February 3, 2020

Brioche Veneziana

For those of us who like to cook and bake, trying new dishes and recipes keep it fun and interesting even if we rely on family favorites most of the time. Recently, I tried my hand at making Brioche Venezianaan Italian brioche that's usually filled with custard cream and covered with coarse sugar grains.  These buns are usually enjoyed at breakfast with coffee, like you would do with croissant (or a cornetto if we're staying on the Italian pastry theme).
Brioche Veneziana filled with chestnut cream (left) and Nutella (right)
My fascination with these buns, or brioche Veneziana, started a few months ago on a breakfast outing with my husband.  The mall near our home opened up an Italian food hall not long ago.  I like the coffee there and we stopped by for coffee and a pastry before starting our day one morning.  Somehow the puffy round brioche bun coated in coarse sugar (shown below) - which I'd come to find out are known as brioche Veneziana -  captivated me.
Not only did they look good, they tasted good...sweet and buttery but not overly so, with a tasty vanilla custard middle.  They were light and airy - perfect with a cappuccino in the morning.  
The buns kept swirling in my mind and I found myself looking up information on them online.  I found a seemingly simple recipe in English that I just had to try.  Since it wasn't particularly demanding (mainly wait/proof time), I didn't think I had a lot to lose.
Brioche Veneziana filled with Nutella after baking
Based on family preference and also since I was not confident how they would turn out, I took another shortcut by filling the baked brioche with chestnut cream (which I have left over from holiday baking) and Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread, rather than custard.  I think they're both Italian pastry-appropriate fillings and delicious alternatives to custard
Filled with Chestnut Cream
The homemade brioche I've made thus far were not nearly as light and airy as the ones we can pick up at the Italian market.  I've attempted these buns twice.  After they turned out on the dense side during the first go, I did a little more research and thought maybe a longer knead time would help.  My family and I all agree that the second batch did turn out better (a bit lighter) but, in fairness, still not as puffed and lofty as the model I had in mind.  

Despite not being "perfect", both batches of these brioches were quickly polished off.  They freeze quite well.  I froze leftovers (unfilled) and when I was ready to serve them again, I left them out on the counter overnight, then warmed them up in the oven.  I cut a small hole in the middle of these buns and fill them with their filling right before serving.  While they're certainly not the best brioche Veneziana you can get, I like them so much that I just might keep on trying to get them better and better...wish me luck!

There is something magical and truly satisfying about baking with yeast - making bread of any kind. 
This recipe uses active dry yeast.  The main ingredients you'll likely have to gather will be the "00" flour and coarse sugar (like the Swedish pearl sugar I use here).  While you could try making these with all purpose or cake flour, the "00" flour has a lovely fine texture that's worth seeking it out for.  It's fairly easy to find now at Whole Foods and online.
I'm still figuring my way around the recipe.  For now, I knead the dough with the dough hook of my stand mixer for about 10 minutes after incorporating the ingredients.  I then let it rest for about 2 hours during the first rise.  I seem to need a longer rest time than the recipe calls for and I suspect an overnight rest in the fridge would do well for this dough (something I'd like to try next time).
After the first rise, I shape the dough into small rounds, about 65 grams each, making 7 buns.  I have not been able to get the 9 suggested in the recipe.
Let the shaped dough rest for about half an hour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Right before going into the oven, brush the tops of the brioche buns with an egg wash made of egg yolk beaten with a teaspoon or so of whole milk.  Top with coarse sugar pearls.  
The buns are done in about 13-15 minutes.  I let them cool and before serving, cut a small round in the middle of the bun and fill it with either chestnut cream or chocolate-hazelnut spread.  Filling them with traditional pastry cream is wonderful, as is anything else you like including jam or lemon curd, to name a couple other suggestions.  One of the nice things about cooking at home is being able to customize things to your own liking.  
I am really excited that we plan to go to Italy during Spring break this year!  Hopefully, my family and I will get to taste all the wonderful cornettos, brioche Veneziana, not to mention pasta, pizza, coffee, and gelato that Italy has to offer!
I'm sure I'll be reinvigorated to give these brioche buns another go by then!  In the meantime, it was really fun to make and taste these little homemade versions.  


Brioche Veneziana
Adapted from Browsing Rome

- Makes approximately 7 brioche buns - 

200 grams "00" flour
3.5 grams (half a packet) active dry yeast
50 grams sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
36 grams butter, melted
100-125ml warm milk (you may not have to use it all)
For egg wash: egg yolk beaten with 1-2 teaspoons milk
Coarse pearl sugar, for topping
Optional fillings: chestnut cream, chocolate-hazelnut spread, etc.

Sift flour and yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Form a well in the center and add the sugar, vanilla, egg, salt, and melted butter.  Mix well with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.  Place bowl into the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Add milk, a little at a time, until dough comes together into a homogenous smooth dough (you don't have to use all the milk).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, use your hands to feel the dough.  Knead the dough using the hook attachment for about 10 minutes.  

Cover the dough and let rise in a warm spot for 2 hours, until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and form small rounds, about 65 grams each, placing them onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Let sit to rise another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Brush the tops of each dough round with egg wash and top with coarse pearl sugar.  Bake for 13-15 minutes, until golden.  Remove from the oven and place onto a wire rack to cool completely.  

If desired, once cooled and ready to serve, cut a small circle in the middle of the brioche bun and fill with your choice of fillings.



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