Well-made brioche is something of a miracle: Despite being laden with butter and eggs, it manages to avoid the density of a pound cake and turn out incredibly light and airy. But achieving these results is a balancing act — and a tricky one at that. Don't worry! This recipe from America's Test Kitchen will teach you how to find the perfect balance.
Traditionally, making a rich dough like brioche means kneading all of the ingredients to develop gluten — except butter. Softened butter is added tablespoon by tablespoon only after the mixture begins to develop into dough. This long process is important: If the butter isn't added slowly, the dough can break into a greasy mess. We decided to ditch tradition and use a "no-knead" technique, which also solved our tricky butter problem. In a no-knead approach, the dough (which must be very wet) sits for a long time, stitching itself together to form gluten — all without any help from a mixer. With kneading out of the equation, we are able to melt the butter and add it all at once — a faster and far less demanding approach.
Makes 2 loaves
3¼ cups (17¾ ounces) bread flour
2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
7 large eggs
½ cup water, room temperature
⅓ cup (2⅓ ounces) sugar
16 tablespoons unsalted butter
Vegetable cooking spray
1. Melt 16 tablespoons butter. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. Whisk 3¼ cups (17¾ ounces) bread flour, 2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast and 1½ teaspoons salt together in large bowl.
3. Whisk 6 large eggs, ½ cup room-temperature water and ⅓ cup (2⅓ ounces) sugar together in medium bowl until sugar has dissolved.
4. Whisk in slightly cooled unsalted butter until smooth.
5. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes.
6. Holding edge of dough with your fingertips, fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 45 degrees; fold again.
7. Turn bowl and fold dough 6 more times (total 8 folds). Cover with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding and rising every 30 minutes, 3 more times.
8. After fourth set of folds, cover bowl tightly with plastic and refrigerate for at least 16 hours or up to 48 hours.
9. Transfer dough to well-floured counter and divide into 4 pieces.
10. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, pat dough into 4-inch disk.
11. Working around circumference of dough, fold edges of dough toward center until ball forms.
12. Flip dough over and, without applying pressure, move your hands in small circular motions to form dough into smooth, taut round. (If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust top of dough with flour.) Repeat with remaining dough.
13. Cover dough rounds loosely with plastic and let rest for 5 minutes.
14. Grease two 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pans.
15. After 5 minutes, flip each dough ball so seam side is facing up, pat into 4-inch disk, and repeat rounding step.
16. Place 2 rounds, seam side down, side by side into prepared pans and press gently into corners.
17. Cover loaves loosely with plastic and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size (dough should rise to about ½ inch below top edge of pan), 1½ to 2 hours.
18. Thirty minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position, place baking stone on rack and heat oven to 350 degrees.
19. Lightly beat 1 large egg with pinch salt. Remove plastic and brush loaves gently with egg mixture.
20. Set loaf pans on stone and bake until golden brown and internal temperature registers 190 degrees, 35 to 45 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.
21. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans, return to wire rack, and let cool completely before slicing and serving, about 2 hours.
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