From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
15 g (1/2oz) fresh yeast
70 ml (2 1/2fl oz) warm milk
15 g (1/2oz) salt
500 g (1lb 2oz) strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
355 g (12 1/2oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
60 g (2 1/4oz) sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tblsp milk
Grease a large brioche mould that is 24cm (9 1/2in) at the top and 11cm (4 1/2in) wide at the base.
Place the yeast and warm milk in the bowl of an electric food mixer. Lightly beat with a wire whisk, then beat in the salt. Add the flour and whole eggs and knead the dough with the dough hook for about 10 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or knead with your hands for about 20 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
In a separate bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar until creamy. Switch on the mixer at a low speed and add this mixture to the dough a little at a time, making sure it’s completely amalgamated each time before adding more. If you’re working by hand, squeeze the butter into the dough. Continue to mix for about 5 minutes in the mixer or 15 minutes by hand, until the dough is perfectly smooth. It should be glossy, shiny and fairly elastic.
Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
Knock back the dough by flicking it over with your fingertips no more than 3 times. Return the dough to the bowl, cover as before and chill for several hours but no more than 24 hours in total.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/gas mark 7).
Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and place on a lightly floured surface, then shape into a large bowl.
To prepare the glaze, beat the egg yolk in a small dish with the milk. Lightly glaze the brioche working from the outside in, being careful not to let any run into cracks in the dough or edges of the mould, as this will prevent the dough from rising properly.
Leave the brioche to rise again in a warm, draught-free area until it has almost doubled in size, then give it another light glaze. Using a scissors dipped in cold water, snip around the edge. Bake for 40–45 minutes, until it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Unmould immediately and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into slices and use as required.