The history of the “Brioche”
The word brioche first appeared in print in 1404, and this bread is believed to have sprung from a traditional Norman recipe. It is argued that brioche is probably of a Roman origin, since a very similar sort of sweet holiday bread is made in Romania (“sărălie“). The cooking method and tradition of using it during big holidays resembles the culture surrounding the brioche so much that it is difficult to doubt same origin of both foods. It is often served as a pastry or as the basis of a dessert, with many local variations in added ingredients, fillings and toppings. It is also used with savory preparations, particularly with foie gras, and is used in some meat dishes.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his 1783 autobiography Confessions, relates that “a great princess” is said to have advised, with regard to starving peasants, “S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche”, commonly translated as “If they have no bread, let them eat cake”. This saying is commonly mis-attributed to the ill-fated Queen Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI; it has been speculated that he was actually referring to Maria Theresa of Spain, the wife of Louis XIV, or various other aristocrats.
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In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook combine the warm milk, yeast and sugar; let bloom for about 5 minutes, until frothy.
Add the eggs, sea salt, flour and butter, mixing on low speed for about 2 minutes, until the mixture begins to come together.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes, the dough will become smooth and sticky.
Place the dough into a large floured bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap, let rise at room temperature for 2 hours; until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and recover with plastic wrap, refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into an 8"x4" rectangle.
Prepare a 9"x5" loaf pan with butter.
Place the dough seam side down in the pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap, let rise 1 1/2 - 2 hours until doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 375º F, brush the egg wash over the top of the dough and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 35-40 minutes, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely,
Slice and serve, store left over bread in an air tight container for up to 4 days, refrigerate to store for up to 1 week.