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These brioche buns make for real comfort food


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By Life Pastry - September 28, 2020

 


Dulce de Leche

Brioche Buns


Makes 12 buns


Dulce de leche is a completely decadent concoction made of milk mixed with sugar that is cooked long and slow until it caramelizes and becomes thick and deep golden brown. It’s like eating the richest caramel candy you can imagine: so sweet it hurts your teeth but so rich you really don’t mind. A shortcut method of making dulce de leche is to simmer an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for about 3 hours. It slowly caramelizes in the can; you can use it in cakes, frostings, pies, and cookies. One of our pastry chefs, Miguel, who hails from Mexico, where dulce de leche is popular, filled our fluffy buttery brioche with this gooey caramel for a monthly special. It was a knockout combination. It also makes for a spectacular presentation when you cut into the brioche and the dulce de leche oozes out. Prepare this when you want to show off for a special brunch.


Because the various components need to be prepared ahead, be sure to plan accordingly.

One 14-ounce/400-gram can sweetened condensed milk (from whole milk, not skim or fat-free)


1 recipe Master Brioche Dough

1 large egg (about 50 grams), for egg wash

2 tablespoons sugar

Large pinch of ground cinnamon

 

Make the dulce de leche: Place the unopened can of condensed milk in a pot tall enough that you can cover it with a few inches of water. Fill the pot with water and make sure it covers the can all the way to the top and then some. Bring the water to a boil. Lower the temperature to medium so that the water is at a steady simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 3 hours, keeping an eye on the water level and adding more if necessary. The entire can should be underwater at all times.

After 3 hours of simmering, turn off the heat and let the can sit in the water until it is cool enough to handle. Remove the can from the water and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (The unopened can of dulce de leche can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 month.)

Pro tip: VERY IMPORTANT! This has never happened to us or anyone we know, but we have heard stories that if the water is not completely covering the can, it could explode, and the same if you don’t let the can cool completely before opening. So please be careful! Again, we have never seen it, but better to be safe than sorry.

 

Mix the brioche dough and let it proof for 6 hours or up to overnight in the fridge as directed.

Line a 12-cup jumbo muffin tin with muffin papers and set it aside. (You can also make these without a muffin tin and bake them free form on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.)

Divide the brioche dough into 12 pieces, each roughly 3½ ounces/100 grams. Place the dough pieces on the work surface and one by one round each piece into a ball. To do this, cup the dough in your hand, making a cage for the dough with your palm and fingers. Press the dough into the work surface while simultaneously moving the dough and your hand in a circular motion. (Rounding buns is sort of like tying your shoe—it is a very easy motion once you get it but first learning it takes some practice. Keep practicing and you will get it! The purpose of rounding the dough is to create a taut ball of dough that allows the brioche to grow and proof evenly and bake nicely.) Place the brioche balls in the muffin tins or on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof at room temperature for about 1 hour, until the brioches are soft and relaxed.

Open the can of dulce de leche and stir it with a spoon—it should have the same consistency as uncooked sweetened condensed milk, like very thick, viscous honey. If the dulce de leche has cooked too much, it will have a consistency more like sour cream; in that case you need to thin it out by mixing in a few drops of milk or water. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip with the dulce de leche. Using a chopstick or a small paring knife, poke a hole in the center on the top of a brioche ball and push into the dough; you want to poke deep into the brioche but not so deep you go to the bottom. Place the tip of the pastry bag deep into the hole and slowly pull up, angling the pastry bag forward and backward and left and right as you pipe. The goal is to pipe the dulce evenly throughout the ball and not just in the center. Continue with all the brioche balls and all the dulce de leche. The dulce de leche may leak out the top of the brioche, which is normal; do your best to keep it all inside, and if needed, wipe off any rogue dulce de leche with your finger. Cover again with the plastic wrap and let the brioches continue to proof for 30 to 45 minutes, until the brioches are wobbly and feel a bit like water balloons when you poke them.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Whisk the egg for the egg wash in a small bowl with a fork. Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the brioches evenly with the egg wash. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly and generously across the tops of the brioches. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan midway through the baking time, until the brioches are golden brown all over.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Dulce de leche brioches are best served the same day you bake them so the dulce de leche is soft and the brioches are fresh.



Matcha Cream Puffs



Makes about 32 puffs


Matcha is a Japanese green tea powder that has a distinctive grassy flavor and sweet aftertaste. I first fell in love with matcha as a young girl after tasting it as an ice cream flavor. It was the least popular flavor at the kids’ table (mango and coconut were most popular, with ginger as a runner-up), which meant more for me. At the time I felt very adult in my liking of this rich, slightly vegetal flavor. It can taste a bit bitter and even slightly off-putting if you don’t balance it with enough cream and sugar, so this recipe makes sure to use both. The matcha is blended into a white chocolate cream base that softens the flavor, and the cream puffs are topped with a traditional craquelin cookie topping, which adds crunch and sweetness to the puff. They are gorgeous with their mossy green interiors and speckled cookie top.

The matcha cream needs to be made at least a day in advance, so be sure to plan accordingly.


Matcha Cream

Craquelin Tops

½ cup/1 stick/115 grams unsalted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon/150 grams all-purpose flour

4 large eggs (about 200 grams), at room temperature

 

Make the matcha cream at least 1 day and up to 3 days in advance. Make the craquelin tops and set them aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°F and place racks in the center and bottom third of the oven. Butter two baking sheets or line them with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter, sugar, salt, and 1 cup/240 grams water over medium heat until the butter is melted. Do not let the mixture come to a boil or the water will evaporate. Add the flour all at once and use a wooden spoon to stir the flour into the liquid until it is fully incorporated. The mixture will look like a stiff pancake batter. Keep stirring vigorously over medium heat and the mixture will slowly start to get stiffer and look more like loose dough and less like batter. It will lose its shine and become more matte as well. Stir continuously for 3 to 4 minutes, until the dough starts to leave a film on the bottom of the pan.

Remove the dough from the heat and place it in a stand mixer. Using a paddle attachment, mix the dough for 1 minute on medium-low speed. Alternatively, beat the dough in a bowl by hand with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes. (This will allow some of the steam to escape and the dough will cool slightly.)

Crack the eggs into a small pitcher or liquid measuring cup and whisk to break up the yolks. With the mixer on medium-low, gradually add the eggs to the dough. When the eggs are all added, turn the mixer up to medium and beat for about 20 seconds, until the dough is glossy and shiny and soft like gluey mashed potatoes.

Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1-inch round tip or cut the corner so that the hole is about 1 inch in diameter. Pipe out round puffs onto the prepared baking sheets about 1½ inches in diameter, spacing the puffs a few inches away from each other. Place a craquelin top centered directly on top of each puff.

Place the baking sheets in the oven, one on each rack. The heat of the oven will immediately start turning the liquid in the dough into steam and cause the puffs to inflate.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the puffs have expanded and started to turn golden brown, then turn the oven down to 325°F. Continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets and switching their positions after 10 to 15 minutes, until the puffs are entirely golden brown like honey.

Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets on a wire rack. (At this point the unfilled puffs can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Refresh in a 300°F oven for 3 to 4 minutes if at room temperature, 8 to 10 minutes if frozen, then let cool again before continuing.)

The puffs must be completely cool before you fill them. Poke a hole in the bottom of each puff with a chopstick or the tip of a small paring knife. Fit a pastry bag with a ¼-inch round tip and fill the bag with the matcha cream. Pipe the cream into the puffs until each puff is fully filled. The puffs are best served immediately, but can be held in the fridge in an airtight container and served within 5 to 6 hours.

Leftover puffs can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 day. They won’t be as crunchy the next day, but they are still delicious.

 


Matcha Cream

Makes about 4¼ cups

2 cups/480 grams heavy cream

2 tablespoons sifted matcha powder (sift the matcha before measuring)

4 ounces/120 grams white chocolate, chopped into small pieces (about ⅔ cup)

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

 

In a medium saucepan, heat the cream over medium-high heat until just before it comes to a boil, when little bubbles form along the side of the pan. Place the matcha powder in a small bowl and add about ½ cup/120 grams of the hot cream. Whisk the matcha and cream to make a slurry.

Add the white chocolate to the matcha slurry. Pour the rest of the hot cream on top of the white chocolate and let stand for a minute or so to melt the chocolate. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a small storage container and stir in the salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.

When you’re ready to use the matcha cream, whip it in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, using a handheld electric mixer, or by hand with a whisk until it is soft and fluffy and holds a stiff peak.

The whipped matcha cream can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 2 hours before using.

 


Craquelin Tops

Makes 32 disks

½ cup firmly packed/110 grams light brown sugar

4 tablespoons/½ stick/60 grams unsalted butter, softened, at room temperature

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup/70 grams all-purpose flour

 

In a medium bowl using a wooden spoon, stir together the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt. Beat until well combined. Add the flour and continue to beat until all the flour is mixed in and you have a firm dough. Place the dough in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes to chill a bit, which will make it easier to roll out.

Generously flick flour over the work surface and roll out the dough until it is ¼ inch thick. Use a 1½-inch round cookie cutter to cut rounds of dough. Place them on a flat plate or baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Keep cutting circles and rerolling the dough until you have used up all the dough and have 32 circles.

Uncut craquelin dough can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

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