by Allison Ehri Kreitler and Lesli Heffler Flick
True French brioche-a classic yeast bread that's rich and golden with butter and eggs, boasting a paper-thin crust and a silky, tender crumb-is a rare and wonderful thing. But as special as it is, brioche isn't difficult to make. Here, we'll walk you through the steps, from making the dough to shaping and baking it. We'll also show you the secret to brioche's richness: properly incorporating the butter into the dough (hint, knead a few times by hand in the mixing bowl; then let the mixer do the rest of the work for you).
Make the Dough
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed until well combined. Add 4 of the eggs and the milk and continue mixing on low speed to combine. As soon as the dough starts to clump together, remove the paddle attachment and attach the dough hook. (There will still be unmixed egg and flour in the bowl.) Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Using a plastic dough scraper or strong plastic spatula, scrape the bowl and hook. Continue to mix until the dough is firm and elastic, about 2 minutes more. The dough may stick to the hook at this point, but that's OK. Scrape the dough off the hook again.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, add half of the butter, a few pieces at a time. Scrape down the bowl and dough hook, and remove the dough hook. Give the dough a few kneads by hand in the bowl, repeatedly folding the dough over on itself, to help incorporate the butter. Reattach the dough hook and add the remaining butter, a few pieces at a time, mixing on medium-low speed.
Once all of the butter has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium and mix for 4 minutes. Scrape the dough hook and the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again until the dough is smooth, soft, and shiny, about 4 minutes more. You'll hear the dough slap against the sides of the bowl when it's ready. (If your kitchen is warm, the dough may seem too loose at this point. Resist the urge to add extra flour, or the brioche may be tough.)
Let the Dough Rise
Use a plastic dough scraper or a spatula to turn the dough out onto a clean, very lightly floured work surface. The dough will be very moist. Knead it by hand a few times and then form it into a ball by folding the sides into the middle at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock. Flip the dough over, place your palms on either side of the dough, and tuck it under itself, turning the dough as you tuck to form a loose ball with a smooth top. Transfer the dough, smooth side up, to a clean large bowl. Cover loosely with plastic and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Let the Dough Rise Again
Use the dough scraper or spatula to turn the dough out, smooth top down, onto a very lightly floured work surface. Again, form it into a ball by folding the sides into the middle at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock. Flip the dough over, place your palms on either side of the dough, and tuck it under itself, turning the dough as you tuck to form a loose ball with a smooth top. Transfer the dough, smooth side up, back to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic. At this point, for best flavor refrigerate the dough overnight. Or let it sit out until doubled in size, about 1 hour. The warmer the room, the faster the brioche will rise, so keep an eye on it.