Poor Man’s Brioche
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
For the sponge
1/2 cup bread flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup whole milk, lukewarm
For the dough
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
To make the sponge, in the stand mixer bowl, add the 1/2 cup flour, yeast, and lukewarm milk and stir with spoon until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for about an hour until it looks frothy.
To make the dough, add the four eggs to the sponge and whisk until everything is combined. In a separate medium bowl, stir or whisk together the 3 1/4 cups of flour, sugar and salt. Mix to combine. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Using the dough hook, add the butter two tablespoons at a time, wait until the butter is completely mixed in before you add the next two tablespoons. Increase the speed to medium low and knead the dough for about 6 to 8 minutes. Add a little more flour if the dough seems too sticky: It should easily clear the sides of the bowl in the mixer. The dough should be very smooth and warm, and light when it’s done.
Lightly oil a bowl, and transfer the dough to it. Cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise for about an hour and a half to two hours, or until it’s doubled in size.
When it’s ready, shape it into either small rolls or into a rectangle for a loaf. Let the dough rise again for another hour, or until it fills the pan.
Preheat the oven to 400F, and bake the bread for about 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove the bread from the mold or pan as soon as it comes out of the oven and let it cool on a rack.