I was sent product free of charge by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas in order to facilitate the writing of this post. All opinions are my own.
Like many people, I have a healthy obsession with the Great British Bake Off, which is probably what put the idea of learning to bake bread into my mind. Who hasn't fantasized about getting a Hollywood Handshake, am I right? The thing is that the show is so gentile and lovely and everyone is so nice to each other, that I think I have been begun associating baking with everything good and warm and fuzzy. Now if only there could be a show that made me feel that way about vegetables!
I decided to do a brioche style bread because... well, because brioche is freaking delicious, but also because I wanted to lean slightly sweet. In an ode to Chelsea buns, I decided to do a filling with red currant jam and some almond paste, but instead of doing a swirl, I decided to do little round buns that one could pull off a larger loaf. Much to my delight, this recipe worked so perfectly that I called my mother in total elation, shouting, "I made bread!" while covering my phone in sugar glaze and crumbs in the process. The buns come away easily and are sturdy, yet fluffy and soft as a pillow, with the perfect little surprise pocket of filling in the center of each one. If snuggling into a fuzzy blanket with a good cup of tea, a good Netflix series, and this whole loaf of bread in front of me isn't self care, I don't know what is.
The beauty of this recipe is that it can literally be customized to any flavor combination. Peanut butter and grape jelly? Sure! Orange marmalade and pistachio? Why not! I can imagine a thousand different filling that would work equally as well as the one I used, and the subtle vanilla flavor of the bread itself would work well with any of them. And seeing as how a layperson like me was able to make this so easily, I'm gonna go ahead and say this recipe is super beginner friendly! The main thing to remember is this: you have to take care of that yeast. Keep it warm and cozy. No cold eggs, no cold milk, no cold butter. And if your kitchen isn't over 70 degrees, I suggest heating your oven to its lowest setting, turning it off, and putting your dough in there to proof.
Let me know in the comments below what you think! Have you every baked bread from scratch? What flavors would you fill yours with?
Pull Apart Stuffed Vanilla Brioche
1/2 tablespoon of instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon of salt
1/4 cup sugar
3-4 cups bread flour
1 cup warmed whole milk
2 large room temperature eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean Paste
Any flavor or jelly, jam, or marmalade
7 ounce tube of almond paste (or homemade)
For Egg Wash:
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon sugar
For the Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract
milk until desired consistency
Combine 1 cup of the flour with the yeast, salt, and sugar and whisk together using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Add in the milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla extract and continue to whisk with the paddle attachment until the mixture is completely smooth (remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything has been incorporated). Start adding in the remaining flour 1/3 a cup at a time. About half way through, you will need to switch out the paddle attachment for a dough hook. Keep adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed it until everything is the same smooth texture and the dough springs back when poked. Put into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put someplace warm for proof for about 2 hours.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down the risen dough and divide it into palm sized rounds. Flatten each round and spread a teaspoon of jelly and a teaspoon of almond paste onto the center of the dough, leaving the edges clean. Fold the edges over the filing and pinch them together to seal the dough, then shape into a ball and place into a non stick bunt pan. You should be able to get at least 2 layers of buns. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside somewhere warm to proof for about 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Combine the egg yolk, vanilla, and sugar in a small bowl and whisk together. Using a pastry brush, apply the egg wash to the top of the proofed buns. Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes, or until the tops of the buns are lightly golden brown. Let cool.
Mix the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk in a small bowl. After the bread is completely cool, remove it from the pan and place on a plate. Drizzle the glaze over the top and serve.