Brioche à Tête

Because of its buttery richness and tender crumb—as the interior texture is called—brioche can be considered a cousin to the croissant. Yet aside from longer mixing and rising times, making brioche is as straightforward as preparing traditional yeast dinner rolls. Enjoy the satisfaction of creating and serving this French favorite, discovering in the process how to form the classic tête, or head, on top.

Makes 14 servings

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
  • ½ cup lukewarm whole milk (95°F)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk

Directions

Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour and yeast. Add eggs, warm milk, sugar and salt. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on low speed until well blended, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Remove whisk attachment and attach dough hook. Add remaining flour and continue mixing until dough is firm and elastic, about 2 minutes more. With mixer on medium speed, add about 1 tablespoon of butter at a time. Continue mixing, scraping dough hook and sides and bottom of bowl several times, until dough is smooth, soft and shiny.

Remove dough from bowl; shape into a brick and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. (Dough will store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator overnight before using.)

Butter fourteen 3-inch brioche molds (use molds that are about 3¼ inches wide across the top and at least 1¼ inches high) or standard muffin pans. To shape brioches à tête, remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut into 14 pieces, about 2½ ounces each. Roll each piece of dough into a tight ball. To form the tête, or head, hold your hand perpendicular to the work surface with your fingers straight and tightly together (like you’re going to do a karate chop). Working with one ball of dough at a time, press down lightly on a ball with edge of your hand as though you were going to chop off one-third of a ball. Gently saw back and forth on the ball with your hand going almost all of the way through the ball until you get a shape that looks like a tête and body connected by a very thin neck. Use thumbs and fingers to shape the body into a doughnut. Pull the tête through the hole and reshape the body so it’s nice and round, with the tête on top. Transfer the brioche, tête side up, to a prepared mold. Repeat until all brioches are shaped. Work with a few dough balls at a time, keeping remaining dough in the refrigerator until needed. (To see the brioche-making process, go to www.youtube.com and search for “brioche a tete.”)

For egg wash, combine egg yolk and 1 tablespoon whole milk. Lightly brush brioches with egg wash. Cover brioches with a clean, damp towel and let rise until nearly double (1½ to 2 hours).

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush brioches with egg wash once more. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until rich golden brown. Let cool in molds or muffin pans for 5 minutes. Remove from molds and cool on a wire rack before serving.