Make and knead the dough:
In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk. Mix together the flour, sugar and salt in another bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour the milk and yeast mixture into the well and start to mix with your hands. Mix until you have a smooth, well-combined dough that you can pick up and take out of the bowl. Start adding the eggs, one at a time. Mix with your hands, adding another egg when the dough starts to feel firmer and less slippery.
On a cool, lightly floured countertop, knead the dough-slapping it down on the counter, pushing it away with the heal of your hand, and folding it over. It may feel sticky but don't add flour; use a scraper instead. Knead for about 5 minutes, then do a "stretch test": If the gluten has been sufficiently developed, the dough will pull almost like bubble gum.
Work in the butter:
Take the cold butter from the refrigerator and beat it between kitchen parchment with a mallet or a rolling pin until it's pliable put still very cold. Break off pieces of butter and knead it in, bit by bit, pressing down lumps with your knuckles or the heel of your hand. The dough will be sticky (continue to use a scraper). When the dough feels like it's absorbing the butter, add more butter. If the dough gets very slick and shiny, the butter is starting to fall out, so gather up the dough and let it cool off in the fridge for 5 minutes.
Continue kneading and slapping until the dough is smooth and with no lumps, 3 to 4 minutes. It should start to pull away from the counter, feel silky and almost shimmer. Return it to the bowl, cover with plastic and let it sit at room temperature until doubled in bulk about 1 hour.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and punch it down into a rectangular shape. Fold the dough in half, patting it to remove bubbles. Give the dough a quater turn and repeat then entire procedure twice more. Return the bowl to the rising bowl, seam side down. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. Repeat the same fold-and-pat steps as before and then refridgerate the dough overnight.
Cut and shape the brioche:
Gently remove the dough from its rising bowl and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough, pushing out air bubbles. Cut it into 16 equal pieces weighing 2 to 3 ounces each. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a smooth ball. Smooth the top surface of the dough to form a taut skin and tuck the excess under, seam side down. Try not to overhandle the dough.
Form the “hat” by placing the side of your hand on the dough ball one-third of the way down. Saw back and forth almost all the way through, until you get a shape similar to a bowling pin. Hold the dough by the “hat” and gently lower it into a buttered fluted brioche mold.
Dust your finger with flour and tuck the “hat” down into the dough. Poke holes all around the edge of the “hat,” going clear down to the bottom of the pan, so the hat will be firmly tucked in and won’t pop out during baking. Brush the loaves with the egg wash.
Proof and bake the brioche:
Set a jelly roll pan or sheet pan in the oven (don’t turn it on) and fill it with hot tap water. Put the brioche molds on a sheet pan and let the loaves proof in the oven for an hour, or until they’re doubled in bulk. Brush them again with egg wash.
Heat the oven to 400°F and bake the brioches on a baking sheet for 15 to 17 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. The brioches are done when they’re deep golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.
nutrition information (per serving):
Photo: Karl Petzke and Amy Albert