Here’s a standard brioche dough that will make twelve 1.6-ounce brioche à têtes, one single loaf, or a batch of cinnamon (a.k.a. “sticky”) buns. Start by putting into a bowl:
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3 ounces all-purpose flour
Stir all of it together withe a fork until the mixture is the consistency of a thick batter.
This is your sponge. Use it right away or, for best flavor, make it a day ahead of time, let it ferment for an hour at room temperature then refrigerate it overnight. When you’re ready to prepare your dough scrape it into the bowl of an electric mixer.
Then whisk together a mixture of:
6 ounces all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
…and sprinkle over the sponge in the mixer bowl.
Let it sit for 2 hours, 2 1/2 – 3 if the sponge was refrigerated. The dome of dry mix will crack as the sponge expands. It may even bubble through in a few spots. This is good.
To mix, add two cold eggs and using the dough hook, beat the mixture for 2-3 minutes on medium speed.
When it gets to looking like so…
…start adding your butter. With the machine running, begin to add 4 ounces of very soft butter. If you want the brioche to rise high, say for a large brioche loaf, go a little lighter, maybe 2 1/2 ounces. If you’re making something rich like cinnamon rolls, the full four ounces work great. For maximum flavor use an ounce or two of browned butter. Add it a tablespoon at a time, letting the dough absorb each addition before adding another, about two minutes of mixing per tablespoon of butter.
Notice how light and sticky the dough gets. This is a terrific consistency for something like cinnamon rolls or têtes-de-brioche. Again if you want a higher-rising brioche, keep kneading the dough for another ten minutes or so to develop more structure (gluten).
Once the dough is uniform (and it might take an extra bowl scraping or two), scrape it into a oiled bowl or rising container.
Let it rise another 1 1/2 hours until it looks about like so:
Drape a piece of plastic wrap over it and deflate it by gently pressing down on it with your hand.
Put it into the refrigerator, letting it chill for a minimum of two hours, preferably overnight, to firm it (you’ll likely need to deflate it one more time after the first hour or so). For maximum flavor let it ripen for up to three days in the fridge. It can be frozen for several months.