Rich and savory, this pain brioche can be used for everything from your favorite sandwich to French toast. This pain may seem like a pain, but in the end, there’s nothing like homemade bread.
Place the butter on a clean, flat work surface and, using a rolling pin, lightly pound on it to soften.
Combine the bread flour, water, milk, cold eggs, and yeast in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the hook. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is starting to become shaggy (mixed but not smooth in texture) and there is some gluten development.
Add the sugar and salt, increase the mixer speed to medium, and continue mixing for about 5 minutes, or until the dough begins to come together into a mass. Decrease the mixer speed to low, add the butter, a little at a time, and mix for about 5 minutes, or until the dough has come together and pulls away from the bowl.
Lightly oil a large bowl or container. Scrape the dough into the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to ferment for 45 minutes. Uncover and fold the dough. Again, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to ferment for 45 minutes.
Lightly flour the work surface. Uncover the dough and divide it into three 16-ounce rounds on the floured surface: For each round, with the palm of your hand, push lightly to de-gas slightly. Then pull the 2 top corner pieces toward you into the center of the now slightly flattened ball. Flip the ball over and tighten it by cupping your hands together gently around the top of the dough and carefully pulling the ball toward you, working quickly and easily until you have a nice round shape that stands up well. Using a scraper, turn the round seam side down to bench rest. Cover with plastic wrap and bench rest for 15 minutes.
Lightly butter three 9-inch loaf pans. To make the egg wash, combine the egg with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl, whisking to blend. Uncover the dough and, if necessary, lightly flour the work surface. Gently press on the dough to de-gas and carefully shape each round into a bâtard:
Pull the 2 top corner pieces toward you into the center of the now slightly flattened ball. Flip the ball over and tighten it by cupping your hands together gently around the top of the dough and carefully pulling the ball toward you, working quickly and easily until you have a nice round shape that stands up well.
Using a scraper, turn the dough seam side up to bench rest. After it is done resting, when you are ready to create the final shape, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and, with the palm of your hand, push lightly to de-gas slightly. Flatten the dough into a rectangle, then fold the top third into the center, making a seam.
Fold the dough again to bring it to the bottom edge, sealing the seam with the heel of your hand. Take the top 2 corners and fold them into the center by about 1 inch. If you are right-handed (or reverse if you are left-handed), place your left thumb on the center seam and fold the dough over your thumb, using your fingers to push the dough up and over your thumb, moving down the length of the dough. Use the heel of your hand to seal the dough closed at the seam that is at the bottom edge.
Then fold the top over to the bottom edge and lightly seal the seam closed with the heel of your hand. Tighten the loaf slightly by cupping your hands together around the top of the dough and gently pulling the dough toward you, working quickly and easily until you have a fat log shape with tapered ends that stands up well.
Place 1 bâtard, seam side down, in each prepared pan. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of each loaf with the egg wash. (Do not discard the remaining egg wash.) Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and proof for 2 hours.
About 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the loaves, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Uncover the dough and again, using a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of each loaf with the remaining egg wash. (If desired, the pans can be set on sheet pans for baking, but this is not necessary.) Transfer the loaves to the oven. Bake for 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and shiny and the sides are firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.