I received the Artisan Bread book last year, and I haven't had time to use it as often as I would like. This super rich, barely sweetened brioche was the perfect introduction - much easier to make than my usual recipe (no kneading!) and with the most perfect texture ever.
You can use the brioche dough for anything, really - the book has several excellent suggestions. I opted for a chocolate ganache filling, because I knew it would go over big with my chocolate obsessed family. And even a chocolate ambivalent person like me can appreciate this deliciousness. The simplicity of the dough provides the perfect foil to the rich filling.
You make a big batch of brioche dough (enough for four loaves) and then you can either store it in the fridge for up to a week or you can divide it into four pieces and freeze it for easy use later. There is something magical about having homemade ready to bake pastry in your freezer, I think. You don't need a mixer for this recipe, at all. I just used my Kitchenaid out of habit. The mixing is minimal and the dough is pretty soft, so you could easily do this by hand with a wooden spoon.
Brioche dough (makes about 4 loaves. Recipe from the Artisan Bread book)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (no, that isn't a typo, and no, it doesn't taste salty)
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey (I actually used sugar and it was fine)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
:: Proof your yeast (the book doesn't mention this, but I always do it anyways). Mix your yeast with a little bit of sugar and the lukewarm water (or milk, in my case) and set it aside while you measure out the other ingredients. In 5 - 10 minutes it should look nice and foamy on top. If it doesn't, check the date on your yeast and try again.
:: Mix the yeast/liquid mixture, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter in a 5-quart bowl. The dough is going to rise quite a bit, so make sure your bowl is big enough.
:: Mix in the flour, using a spoon, until all of the flour is incorporated. (I actually used the dough hook on my Kitchenaid for this step, for maximum laziness) Don't worry about over or under mixing. It will be fine. The book mentions that you might have some lumps in your dough at this point, but they'll disappear during the rise. I didn't notice any lumps in my dough, but it's worth noting.
:: Cover (not airtight - I just draped a damp kitchen towel over the bowl), and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours. You want the dough to rise and then flatten out. It was chilly in our apartment and when I checked the dough after an hour, I could have sworn it hadn't risen at all. I put the bowl in the oven (which was just a tiny bit warm, because we'd cooked in it a few hours before) and let it sit for another two hours and the dough popped right up. A nice patch of sunlight will have a similar effect.
:: Put the bowl (still loosely covered) in the refrigerator. You can keep it there for up to 5 days, otherwise you need to freeze it. If you want to work with the dough right away, I recommend letting it chill for a few hours - otherwise it will be soft and sticky and difficult to work with.
1/4 lb bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon rum (I left this out, because the rum flavoring tends to not go over too well with kids)
5 tablespoons corn syrup
:: Melt the chocolate (you can use a double boiler, but I highly recommend a microwave, if you're lucky enough to have one). Remove from heat and add butter. Stir in the cocoa powder, the corn syrup and the rum, if using.
:: Take the dough out of the fridge and cut off about 1/4 of it for each loaf you're going to make. Roughly shape it into a ball, using the heel of your hand to press it down and then shape it. You're basically just trying to warm it up a bit and get it ready to roll out.
:: Working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle. You want the dough to be about 1/4" thick, but don't fuss over the thickness or the size too much. It all cooks into a blob regardless.
:: Spread the chocolate ganache over the dough, giving yourself about an inch of space on each side.
:: Starting with the short end, roll the dough up, thus enclosing the ganache inside. Again, perfection isn't the point here. Fold the ends over the seamed edge, and then place the dough in a buttered loaf pan, seam side down. At this point, I actually covered the loaf and left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning I pulled it out and continued on.
:: Let it rest at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours - it should rise slightly. The book recommends doing an egg white wash and sprinkling some sugar over the dough at the end of the rise, before baking. I didn't have time for that and it still turned out beautifully.
:: Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool, serve.
My chocolate ganache spilled out the sides quite a bit when I went to serve it, but I just scooped up the extra ganache and put it in a little bowl on the serving platter - the chocolate lovers in the house appreciated the chance to load up.
Next time I want to make this dough but fill it with homemade apricot jam instead. I'll let you know how it turns out.