Brioche is a bread that I adore, but can never be arsed to make – I always envisage a decent, complex brioche as requiring a separate sponge and retarded prove, meaning that it just isn’t really worth the bother.
Until today, when I experimented with a few recipes, and have come up with what I can honestly say is something worth baking on a very regular basis. This recipe is so wet it resembles cake mix, so cannot be made into individual brioche a tetes (you’ll need to make it in a loaf tin). The key is the Sourdough Starter, which gives complexity in a very short prove – you’ve got to give it a chance to develop its flavour, though, so use it about 24 hours after its last feed, once it has started to fall in activity. The result is a beautifully light bread that is not very good for you.
100g White Sourdough Starter (once it has begun to fall back down in activity and size)
170g Plain Flour
30g Strong White Flour
One 7g sachet Instant Yeast
20g Caster Sugar
3 eggs (try and make it as close to 150g of egg if you can)
125g butter, softened and cubed
1 more egg, for glazing at the end
1. Preheat oven to 220 C (200 fan) and very heavily grease (with butter) and line a 1lb loaf tin/brioche tin.
2. Using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, beat together all dough ingredients except the butter. Keep beating very vigorously until both your arms are very sore and you can go no longer – probably around 5-10 minutes – and you can see the dough become more elastic and stringy. If you are very competent with dough handling, you can attempt some stretches and folds.
3. Beat in the butter until fully incorporated and the dough is totally smooth, another 5 minutes. You will notice the dough change – it will become firmer. Using hands or a dough scraper, fold the dough over into the middle of your bowl, tightening it. Cover and rest for 30 minutes at room temperature
4. Using your hands or a dough scraper again, fold the sides of the dough into the middle, working your way all around the bowl several times. You will see the dough tightening – you want help it hold its shape at the end. Cover and rest the dough a further 50 minutes.
5. Now, shaping can be a little tricky. You’ve got a few options – if you’re very familiar with wet dough you can tighten it enough that it will come away to quickly be transferred to your lined tin. However, for most of us, you’re better off using your dough scraper. Scrape from the side of the dough, bringing it into the centre to make it tight, as you did before. Do this on all sides of the dough very quickly, whilst it is still looking tight, scrape the whole lot of dough up and into the tin. Then once it is in there, us the scraper again, pressing down vertically on one side of the dough to tighten it in the tin and give a smooth surface on top. OR, if you don’t have a dough scraper, piping the dough into your tin using a freezer bag with a 1 inch hole cut in the corner will give a good crumb too.
6. Prove for a final 1 hour. The dough should be light and fragile, but springy on top when prodded.
7. Eggwash the top of the loaf, and turn the oven down to 200 (180 fan) and bake for 40 minutes until very dark brown on top.