Set the butter to one side and weigh all the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix a firm dough, 10 minutes in a mixer with the hook, or 15 minutes hard at it by hand.
With the dough on the worktop, dice the butter into small cubes, then knead the butter cubes in one by one. This is a time-consuming labour of love for a demanding but mightily regally rewarding loaf. Once all the butter is in, the dough will be soft as a queen's pillow, but curiously not sticky.
Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover. Leave it overnight in the fridge to rest and rise.
Next day, using the scraper, get the buttery dough out of the bowl.
For a brioche with 'Top Knot'
Weigh a kilo of dough. Twist off a top knot bit (about 2/5th, being fussy). Butter the inside of a large, 900g round fluted tin (melt a little butter and pastry-brush it on or use kitchen paper). Mould both pieces of dough into tight round balls. Place the largest one in the bottom of the tin, with the seam/knot on top. Flour, then, if you like, push your two biggest fingers deep into the brioche from above. This will keep the top of the bun from slipping off and yeild you a Brioche that is neat and pert, with curves in all the right places. Brush the top with a beaten egg yolk (the queen of glossy glazes ).
Once the Brioche is in the tin, cover it, taking care to see that the cover doesn't come into contact with the delicate dough. (This is where the shower cap cames in handy.) Leave the covered tin in a warm place to rise. Once it has doubled in size (or the outside edge of the dough is only a touch under the rim of the tin), bake in a 210°C Oven on a heated baking stone.
After 5 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 160°C and bake until golden: about 45 minutes.
For a small loaf tin
Weigh a 500g piece and divide it into 3. With only the lightest sprinkling of flour, shape them into round rolls and place them in a small buttered loaf tin. If there is a slightly larger lump, this can go in the middle. Brush the top with a beaten egg yolk and continue with the main recipe instructions. In step 3, bake for 35 minutes.
For Brioche Rolls
If you have some little fluted tins, butter them and divide the dough into 50 pieces. Place the dough in the buttered tins. Brush the top with a beaten egg yolk and continue with the main recipe instructions. In step 3 bake for 15 minutes.
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