2 tablespoons warm water
7g fast-action dried yeast
70g caster sugar
500g strong white flour, sifted
375g butter, cut into small cubes
For the glaze
1 tablespoon icing sugar
for the apricot butter
7 ripe apricots, halved and with stones removed
30g caster sugar
Place the warm water in a jug with the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar and leave on top of the Aga for about 10 minutes until a thick foam has formed on top of the water.
Place the flour and remaining sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer; pour in the yeast liquid and mix with a dough hook. Beat in the eggs one at a time until you have a smooth dough. Once all the eggs are added, mix the dough for a further 3 or so minutes until it is smooth and silky and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Add the butter piece by piece to the dough while still mixing, until all of it is incorporated and the dough is glossy and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with lightly greased cling film and leave it to prove on top of the Aga for 3 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. Knock back the dough on a flour-dusted surface and knead again, then shape into 2 round loaves and place in the brioche pans.
Whisk together the egg and icing sugar for the glaze and brush over the dough with a pastry brush. You may not need all of the glaze. Cover each pan loosely with a layer of cling film and leave for 1–2 hours on top of the Aga until the loaves have doubled in size.
Bake the loaves on the bottom runners of the Roasting Oven for 20–30 minutes until they are golden brown, covering them with a cold shelf if they start to brown too much (or use the Baking Oven). Turn them once to ensure even cooking. Leave them to cool (although you may wish to eat a slice or two still warm from the Aga – scrumptious!).
For the apricot butter, place the halved apricots in an Aga-proof dish, sprinkle with the sugar and add the butter. Bake in the Simmering Oven for 1 hour until the fruit is soft, then purée in a food processor or blender to a smooth paste. Serve the apricot butter with thick slices of brioche, toasted if you like.
The brioche is best eaten on the day it is made, although it can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Alternatively, cut the loaf into slices and freeze in individual portions, then toast in an Aga basket.
‘Sweet Things From The Aga’ by Hannah Miles.
Photographs by Mike Cooper; Absolute Press