The term “brioche” dates back to at least the 1400s, and the bread may be even older. The word is a name for a style of bread and dough which can be made in a number of shapes. A classic shape has a fluted bottom and an upper protruding knob, and is made in a special brioche pan. The bread can also be made like a regular loaf, or it can be braided or molded into a ring. It often takes the form of an individual bun, served warm.
Sweet brioche is filled with things like fresh or candied fruit and chocolate. The dough may be given some extra sweetness to complement the filling, making the dish particularly decadent. Savory brioche is filled with vegetables or meats, depending on the taste of the cook. In all cases, brioche has a light, flaky crust with a high gloss to it, caused by brushing the dough with egg before baking.
Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (If the bowl is cold, start with warmer water so it's at least 110 degrees when you add the yeast.) Mix with your hands and allow to stand for 5 minutes until the yeast and sugar dissolve. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until well mixed. With the mixer on low speed, add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and mix for 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low, add 2 1/4 more cups of flour and mix for 5 more minutes. Scrape the dough into a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, grease 20 mini brioche tins. Set aside.
Place the dough in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the softened butter in chunks, and mix for 2 minutes, adding additional flour as needed to make a ball. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and divide the dough into 20 (1 3/4-ounce) balls and place them in the tins. Cover the tins with a damp towel and set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When the rolls have risen, brush the top of each with the egg wash and bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back and it sounds slightly hollow when tapped. Turn the rolls out onto a wire rack to cool.
I have served this divine and decadant dessert for very special dinners at The Maine House! This is a fantastically elegant and delicious ending that will surely impress your guests~
Whisk the eggs, cream, sugar, schnapps, and salt in a large bowl until the eggs are broken up and the mixture is evenly combined. Add the bread and mix well with your hands, gently squeezing the bread. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Halve, pit, and slice the peaches or nectarines into sixths. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until soft and slightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature on the baking sheet on a wire rack. If you’re not using the roasted peaches right away, refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake the bread pudding.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and arrange one rack in the middle and one in the lower third. Place a foil-lined baking sheet on the lower rack (it will catch any drips from the bread pudding while baking). Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.
Remove the bread mixture from the refrigerator, add the roasted peaches, and mix until the peaches are evenly distributed. Pour the bread-peach mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer. Drop tablespoon-sized dollops of the dulce de leche evenly over the bread mixture, pushing on them to slightly submerge.
Cover the pudding with foil and bake on the middle rack until the custard around the outer 2 inches is set but the center is still slightly jiggly, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the surface is browned in some spots, about 30 minutes more. Remove to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
A special "Thank You" goes out to Granny Mountain as she had requested a few good ideas for baking and using Brioche in sweet and savory servings for her family!