Tender, slightly sweet and rich with a large quantity of butter and eggs, brioche is a delicious, indulgent bread. The dough also makes an excellent, and somewhat unusual, crust for tarts. It’s a lovely dough to handle – because it has so much fat, it is silky smooth.

Fig and raspberry tart with pistachio frangipane and brioche crust

Search out SAF instant yeast with a gold, white and blue label: it is made specifically for doughs that contain a fairly high amount of sugar. It’s sold at shops specialising in baking products, such as Twins (1/F, 137 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, tel: 8111 3090) and I Love Cake (188 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2671 2644), and online at bakingwarehouse.com.

The butter for the brioche needs to be the right consistency or it won’t incorporate correctly into the dough. If it’s too cold, it will remain in lumps and if it’s too soft, it will melt and make the dough greasy. Take it from the fridge and cut it into 20 to 24 chunks, then leave them at room temper­ature until they’re pliable, but not melting. A heavy-duty stand mixer makes mixing this dough very easy. It can be made with an electric hand mixer, but be careful that the motor doesn’t overheat. The dough needs to be made a day in advance, so it can rise overnight in the fridge.

For this tart, you will use only half the amount of pistachio frangipane. The rest of the frangipane keeps in the fridge for about a week, or frozen for at least a month. Buy shelled, unsalted, bright green pistachios – the beigeones make the filling look very dull.

For the brioche:
260 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
5 grams instant yeast
40 grams granulated sugar
25ml tepid water
¾ tsp fine sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
125 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened

For the pistachio frangipane:
110 grams shelled, unsalted pistachios
110 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
60 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp rum
½ tsp vanilla extract
20 grams plain (all-purpose) flour

For the filling:
About 16 fresh figs
1 punnet fresh raspberries

Make the brioche. Cut the butter into 20 to 24 pieces then leave them at room temperature until pliable. Put the flour, yeast and sugar into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough paddle (if using a hand-held mixer, use the beater attachments). Stir to evenly combine the ingredients, then mix in the salt, water and eggs. Beat the ingredi­ents to form a rough, shaggy dough.

Change the dough paddle (or beater attachments) to a dough hook. With the mixer speed on medium (or medium-high, on a hand-held mixer) start adding the butter a chunk or two at a time. Beat the dough until the butter is almost fully incorporated before adding more. After all the butter has been added and incorp­orated, continue beating for five minutes. By this time, the dough should have formed a soft ball around the dough hook, and will be slapping around the sides of the bowl as you beat it. If the dough hasn’t formed a ball and is sticking to the sides and bottom of the bowl, beat in flour a little at a time until the dough forms a soft ball. (You don’t want to add an excess of flour or the baked brioche will be hard.)

Continue to beat the dough for several minutes, or until it passes the windowpane test: take a small lump of dough and roll it into a ball between the palms of your hand. Stretch the dough between your fingers to form a rectangle: it’s ready if the dough stretches very thin; this shows that the gluten is fully formed. If the dough tears before it stretches very thin, continue to beat it.

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When the dough is ready, put it into a lightly oiled bowl. Flip the dough over so the oiled side is on top, then cover the bowl with cling film. Leave at room temperature until the dough has almost doubled in size. Remove the cling film then punch the dough firmly to deflate it. Turn the dough over in the bowl, cover it tightly with cling film then refrigerate overnight.

The next day, make the frangipane. Put the pistachios, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground. Cut the butter into chunks, add them to the nuts-sugar-salt mixture and process until incorporated. Mix in the egg, rum and vanilla extract, then stir in the flour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

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Scale out 350 grams of the cold brioche dough and shape it into a disc. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a thin circle that’s about 30cm in diameter. Fit the dough into the contours of a fluted tart pan (22cm in diameter and about 2.5cm deep) with a removable bottom. Press the brioche against the fluted sides so it adheres, then trim off the excess so it’s flush with the edge of the pan. Put the trimmings into the bowl holding the rest of the dough, cover with cling film and refrigerate.

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Spread half of the pistachio frangipane over the brioche in the pan. Quarter the figs and place them upright over the frangipane, setting them close together in concentric circles to fill the tart. Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes, then carefully add the raspberries, placing them at even intervals between the figs. Bake for about 30 more minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the brioche is brown, firm and fragrant. Cool to room temperature before slicing.

The rest of the brioche dough can be shaped into brioche buns, or into small loaves. Fill the pans of your choice about halfway with the dough, then let it rise at room temperature until almost doubled. Brush with beaten egg then bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees. The brioche is ready when it’s light, brown, fragrant and firm to the touch.