This basic yet flavorful dough lends itself well to celebrations; top with nuts, warmed jams or a simple sprinkle of confectioner's sugar.
Excerpted from The Baker's Catalogue, ©2006 The King Arthur Flour Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
1 large or 2 small loaves
For the dough:
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup water
1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange or lemon zest (optional)
For the filling:
1 to 1 1/2 cups dried fruit and/or nuts
For the topping:
1 tablespoon melted butter, orange marmalade, or apricot jam; OR chopped nuts
1. Combine all of the dough ingredients. Mix and knead them together till you've made a soft, sticky dough. Mix in dried fruit or nuts. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn to coat all sides, cover, and place in a warm spot to rise for 3 to 4 hours. This rich dough is slow to rise; give it plenty of time, especially if the room is cold.
2. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly greased or floured work surface, and gently deflate it. Divide it in half (if you're making two small loaves), or roll into a ball for one large star-shaped loaf. Use about two-thirds of the dough for the tall fluted pan.
3. Place the dough in the greased pan(s), set it in a warm place, cover, and allow it to rise till it's about even with the top of pan. This will take 2 to 4 hours, depending on the warmth of the room. Another option is to cover the dough in the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, then refrigerate it for 12 to 14 hours. Remove it from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking. Bake the small loaves in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 25 minutes. Bake the star and tall brioche in a preheated 300 degrees F oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until deep golden brown all over, and the internal temperature is 195 degrees F. Tent breads with foil if they appear to be browning too quickly.
4. Remove the bread from the oven, and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Loosen the edges, and turn out onto a serving plate. Brush with melted butter or warmed jam, sprinkle heavily with confectioners' sugar, or drizzle with confectioners' sugar glaze and sprinkle with chopped nuts.
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