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Brioche
From Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan

Brioche is an elegant yeasted dough, a cross between bread and pastry. It is rich with butter and eggs, just a little sweet, pullable – a gentle tug, and the bread stretches in long, lacy strands-and fine-textured, the result of being beaten for close to half an hour. There is nothing difficult about making this perfect brioche, but you do need time and a heavy-duty mixer.

In this version, the brioche is made with a sponge, which gives the yeast a leisurely proofing period and deep flavor. You'll notice that the sponge instructions call for adding the dry yeast without a presoak to dissolve it. This is an unusual technique, one more commonly associated with the use of fresh yeast.

Ingredients:

For the Sponge:

1/3 cup warm whole milk (100ºF to 110ºF)
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 large egg
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For the Dough:

1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups (approximately) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Egg Wash:

1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbsp cold water

Instructions:

For the Sponge:

Put the milk, yeast, egg, and 1 cup of the flour in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Mix the ingredients together with a rubber spatula, mixing just until everything is blended. Sprinkle over the remaining cup of flour to cover the sponge.

Rest: Set the sponge aside to rest uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes. After this resting time, the flour coating will crack, your indication that everything is moving along properly.

For the Dough:

Add the sugar, salt, eggs, and 1 cup of the flour to the sponge. Set the bowl into the mixer, attach the dough hook, and mix on low speed for a minute or two, just until the ingredients look as if they're about to come together. Still mixing, sprinkle in 1/2 cup more flour. When the flour is incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 15 minutes, stopping to scrape down the hook and bowl as needed. During this mixing period, the dough should come together, wrap itself around the hook, and slap the sides of the bowl. If, after 7 to 10 minutes, you don't have a cohesive, slapping dough, add up to 3 tablespoons more flour. Continue to beat, giving the dough a full 15 minutes in the mixer – don't skimp on the time; this is what will give the brioche its distinctive texture.

Warning: Be warned – your mixer will become extremely hot. Most heavy-duty mixers designed for making bread can handle this long beating, although if you plan to make successive batches of dough, you'll have to let your machine cool down completely between batches. If you have questions about your mixer's capacity in this regard, call the manufacturer before you start.

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