brioches dolci

venerdì 4 dicembre 2015

I remember the first time I came across these sweet buns called brioches, while spending my summer in Calabria (a region of southern Italy) about three years ago. I was there with my boyfriend Livio and his family which has been going there for the summer holidays since for ever and obviously know their way around the different towns.
I on the other hand was an absolute tourist and when we would go out for breakfast everyone would tell me to try this apparently traditional brioche.
So, when in the bar, they all knew what to order: 'brioche e cappuccino grazie' (a brioche and a cappuccino thanks) but I don't know what it was, they just didn't look so appealing to me. So I would go for the classic cornetto (croissant) and a glass of hot milk with cocoa (my safe choice since age six probably). 
Then one day we stopped in a small town called Palizzi, famous for its granita, and out of nowhere I ordered a brioche con granita alle mandorle (a brioche with an almond flavoured slush).
I can still remember that unique flavour that made me scream out loud mammamia! (an expression I often use after tasting something memorable).
At first I took a bite at this sweet bun, so soft and fragrant, and then I immediately had a spoonful of granita. Perfection. The two things together were like a giant hug from someone you really love.

So today, three years later that sweet memory, I tried making my own brioches at home. 
This recipe comes from Livio's grandmother and it is a Neapolitan version, very simple to prepare and so damn good. Like most food from Naples.

Brioches dolci napoletane

Makes 9 large brioches

Manitoba flour, 500 g
white sugar, 80 g
salt, a pinch
unsalted butter, 100 g
eggs, 2
fresh yeast, 25 g 
vanilla powder (I used two packets of vanillina paneangeli), about 2 g
lukewarm full fat milk, about 125 ml

Note: remember to take the butter out of the fridge at least a half an hour before so that it softens.

Lightly heat the milk and add the fresh yeast so that it melts completely. Set aside. Place the flour in a large bowl and start adding all the other ingredients: sugar, salt, butter, eggs and vanilla powder.
Whisk with a fork while slowly pouring the milk and when all the ingredients have come together, transfer to a clean and lightly floured surface and work it with your hands until you get a smooth and consistent dough.
Sprinkle the bowl with some flour and place the dough inside covering it with a clean cloth. Leave to rise for about one hour or until it duplicates in size. It helps if the bowl is placed in a warm room.
When the dough has duplicated you can start shaping the brioches. Cut the dough in 9/10 equal balls and roll each one into a cylinder. Combine the two edges of the cylinder and form a little top knot with one edge.
When all of the brioches are shaped place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and let rise for another hour, or until doubled in volume.
Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown on top, at 180°. 

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