1. For the dough: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or bread machine (programmed for Dough), mix together all of the ingredients in the order listed, to form a smooth, shiny dough. Don't worry; what starts out as a sticky mess becomes beautifully satiny as it kneads. This dough takes longer than most to develop, so be prepared to let the dough knead for up to 15 to 20 minutes in a stand mixer. Also, we don't recommend trying to knead it by hand. If you're using a bread machine, let it complete its kneading cycle, then continue as directed below.

  2. Form the dough into a ball (it'll be very soft), place it in a greased bowl, cover the bowl, and it let rise for 1 hour. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or overnight. This will slow the fermentation and chill the butter, making the dough easier to shape.

  3. For the filling: In a medium saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and salt. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

  4. In a separate, heatproof bowl, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup milk. Whisk half of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.

  5. In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

  6. Pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan through a strainer (to prevent lumps). Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens. Use a heatproof spatula to keep the pastry cream from sticking to the bottom or corners of the pan. 

  7. When the filling boils all the way to the center of the pot, remove from the heat and strain into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla and butter. Cover with a piece of buttered parchment that touches the surface and refrigerate until needed.

  8. To shape the brioche: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 16 pieces. Round the pieces into balls. If you have individual brioche tins, butter them, put on a baking sheet, and put one ball in each. If not, simply place the balls of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

  9. Cover with greased plastic and let rise until puffy-looking, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Toward the end of the rise time, place a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 375°F. Brush the tops of the brioches with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with coarse (or Swedish pearl) sugar, if using.

  10. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, tenting the tops with foil after 15 minutes if they’re browning too quickly. When the centers read 190°F when measured with a digital thermometer, they’re done. Remove from the oven and let cool completely

  11. To assemble: Fold the whipped cream into the chilled pastry cream. Slice the brioches across their circumference. Spoon a heaping 1/4 cup of filling on the bottom half of each and place the top over the filling to serve.

  12. Brush each brioche with some of the egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar or Swedish pearl sugar.

  13. Serve within an hour or so. Brioche can be filled and refrigerated for several hours, covered. Allow them to warm a bit before serving.

Tips from our Bakers

  • To make just 8 filled brioche, make the entire brioche recipe, reserving half the brioche for sandwiches or dinner rolls. Make just half the pastry cream recipe, and fill 8 brioche.