There's little more exciting to me than bread. Michael Pollan, in Cooked, talks about the amazing fact that we can take three ingredients that we cannot survive on - flour, salt, and water - and miraculously turn it into this life-sustaining food. Bread signifies a home, the smell of it baking, the look of the browned crust sitting on the countertop. It's what we turn to as a cornerstone of most meals - rolls and biscuits with dinner. Particularly fruitful areas of the country are referred to as the bread basket due to the bounty that a plethora of bread represents. It is also my favorite thing to bake.
There are so many variants of bread - basic ones like French bread (which is little more than flour, salt, and water) and more complex ones like this brioche. Brioche is an enriched dough, meaning that it includes fat. Fat interrupts the formation of the gluten strands, which is why you'll never see a loaf of brioche with large air holes. Instead, the gluten forms small air pockets resulting in a denser and tender crumb. This is a delicious loaf - dense and rich with butter and egg yolks, lightly sweetened - perfect for eating alone, made into French toast, or smothered with jam.
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp instant yeast
8 tbsp cold butter, cut into chunks
4 eggs + 1 yolk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and sugar in a stand mixer and paddle to incorporate. Add eggs and mix to incorporate. With mixer on low, slowly add the butter one chunk at a time. Turn mixer to high until the butter is evenly distributed. Grease a large bowl and place dough in. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm space for 2 to 3 hours, until doubled in size. Punch down dough and form into preferred shape (here we've shaped into a boule or circle-shaped). Cover and allow to rise again, about one hour. Grease a dutch oven (or oven safe pan) and heat oven to 400F. Whisk the egg yolk and paint the top of the loaf. Allow to bake 40-45 minutes or until browned. When you tap it, it should sound hollow to the touch.