I saw darling little brioches in a bakery a few weeks ago, and they made me drool. The smell of them was overpowering, and they were so glossy and golden! Sadly, there was no need to buy them at that time (other than fatter thighs, which I really don't need), so I left without buying any. Still, I couldn't get them out of my head! I always thought they were hard to make, that they came from a temperamental dough, so I never attempted them myself.
Finally my brioche daydreams got the best of me, so I pulled out my Jacques Pepin tome and looked them up. Lo and behold: not so difficult after all! I even had brioche molds (that I bought thinking they were mini tartlet molds, heh). The next time I found a free afternoon, I set out to make them.
They were just as I imagined: eggy and buttery, with a soft crumb. That dough is to die for when baked, it has a flaky brown crust and chewy, tender interior that is slightly sweet (or maybe that's just from the butter and jam we smeared on them). Heavenly.
The only issue is that there was no way Hubs and I could eat all these suckers! One thing with these brioches as well, they are really best while still warm. On the first day. Although they will keep, they lose a little bit of their charm when they aren't fresh and warm.
Luckily for me: Ann at Redacted Recipes posted a great little crockpot bread pudding recipe on her site. I have an office potluck tomorrow, so it should make good use of the leftovers!
Brioche à Tête
(from Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques, 2001)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. lukewarm water
1 pkg. dry active yeast
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, water, and yeast. Set aside to let the yeast "work" for about 5 minutes (it will foam or bubble).
Place the remaining ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, start mixing on low, adding the yeast mixture slowly. When all the ingredients hold together, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix in medium speed and beat for 5 minutes. The dough should be well blended, and elastic, velvety, and hold into a lump around the beater.
Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled (about 2 hours). Gently punch down dough (yeah, I guess push lightly, that's what I did). You are now ready to shape and bake!
To shape the Brioche à Tête:
Generously butter 3-oz. individual brioche molds (I did 12 molds). Cut the dough into a little bit larger than golf ball-sized pieces, and roll on the table in a circular motion to give body to the brioche.
With the side of your hand, make a back-and-forth "sawing" motion to create a small lump for the "head" of your brioche. It should be about one-third of the size of the dough. Lift the brioche by the head, and place in a buttered mold. Cup the head with your fingers, and push down on the "body" of the dough to make an indentation. Gently push the head into this indentation. Repeat until all molds/dough are finished.
Let the brioches rise in a warm, draft-free place for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Preheat your oven to 400 F, and brush tops of brioches with an egg wash (1 egg, beaten). Bake for approximately 25 minutes. They should be golden brown on the outside. Allow to cool ten minutes before removing from molds.
These are best the day of, when still warm! They will also keep in an air-tight container for 3-4 days.