bread is the easiest way to tell if your bread dough sat in its proofing stage for too long. But of course, by then, the loaf is baked, and starting over is probably the last thing you’ll want to do. Avoid scraping your hard work by paying particular attention to the dough during the proofing stage. Timing the dough is undoubtedly helpful, but noting how the dough looks is the most reliable way to tell if the dough has proved enough. Be sure to note where the dough sits in the bowl before it starts to rest so that you can get an accurate idea of where it should be when doubled in size. You can even mark the bowl with tape or a rubber band to track your dough-baby’s progress.

Yields: 12 servings

Prep: Time: 10 min

Total Time: 4hrs 30 min

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE SPONGE

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour (128 g.)
  • 1 (0.25-oz.) packet or 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (7 g.)
  • 1/2 c. milk, lukewarm (120 g.)

FOR THE DOUGH

  • 6 large eggs, room temperature (320 g.)
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour (384 g.)
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar (105 g.)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt (12 g.)
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened, plus more for pans (227 g.)

FOR THE EGG WASH

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • Kosher or sea salt, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make the sponge: To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, add 1 cup flour, yeast, and milk. Using a spatula, mix until well combined, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 45 minutes. 
  2. Once the sponge has formed some air pockets, add in eggs, remaining 3 cups flour, sugar, and salt. Mix on medium speed until well combined, then gradually increase to medium-high speed and continue mixing until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and becomes shiny and elastic, scraping down bowl every 4 to 5 minutes, 10 to 13 minutes.
  3. With the mixer running, add in butter gradually, 1 tablespoon at a time, letting each tablespoon fully incorporate into the dough before adding the next, 13 to 15 minutes. Continue mixing on medium-high speed for 5 to 7 minutes until the dough passes the windowpane test. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest about 1 hour or doubled in size.
  4. To bake next day: Once dough has doubled in size, punch down to deflate dough completely, then re-cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight until you are ready to bake the next day. Follow instructions in the next step, letting dough proof until doubled before baking, longer if needed, up to 2 hours 30 minutes.
  5. To bake same day: Once dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a floured surface and punch down dough. Divide in half using a bench scraper. Cut each half into six equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a rectangle, then fold short ends in towards each other as if folding a letter. Flatten again and tightly roll into a log starting with the short end. Repeat with all pieces. 
  6. Grease 8”-x-5” loaf pans with butter. Place 6 pieces of dough seam-side down in one straight row into each prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap.
  7. Preheat oven to 375°. Let dough proof until puffy and doubled in size, 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining egg and water. Brush egg wash on top of loaf and sprinkle lightly with salt. 
  8. Bake until deeply golden on top and the centre of the loaf registers between 190° and 205°, about 30 minutes.
  9. Let cool 5 minutes then turn loaves out onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely.

Originally published in delish.com

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