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I can't think of many things more comforting on a cold winter's day than baking bread. The heat of the oven warms the kitchen, and the scent of yeast and sugar fills the air. Then, of course, you get to tear into a steaming loaf, breaking off the heel and slathering it with butter that melts and pools into rich puddles.
Whether you're a regular yeast bread baker, a novice, or have never even attempted it at all, this brioche recipe is far simpler than it looks. The loaf emerges from the oven looking all kinds of fancy with its lofty bubbled top crusted in Swedish pearl sugar, but the dough itself is one of the easier ones to work with because it's enriched with so much butter and eggs, making it soft and supple and silky.
The dough follows the classic ratio of a brioche (softened butter, eggs, and milk are added to give richness and flavor), but I've added in a generous spoonful of ground cardamom. I absolutely love the flavor and aroma of cardamom, and the delicate, airy texture of this bread is a nice canvas for the boldness of this particular spice. To take the bread further into dessert territory, I sprinkle Swedish pearl sugar over the top for a crunchy, sugared crown. Swedish pearl sugar is a beautifully snowy-white sugar that doesn't melt in the oven, so the texture is nice even after baking. You can skip it if you like, but I highly recommend trying it (it's also wonderful on top of scones, muffins, and cookie dough).
This bread is such a joy to shape: Rather than fuss about with braiding or slicing, I simply divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and plop the balls into a loaf pan. As they bake, they press together to form a pretty, billowy surface. Since the dough is so rich, you don't need to flour your hands or the counter to work with it. Bonus!
The final texture of the loaf is almost impossibly light, and it pulls apart easily into thin, cotton candy-like strands. Enjoy it on its own or spread it with jam or butter. I like topping a piece with lemon curd, or toasting a chunk of it and serving it under a scoop of ginger ice cream to match the cardamom. A plate of that, a fire roaring in the grate, the snow swirling outside, and there's not much more we could need.
- 2 3/4 cups (320 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup (56 grams) lukewarm milk
- 5 eggs (save one egg for the egg wash)
- 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cardamom (or less to taste)
- 1/4 cup Swedish pearl sugar, for sprinkling