practice: it may not make perfect (yet), but darned if it doesn't make a better brioche than before. that, and a recipe that works for you. for me, it took three months, a dozen+ recipes, more dozens of unborn chickens and blocks o' butter later to find that this, this, this, and this recipe for the egg and butter-enriched dough equalled nope, nope, nope, and nope.
why the problem? i suspect a number of things: my stubborn desire to hand knead everything, not kneading enough, kneading too much, warm hands, warm and humid working conditions, butter that's pretty good, but with a water content that's probably not ideal for brioche. life getting in the way. you know. after spending a small fortune on ingredients, though, it inspires you to do better for your buck.
after a spectacularly failing performance with a gordon ramsay recipe and equally unspectacular jamie oliver one (i think it was an oliver. maybe.), i found a bit of goodness with a peter reinhart recipe from (yeah, you know it) "the bread baker's apprentice: mastering the art of extraordinary bread." it's that book with the asian woman on the cover? who's not actually the apprentice in question? that one. also, i acquiesced and broke out the stand mixer, and decided to only work on the dough in the cool of night. reinhard's recipe for "the rich man's brioche" didn't work for me no matter what the weather, maybe because of the high fat content. however, the "middle class" recipe with less butter and eggs did. it made a nicely crumbed, moist, buttery loaf that would have been fine sliced up on its own, but the reason why i wanted to work on brioche was because of all the tasty things one can do with it.
one of the first things i knew i had to try was umami's beautifully golden marmalade french toast, flavoured with vanilla bean and a healthy glug of orange-flavoured liqueur. very simple to make, albeit with an agonizing overnight refrigeration that makes it all the more tasty, and all the more tempting.
i also made some lovely rolls for sandwiches, glazed with egg and sprinkled with just a tiny bit of kosher salt. smoked salmon, fresh mozzarella, red onion and arugula make a fine combination on the sweet and tender bread. great for a meal on the go. however, if you have the time to stay in, i more than recommend this decadent version of mushrooms on toast: a toasted brioche roll topped with poached eggs and a buttery melange of a variety of mushrooms sautéed in half butter, half olive oil, along with finely minced garlic and fresh thyme, then finished with a drop of heavy cream and a splash of cognac, some sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
of course, the possibilities are endless. just like this post seems to be, so i'll end it here and continue shortly....