This is a recipe for an Italian-style brioche, a simpler, less rich version of the classic French brioche. I’ve adapted this recipe from a cookbook to my specifications. It’s lovely.
The dough will make one large brioche, two medium-size brioches or 12-13 brioscine (individual brioches).
1 package instant dry yeast (about 2 ½ tsp)
¼ cup warm water
½ cup warm milk
3 eggs, at room temp.
4 to 5 cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened
Pans needed: 2 traditional Brioche molds (3 ½ cups capacity, 7×3-inch) or 2 glass Panettone molds (6×4 ½ -inch). (In a pinch, you could use one 8-inch loaf pan).
I like to make the dough by hand because it’s satisfying, since the dough is soft, silky, a pleasure to knead. In a bowl (or in middle of large board), place flour, sugar, salt and dry yeast and stir together. Heat, separately, to luke-warm, water and milk.
Cut up the stick of butter, add it to the flour mixture and work it into a doughy mass. Make well in center of dough, drop in the three eggs, beat them with a fork, then pour in water and milk. Work with the fork, then your hands (and with the help of a dough scraper) to make a soft and slightly sticky dough. Place dough on board, cover with inverted dough (or a dish towel) and let rest 10 minutes.
Now knead the dough well for about 5 minutes, till you obtain a soft, pliable, elastic ball. Place in a greased bowl, covered with a dish towel or plastic wrap, to rise. You can keep it in a warm place to rise, for about 1 to 2 hours, if you want to make the bread right away, but I recommend that you refrigerate it overnight (in this case, make sure you cover bowl with plastic so it doesn’t dry out).
When it’s well risen (insert two floured fingers in dough and if they leave deep indentations that don’t bounce back, it’s well risen), remove dough from bowl onto board (it will be light and spongy, a delight to handle!) and knead a few minutes to deflate. Cut into two equal parts with dough scraper and place in buttered baking pans.
I like to use the traditional Brioche à tête molds (see above). Or you can use one of each.
(For plain mold, just shape dough into a ball and place in Panettone mold).
For traditional Brioche à tête, cut off 1/3 of the dough and set aside. Take larger piece of dough, shape into a ball, then poke a hole in the middle, to make it look like a donut. Take the smaller piece of dough, roll it out into a cylinder, then shape one end into a ball, make it thin in the middle (the size of the hole in the other dough) and shape the other end into a smaller ball (it sounds confusing, but as you do it, you’ll see it’s pretty easy). Insert the smaller end into the hole of the larger piece of dough, pull it slightly through letting the larger ball end rest right on top. Make the top knot as round and smooth as you can. Now cover both pans with a dish towel and let rise about one hour. Dough should be well risen, above the rim of the brioche pan (for traditional one).
Have the oven heated to 375 degrees. Place the rack in the lower part of the oven and place a large, sturdy cookie sheet on top to heat in the oven.
When dough is risen, in a small bowl, lightly beat together 1 egg and a little bit of milk. Brush this mixture gently over top of dough to give it a dark brown sheen after it’s baked.
Now, with kitchen scissors dipped in water, make four 1-inch cuts around the top ball, into the shoulder of the brioche.
Place pans on the cookie sheet and bake 30 minutes. If top of bread looks very brown, you can lower temperature to 350 degrees for the last 5 minutes.
Unmold onto racks and cool completely. Excellent with some butter (or not) and café au lait.
To make one large brioche:
Use a 5-cup brioche mold (mine is non-stick). Bake about 35 minutes. Stunning!
To make 13 brioscine (individual brioches):
Butter 13 small brioche molds (3-inch)
Using only half of the recipe for dough. After dough has risen, deflate and shape into a roll, 14 inches long. Cut into 14 pieces. Set one piece aside, and shape the other 13 into balls, which you will place in the molds. Cut the remaining piece of dough into 13 tiny rounds. With your finger, poke a deep hole into each brioche and place a tiny round into it. Cover molds with dish towel and let rise about 30 minutes.
Beat 1 egg and a little milk together in a small bowl and brush mixture gently over top of brioches. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Unmold and cool on racks.
(Recipe adapted from “What you knead” by Mary Ann Esposito)