French brioche

  • 400 g white flour
  • 50 ml milk
  • 1 sachet yeast
  • 4 large eggs, plus 3 yolks
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250 g unsalted butter, softened

The day before you need the dough, heat the milk in a pan until boiling, then pour into a measuring jug and leave until warm. Top up with warm water to bring it back to  50 ml (some liquid will have evaporated), then stir in the yeast. Weigh the flour and take out 2 tbsp to add to the yeast mixture. Stir well, cover the jug with a saucer and leave for 30 minutes. This step helps get the yeast revved up to take on the butter-rich dough.

To make the dough: beat the eggs and yolks, sugar and salt together in a mixing bowl, then pour in the yeast. Add the remaining flour and stir until it forms a rough dough. Cover the bowl and leave for 30 minutes to rest.

Spread the dough on to the work surface without any flour, and have a scraper ready. Cut the butter into small pieces and mix it into the dough with your hands. Then start working the butter into the dough by rubbing the dough off the work surface as you go. Once all of the butter has disappeared, and the dough feels elastic and very soft, scrape it back into the bowl, cover with a plate or cling film and chill overnight. At this point the dough can be kept for another two days before using.

To use, simply butter 1 loaf tin, divide the dough in two and shape one part into a cylinder, cut three small lines on top with a fine knife. The remaining dough makes into eight medium-sized balls and eight small balls (you can also just make two loaves). Place the medium-sized ball in a muffin tin if you do not have the baking forms and a small ball on the top. Cover with a cloth and leave for 2 hours until almost doubled in height. Heat the oven to 220 C, brush the top with beaten egg and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180 C, bake for about 20 minutes more until dark golden brown all over, then remove from the oven and tin, and cool on a wire rack.

I eat a slice of brioche for breakfast with some jam, and the small ones I keep for the afternoon tea.