This French loaf of enriched, buttery bread is sometimes said to be the "cake" that Marie Antoinette was referring to when she said of the starving French peasants "Let them eat cake". This may well be apocryphal, but it does illustrate the texture of brioche, which is half way between being bread and cake.
In many recipes, the dough is made first and then the softened butter is kneaded in until the dough becomes a golden, non-stick dough. It is delicious served with jam for breakfast or toasted and served with pâté particularly foie gras.
It can be shaped into small buns with a top knot like a cottage loaf and then cooked in special fluted moulds or cooked in loaf tins.
This variety of brioche has been made into a Christmas Bread. It is suitable for any time of the year, but is particularly good toasted once it has staled a little.
Be careful to make a soft dough and only add enough flour to stop it sticking to the work surface. Give the dough plenty of time to rise, as it can take longer because the high fat content slows down the yeast.
Unsalted butter, melted but cool105g
Dried apricots, chopped60g
Pecan nuts, chopped60g
Beaten egg with a pinch of sugar
1. Put the yeast in a small bowl and add 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the water.
2. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the rest of the sugar, salt and spices. Make a well in the centre and add the beaten egg, yeast mixture and melted butter. Bring together. At first it will seem very sticky, but keep working it together and it will soon leave the sides of the bowl. Put on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding extra flour if necessary, but try to keep a very soft dough.
3. Put into a clean greased bowl, cover with greased polythene and put in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until it has doubled in bulk.
4. Remove it from the bowl, scatter over the fruit and nuts. Carefully knock back or re-knead, removing all the large air bubbles and distributing the fruit and nuts. Shape into a loaf and put into a greased 450g/1lb loaf tin. Cover with the polythene and put to prove for 15 minutes or until it is 1½ times its original size.
5. When the loaf is ready to put in the oven, carefully glaze it with the egg and sugar glaze. Put in a 190C oven for approximately 25 minutes. It is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. Remove from the tin and leave to cool.