This is a bread I've made many times before and never tire of. Eating a slice of brioche is almost like eating a slice of cake. Indeed, the famous words of Marie Antoinette "Let them eat cake" are said to be a mistranslation of "Let them eat brioche."
There are numerous good recipes for brioche. Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice has three of varying richness, Rich Man's Brioche, Middle-class Brioche, and Poor Man's Brioche. All are excellent. Shirley Corriher's CookWise contains two Ultimate Brioche recipes, one for bread-like brioche and one for cake-like brioche. And if you are looking for things to do with brioche, there are a number of variation to be found in Baking with Julia. So it should come as no surprise that I was eager to try Hamelman's recipe.
Brioche is a wonderfully versatile dough. When I did the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, I used brioche to make pigs-in-a-blanket and Julia Child's variation on Beef Wellington among other things. I have the pans and have made the traditional brioche loaves or têtes before, but I find that shape isn't particularly useful. So this time around I began with a pullman's loaf shown above. The dough was placed in the pan in pieces, hence the segmentation you see. When done this way (an experiment), the loaf pulls apart easily as pieces, but can be sliced as well. This made great sandwiches, but I also ate a lot of it out of hand. I also used it to make cinnamon toast, eggs-in-a-basket, and bread pudding. French toast is also an obvious possibility. The dough handled pretty much as Hamelman said it would (although I didn't have his religious experience). It is a long but straightforward process.
The recipe makes quite a lot and seemed to be near the limit of what I would want to put in my mixer and more than I really need at one time. The second time around, I cut the recipe back by a third. This still made a lot of brioche to play with, about 36 ounces. I went to Baking with Julia for ideas and ended up using three recipes contributed by Nancy Silverton. I used 8 ounces to make the Savory Brioche Pockets. I took 1 ounce balls of dough and rolled them out into circles, added the filling, put another circle on top, crimped the dough, brushed with an egg glaze, and baked. The filling can be pretty much what ever you want making this a great general purpose recipe. (Silverton's recipe calls for potatoes, goat cheese, and asparagus which is what I used, but there is no reason to stick to this.)
I used 18 ounces to make a pan of Pecan Sticky Buns. I skipped the lamination step (using brioche and additional butter to make a simple laminated dough) but the results were plenty rich without the added butter. (The original recipe, which is quite involved, is extraordinary, the best sticky buns I've ever had or am likely to ever have.) The remaining dough went to make a few Twice-Baked Brioches, little brioche rolls with an almond cream topping. That's quite a lot of product considering I was only using 2/3 of the original recipe.
Overall, Hamelman recipe is great, but then there are numerous other excellent recipes for brioche. How can you really go wrong with a dough that is so very rich? And so versatile?