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Flour's Basic Brioche ***

From Flour, found at Food Network


For some reason I've been on a French toast kick lately.  This weekend I was in the mood for Aquitane's Brioche French Toast.  Unfortunately for me, it was nearly impossible to find a loaf of brioche nearby.  So after an unsuccessful trip to Whole Foods, I decided I would bake up some loaves so I would never have this dilemma again.  I used the brioche recipe in my Flour cookbook.  

Making brioche isn't difficult. It's just a bit time consuming, especially if you're doing all the kneading by hand.  I made a double batch so I would have enough for 3 loaves and some sticky buns.  The loaves turned out very nicely.  I am looking forward to making some French toast later this week for breakfast.  :)

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
2 1/4 cups (340 grams) bread flour
1 1/2 packages (3 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast or 1-ounce (28 grams) fresh cake yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (82 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold water
6 eggs
1 3/8 cups (2 3/4 sticks; 310 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces

Directions
1.  Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and 5 of the eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until all the ingredients are combined. Stop the mixer, as needed, to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.

2.  With the mixer on low speed, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is important for all the butter to be thoroughly mixed into the dough. If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally and break up the dough with your hands to help mix in the butter.

3.  Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium and beat until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny, another 15 minutes. It will take some time to come together. It will look shaggy and questionable at the start and then eventually it will turn smooth and silky. Turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute. You should hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it; it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. It is ready when you can gather it all together and pick it up in 1 piece.

4.  Put the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof (that is, grow and develop flavor) in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight At this point you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

5.  To make two brioche loaves, line the bottom and sides of two 9-by-5 inch loaf pans with parchment, or butter the pans liberally.  Divide the dough in half and press each piece into about a 9-inch square.  The dough will feel like cold, clammy Play-Doh.  Facing the square, fold down the top one-third toward you, and then fold up the bottom one-third, as if folding a letter.  Press to join these layers.  Turn the folded dough over and place it, seam-side down, in one of the prepared pans.  Repeat with the second piece of dough, placing it in the second prepared pan.

6.  Cover the loaves lightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for 4 to 5 hours, or until the loaves have nearly doubled in size.  They should have risen to the rim of the pan and be rounded on top.  When you poke at the dough, it should feel soft, pillowy and light, as if it's filled with air - because it is!  At this point, the texture of the loaves always reminds me a bit of touching a water balloon.

7.  Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the over to 350 degrees F.

8.  In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg until blended.  Gently brush the tops of the loaves with the beaten egg.

9.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the tops and sides of the loaves are completely golden brown.  Let cool in the pans on wire racks for 30 minutes, then turn the loaves out of the pans and continue to cool on the racks.

10.  The bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic at room temperature for up to 3 days (if it is older than 3 days, try toasting it) or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

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