Yield: Yields sixteen 3-inch brioches à tête.
True brioche—the classic French 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.
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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.)
Butter sixteen 3-inch brioche à tête molds (use molds that are 3 to 3-1/4 inches wide across the top and at least 1-1/4 inches high).
Turn the dough out, smooth top down, onto a clean work surface. Form the dough into a ball by folding the sides into the middle at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Using a scale and a bench knife, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, about 1 lb. 3 oz. each. Divide each half into 8 equal pieces of about 2-1/2 oz. each, for a total of 16 pieces of dough. Cover the dough with plastic to prevent it from drying out.
Roll each piece of dough into a tight ball by cupping your hand over the dough and moving it in a circular motion with the fingers of that hand slightly tucked in.
To form the “tête,” or head, hold your hand perpendicular to the work surface, with your fingers straight and tightly together (like you’re going to do a karate chop). Working with one ball of dough at a time (keeping the others covered with plastic), press down onto the ball with the side of your hand about one-third of the way from one of the edges of the dough ball (leaving one-third of the dough to one side of your hand, and two-thirds of the dough to the other side of your hand). Saw back and forth with your hand almost all of the way through until you get a shape that looks like a bowling pin, or a head and body connected by a very thin, almost translucent neck. Holding the dough by the “head,” turn the dough upright so the body is resting on the work surface. Lower the head down into the body, pressing deeply into the body and spreading it with your thumbs and index fingers to make a nest for the head. Tighten the body around the nestled head by tucking and lifting the body up around the head. Gently place the dough in one of the prepared molds, body down. Repeat with the remaining dough. Transfer the molds to a large rimmed baking sheet.
Meanwhile, position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. It is important that the oven be thoroughly heated so the brioches bake evenly.
Make Ahead Tips
Brioches are best served barely warm. They reheat well, so any that are not eaten within a day or two can be reheated in a 325°F oven until the outside is crisp, about 7 minutes for small brioches or 15 minutes for large. They can also be sliced and toasted.
Pair with Baked Eggs with Chives and Cream for an utterly simple yet luxurious breakfast.
You can also use this recipe to make 2 full-size brioche loaves or 2 large brioches a à tête. For loaves: After dividing the dough into 16 balls, butter two 8-1/2×4-1/2-inch loaf pans. Arrange eight dough balls in two rows of four in each of the pans. For large brioches à tête: After dividing the dough into 16 balls, butter two 7-inch brioche à tête molds. Place one dough ball in the middle of one of the molds. Arrange six more balls around the side of the mold, resting on the first ball (they won’t touch the bottom of the mold). Place the last ball on top of the dough in the middle. Repeat to make one more 7-inch brioche à tête. To bake both variations: Proof and apply the egg wash as for the small brioches à tête. Bake for about 25 minutes or to an internal temperature of 190°F. Let cool on a rack for 25 to 30 minutes before unmolding.
Wrap cooled brioches well and store at room temperature for up to two days, or freeze for up to five weeks. Let them thaw, wrapped, at room temperature.
I've made these whenever I didn't have time or opportunity to make the croissants. These are now a family favorite.
Hooray! I made brioche! This recipe was a joy end-to-end. Loved the smell and the feel of the dough throughout and the end product is wonderful.I made an attempt at brioche last week with a recipe from a different source, and the dough wound up in the trash. I am keeping this one.
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