White Chocolate Brioche Buns

Monday, April 10, 2017

White Chocolate Brioche Buns

As a kid I looked forward to Easter Sunday. For one thing, there was the twice-yearly tradition of communion held during the morning church meeting. While I didn't relish the idea of a longer-than-usual service, I looked forward to snacking on the leftover communion elements while sitting in the back seat of our 1968 Ford.  The way home was never sweeter than when nibbling on some of Mother's bread and sipping the juice straight out of the Welch's jar. The other thing to anticipate was the lovely meal my mother had prepared that morning before we gussied up in our Sunday best (as much as Mennonites were permitted to gussy) and zoomed over the hills and around the curves to the conservative church where my father was the Bishop.

Arriving home after church, the wonderful smells emanating from the kitchen brought joy unspeakable to my 8-year-old mind.  My job was setting the table and how I loved this task!  It was so much better than washing dishes at the end of the meal, which invariably I was stuck with, too. I spread a lace cloth and then laid out Mother's Blue Willow dishes, reserved for holidays and the occasion of special visitors. Carefully I placed the silverware - the good kind which stayed in the chest other days - and then filled glasses with water for each guest. I dug into the back of the china cabinet for the pretty etched glass salt and pepper shakers and the little 3-compartment dish Mother used for pickles, beets and tiny slices of celery. Not to be forgotten was the round deviled egg plate, though I cringed at using the word 'devil' on such a holy day. Lastly, I ran out to the fence row for a handful of daffodils to stuff into the fluted, Depression-era vase for the centerpiece.

Mother always had things timed perfectly. By the time guests were coming through the front door, the two of us were busy dishing out food onto pretty platters. Pan-fried chicken and gravy. Roasted ham with a pineapple slice for garnish. Mounds of mashed potatoes swimming in pools of browned butter. Corn - the yummy kind we harvested from the garden each year and then froze so we could eat it year-round. Applesauce. And always homemade honey bread.

Bowls of food were passed and the table talk was animated and joyful. I kept a wary eye out for guests who needed a refill of their water glasses and dished up extra food for second helpings all around.  And when everyone thought they couldn't eat another bite, we brought out the dessert, which was usually several varieties of pie or sometimes Graham Cracker Pudding.

These days, I still look forward to Easter and gathering our family around the dinner table. I set out Mother's Blue Willow dishes and I grab a handful of spring flowers for a vase in the center. The menu changes somewhat from year to year, but ham and browned butter mashed potatoes regularly make their appearance. And there is always a delicious dessert.

These White Chocolate Brioche Buns are on the menu for this year. The recipe is by Claire Ptak of Violet Bakery in London. Her desserts are some of my favorites, and this one is no exception. The rolls are so soft and pillowy, the custard not too sweet. It's a recipe I'll be making a lot, not just at Easter.

Happy Easter!

Brioche Buns 

White Chocolate Brioche Buns
Recipe by Claire Ptak

Makes 12

For the brioche
250g whole milk
14g dried yeast
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
500g All-purpose flour (Note: I added a bit extra - maybe an additional 25g)
75g unsalted butter, softened
For glazing: 1 egg and 2 tablespoons cream or whole milk

For the white chocolate cream
500g whole milk
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
60g cornflour (I used cornstarch)
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
60g unsalted butter, softened
170g white chocolate, chopped
300g whipping cream
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

1.  Put all brioche ingredients except the glaze inside the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix until all of the ingredients are combined. Let the mixture rest about 10 minutes and then mix again until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and put in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes. Then put it back in the mixer and knead again for five minutes. Remove dough hook, cover and let rise for an hour and a half. When the dough has doubled in size, shape into 12 individual buns and put on two parchment paper lined baking sheets. Cover with a tea towel and let them rise for 30 minutes. (Note: The dough is sticky and a bit tricky to work with. I used a large muffin pan and lined each cup with parchment. Then I scooped a large spoonful of dough into each cup. This worked beautifully.)

2.  Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Whisk together the egg and milk or cream and brush the tops of the brioche buns. Bake until puffed and golden - about 15 - 20 minutes. Let them cool completely before filling.

3.  Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil with the salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornflour and sugar before whisking in the eggs. When the milk has boiled, temper the egg mixture with the hot milk by pouring half of it over gradually, whisking continuously. Pour in the remaining hot milk and whisk well. Pour the whole thing back into the saucepan and put over a medium heat, whisking continuously until the pastry cream is very thick.

4.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until smooth. Finally whisk in the chocolate pieces. Cover with a piece of clingfilm (right down on the surface of the custard) and put in refrigerator until cooled completely.

5.  When you'[re ready to serve the buns, take the custard from the fridge and whisk to loosen it. Whip the whipping cream and then fold the custard and cream together.

6.  Split the brioche buns and fill with cream. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve at once.


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