Lago di Como
The one reason for which I never mind getting up early on a Saturday morning is, maybe quite obviously, having to catch a plane (or a train or bus) to some nice location. So taking a flight to Milan at 7.15 am on a Saturday morning in May was not really a problem. Even less so because I was meeting two good friends from Barcelona at the airport. Luckily, we landed more or less at the same time. So before we knew it, we had picked up our cappuccino-coloured Fiat Panda and were on the way to Lake Como.
We would stay for an extended weekend at the apartment of my friend’s family. Already excited about finally going back to Italy and meeting my friends, that feeling only increased seeing the view from the apartment’s balcony: a stunning view over the lake. After a simple lunch with some good wine on that lovely balcony, we took the ferry to Como. Even with some rain on the way, the boat trip was still beautiful with the many picturesque villages and villas on the sides of the lake. And the sight of the people helping the ferry to moor at the different stops is pretty funny: from somebody looking like a fisherman completely dressed in rain-proof clothes to someone working in a restaurant and coming out of the kitchen when the ferry arrives.
Como itself is a beautiful town with coloured houses, a grand cathedral, nice shops for clothes and food, a boulevard with view on the lake, and plenty of interesting looking cafes and restaurants. Besides just walking around, taking in the atmosphere, and of course drinking a glass of prosecco on one of the squares, my friend also brought us to a bakery where we had to go to buy their special sweet bread. A very soft, rich and sticky bread filled with apricot jam, as good for dessert as for any other occasion.
The following days we had a great time: hiking around in the hills between the different villages, discovering some of the towns and having plenty of delicious espresso and food. We even ate in the restaurant where the employees come out to help moor the ferry. In between that task, they clearly still have time to prepare amazing food. Because it turned out to be a place that is chique but still very relaxed, with delicious food and a bottle of limoncello on the table to help yourself after dinner. But one of the best things, food-wise, was still this sweet bread from Como. Although the focaccia from the same bakery was very good as well and I am usually more of a savoury person, the sweet bread was impressive due to its softness. So of course, I had to give it a try to prepare a version of it as well. And although it might never be the same as from that bakery, it is a very good breakfast treat.
Brioche with jam filling
During the research for this recipe, I went through many different recipes for brioche and other types of bread. The result is a combination of those different recipes and my own memory of the delicious bread we had in Como. The recipe is easy to make, but the dough does need time to proof overnight in the fridge.
- 200 grams of flour – plus extra for dusting
- 2 eggs – at room temperature
- 60 ml full fat milk – at room temperature
- 15 grams of sugar, plus one large tablespoon
- 3.5 grams of yeast – 0.5 standard sachet
- 100 grams of butter – at room temperature
- Around 3 tablespoons of jam – your preferred flavour
Place the flour in a large bowl and add the sugar, a pinch of salt, and the yeast. Pour the milk in the bowl and add the eggs as well. Using a whisk, mix this well to a smooth batter. If you have an electric mixer it will make your life much easier, but the mixing can be done by hand as well. Chop the softened butter in very small pieces and start adding them bit by bit to the batter, while continuing to whisk. Continue mixing until all the butter has been incorporated. The texture will be somewhere between batter and dough, very sticky and glossy.
Clean the sides of the bowl and cover the bowl with some plastic foil. Place in the fridge overnight.
After this time, the butter will have stiffened up, making the dough easier to work with. Take it out of the fridge, and place on a clean working surface that has been dusted with flour. Now, you can just shape the dough into a loaf shape. Or otherwise, you could divide it into three parts which you roll out separately and braid into a braided loaf shape. Whichever shape you prefer, make sure to use a sharp knife to make several cavities into the dough on different places. Fill those with jam and fold the dough over it again, covering the jam.
Place the dough in a buttered loaf pan, or otherwise on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Leave the dough to proof again in a warm place, for around 2 to 3 hours.
After this time, preheat your oven to 190°C. Once the oven has heated up, bake the brioche for around 20 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile, mix the extra tablespoon of sugar with around 2 tablespoons of warm water until the sugar has been completely dissolved. As soon as the brioche is ready, take it out of the oven and divide the sugar-water over the bread. This will help to create a nice shine on the brioche.
Enjoy on its own, or with some fruits. It goes well with so many things, for example with a coffee in the morning or a glass of prosecco in the afternoon, whichever one you prefer.