Buttery, fluffy brioche makes the perfect breakfast or tea-time treat. Handle the dough gently and avoid adding too much flour for the lightest, most tender bread possible. This recipe makes 2 loaves so you'll have one to eat fresh and another to save for bread pudding or french toast later in the week. If you have small-fluted molds you can also make 16 individual breads instead. Adapted from various sources, including Dorie Greenspan, Alice Medrich, and Sarabeth Levine. —Yossy Arefi
2 loaves or 16 individual brioche
active dry yeast
water at 110º F
milk at 110º F
sour cream or yogurt
sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, cool but pliable
Put the yeast, milk, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir gently to combine. Let sit until bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Add the flour and salt, then use the dough hook to stir the flour into the yeast mixture on low speed. Stop the mixer a few times and use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough will be very shaggy and dry.
Add the eggs and sour cream or yogurt. Mix gently to combine, then add the sugar. Turn the mixer up to medium-low and mix until the dough forms a ball, about 4 minutes.
Turn the mixer back down to low and mix the butter into the dough in 2-tablespoon-sized chunks, beating until each piece is almost completely incorporated before adding the next piece. Make sure to take this step nice and slow to ensure that the dough is evenly mixed and kneaded. Stop periodically to pull the dough from the hook and scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing. The dough will be very soft and billowy.
Once all of the butter has been incorporated, continue to knead the dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and let it rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes. Knead the dough in the bowl a few times to release the air, then cover and transfer the bowl to the refrigerator. Check on the dough every half hour or so and gently knead it in the bowl a few times until it is chilled and stops rising, about 2 hours. Let the dough rest at least overnight and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
When you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and, to make loaves, divide the dough into 2 pieces. Divide each piece into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Arrange the dough balls in two greased loaf pans. To make individual brioches, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and gently roll each piece into a tight ball. For round brioches, place the dough balls into well-greased individual pans. For traditional brioche à tête (those little guys with the "heads"), you'll have to do a little more shaping. Flour the pinky side of your hand and place it about 1 inch from the top of the dough. Use the side of your hand and gently roll back and forth while cutting into the dough to make a little ball. The motion should be something like a very delicate, rolling karate chop. You should have a large ball on one side connected to a small ball on the other. Gently move the dough into the prepared tin, with the large part on the bottom. Use your finger to poke a hole in the middle of the large portion of dough and tuck the smaller ball into it. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
For loaves or individual brioches, let the dough rise until it reaches the top of the pans. Preheat oven to 400° F and brush the dough with a beaten egg. Sprinkle with the optional pearl sugar if desired. Bake loaves for 25 to 35 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Bake individual brioches for 15 to 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Let the brioche cool in the pan (or pans) for 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Yossy Arefi is a photographer and stylist with a passion for food. During her stint working in restaurant kitchens, Yossy started the blog Apt. 2B Baking Co. where, with her trusty Pentax film camera, she photographs and writes about seasonal desserts and preserves. She currently lives in Brooklyn but will always love her native city of Seattle. Follow her work at apt2bbakingco.blogspot.com & yossyarefi.com.