Recipe: Handmade Brioche à Tête

Brioche à Tête

I recently purchased a pan for making mini-Brioche à Tête. Traditionally made with lots of dairy and eggs, these little French pastries have fluted edges and a little dough ball baked on top (a.k.a. the tête or head). It’s been over a year now since my son’s successful food challenge for baked egg, so I decided it was time to finally tackle making a dairy-free version of Brioche à Tête at home. While not a typically Swiss recipe, you can easily find these at bakeries all over Suisse romande.

Store window Brioche à Tête

Brioche à tête may seem like a challenging pastry to make at home, but I’ve tailored a recipe to meet our family’s needs—including an option for overnight preparation. We’ve been eating them all week for breakfast, served warm and slathered with apricot, ginger or raspberry jam. I wish we could use real butter instead of margarine, but I hope my version comes close to the real thing—just with more streamlined instructions and without the dairy. Please note: As you may know, I don’t use an electronic mixer. All the ingredients are mixed by hand.

Brioche à Tête

Recipe adapted from Saveur, Issue #109.

(Dairy/nut-free with baked egg)

Makes 6 rolls.

2 1/2 tablespoons warmed rice milk
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

Egg wash:

1 egg, beaten

1. Add a pinch of the sugar and all the yeast to the warmed rice milk. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. During this time, whisk together the remaining sugar, flour and salt in a separate bowl.

2. Whisk the yeast mixture into a large bowl with the 2 eggs. Then, add the flour mixture and dairy-free margarine. Stir together to form a dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Please note: The dough will be soft, but do not add any extra flour. Let the dough rise, covered in a bowl, for approximately 2 hours. (After this first rise, you could put the dough into the fridge and pick up with the next step in the morning, so you can serve warm brioche for breakfast).

3. Punch down the dough and divide into 6 equal pieces. Form the brioches into the desired shape, and I recommend using Saveur’s photos as a guide. Place in a pan greased with dairy-free margarine and let rise for another hour.

First rise, Brioche à Tête

4. After the second rise has finished, use a pastry brush to apply a light coating of the egg wash to the tops of the brioche. Please note: Rising may lesson the indentation for the têtes. You may need to do a little re-shaping, to make sure they retain their têtes while in the oven.

Second rise, Brioche à Tête

5. Heat oven to 190°C/375°F. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until deep golden brown. Let stand in the molds for about 10 minutes and then remove from the pan onto a cooling rack. Best served warm.

Baked Brioche à Tête


If you try making Brioche à Tête, please let me know how they turn out. I love being able to make these at home for my family, since the dairy-filled versions at the bakeries just aren’t safe for my son right now. Bon week-end, everyone!


Dairy-Free Hazelnut Crescent Rolls

On Sunday morning, we packed up some freshly baked hazelnut crescent rolls for a visit to our neighborhood Christmas market. I prepared the hazelnut filling the night before and quickly made the dough in the morning. This easy recipe makes a nice dairy-free pastry without too much effort!


I had been searching for a new Swiss holiday recipe to try when I came across this one from Swiss Milk for “Croissant aux noisettes.” The recipe calls for crumbled up pieces of leftover Christmas cookies. Perfect for me, because I burned a pan of “Etoiles à la Canelle” while getting ready for a holiday party last weekend. I couldn’t bear to throw them out and was looking for a creative way to use them up. I still have cookies leftover, so I’ll be making these rolls again before the holiday season is over. I hope you like them too!


Hazelnut Crescent Rolls

(Dairy-free, baked egg)
Adapted from Swiss Milk’s recipe (in French).

Makes 6 rolls

250 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
100 ml rice milk, very warm
50 grams dairy-free margarine, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten

180 grams ground hazelnuts, toasted
50 grams cookies, crumbled (e.g., crushed in a plastic bag with a rolling pin)*
100 ml water
100 grams sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

5 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1-2 drop(s) freshly squeezed lemon juice

*Christmas cookies like Etoiles à la Canelle, Basler Brunsli, Milanais, or other chocolate and vanilla cookies, etc.

1. For the filling, mix ground hazelnuts and crumbled cookies. Separately, boil water and sugar until sugar is completely melted. Stir together with the warm hazelnuts , adding the lemon zest and juice and cinnamon. Cover and let cool completely. Put in the fridge and leave overnight.

2. For the dough, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warmed rice milk. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt and make a well in the center. Pour into the yeast mixture in the well, along with the butter and egg. Knead to obtain a soft dough that bounces back when pressed. Please note: The dough will be sticky, so be patient, but add a little flour, as needed. Cover and let stand at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle and cut into 6 triangular pieces. Divide filling evenly, and roll into crescents. Please note: There’s lots of filling, and I had some leftover.


4. Bake 20-25 minutes in an oven preheated to 200°C/400°F.

5. While the rolls are still hot, whisk together all the icing ingredients. Smooth the glaze on the top of the rolls and let them cool completely (or if you can’t wait, like me, eat them while they’re still warm!).



What are your favorite allergy-friendly recipes for the holiday season? Please share by leaving a comment below or sending me an email. Thanks!

Apricot Couronne for Breakfast

I am eagerly awaiting tonight’s finale of The Great British Bake-Off. As you may have noticed, this show has inspired some of my baking experiments during the last few months. For example, I bought a kitchen scale after watching the clever bakers weigh out their ingredients. I also made allergy-friendly English muffins. And, I’m currently working on a new vegetable cake for Bundt Day 2013.

Another great recipe I discovered from the show is for “Apricot Couronne.” Couronne means “crown” in French, which this pastry resemblesexcept it’s filled with raisins, dried apricots and orange zest. The contestants on the show made it look so easy, but it takes some careful rolling and shaping to get it right. After two attempts, I still need more practice.

For an allergy-friendly version (dairy and nut-free), here are the changes I made to the recipe:

  • No walnuts (my husband is allergic)
  • Canola oil instead of butter
  • Rice milk instead of cow’s milk
  • Roughly chopped pumpkin seeds instead of almonds

In addition to these substitutions, I baked the couronne for exactly 30 minutes, to make sure the egg was safe for my son to eat. He cannot eat raw or undercooked eggs. However, since his baked egg food challenge, eggs cooked for 30 minutes at 200°C/400°F (generally in baked goods, like breads and cakes) are okay.

We had my homemade version of Apricot Couronne for breakfast on Sunday. Both boys gave it a two thumbs up. This pastry takes time to make, so I’ll probably wait for a special occasion to attempt it again. Maybe Christmas morning when my in-laws are visiting us?

IMG_20131019_203044I finished the Apricot Couronne before bedtime (it’s a little lopsided, I know)…

DSC01761…and ate it for breakfast the next morning.

I’m hoping to discover more new recipes during tonight’s GBBO series finale. Will you be watching too? Which recipes have you tried making at home?

Petits Pains for Hungry Kids

Sometimes, when I pick up my 6-year old from school, he’s so hungry that he’s practically crying (even though he’s already eaten breakfast and a snack at school!). It makes for such a pleasant walk home…

In order to get back to our apartment without making a huge American scene on our quiet Swiss streets, I’m starting to pack along small breads—some of which are commonly made for children and appear all over our local boulangeries. The Zopfhasen I made a while back is a good example of this. Pacifying small children with fresh bread seems to be a typical practice.


This morning, I made small, golden saffron buns. Flavored with grated lemon and orange rind and studded with cranberries and golden raisins, this recipe was super easy and thrown together quickly. It can be made without eggs, although I brushed a little beaten egg on the top. As usual, I need to spend more time shaping the dough to make them perfectly round, but these did the trick for today.

Petits Pains au Sucre

Recipe adapted from swissmilk. Make 6 buns. Sorry to my American readers… I’m being lazy and using the metric system today (as the recipe was written) instead of converting it to cups. I’m really enjoying my new kitchen scale!

250 grams farine pour tresse or zopfmehl
1/2 teaspoon salt
40 grams sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 pinch of powdered saffron
100 ml soy milk, lukewarm
1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water (or 1 egg, beaten)
50 grams dairy-free margarine, melted
1 orange and 1 lemon, finely grated zest
2 tablespoons raisins, cranberries or mini-chocolate chips

1 egg, beaten (or 1-2 tablespoons melted dairy-free margarine)
2 tablespoons coarse sugar

1. Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl and form a trough in the middle. Separately, add flax meal to the water in a small bowl and set aside. Then, dissolve the yeast and saffron in the warmed soy milk.

2. Add the yeast mixture along with the flax meal mixture and margarine to the trough in the large bowl. Next, add the lemon and orange peel and dried fruit. Stir together until a dough is formed. Then, knead for about 5 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

3. Divide the dough into 6 equal size buns. Place with sufficient distance on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let rise again for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Brush the rolls with egg (or melted dairy-free margarine) and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Petits Pains au sucre

4. Place in the middle of a preheated 180°C/350°F oven to bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove when lightly browned and place on a wire rack to cool. Best served the same day or freeze for later.

petits pains au sucre
I’ll be working on a local sauerkraut recipe this weekend. Wish me luck… Bon week-end, everyone!

Updated: October 7, 2014

Super Quick: Tarte aux Pruneaux

This week at school, my 5-year old and his classmates made little plum tarts or tarte aux pruneaux. On Tuesday, their teacher took them to the marché to buy fresh plums. With 4 plums purchased for each student, they all walked back to school. Then on Thursday, they prepared and baked the tarts. When we went to the playground after school that day, my son unveiled his baking creation, carefully wrapped up in a colorful napkin.


Our 2-year old with multiple food allergies didn’t taste the tart because I assumed it contained some type of milk-related ingredient. To give him that opportunity, I made a super quick version at home using a pre-made crust from Coop—a convenient allergy-friendly product I’ve recently discovered. The Coop-brand Kuchenteig (German) or Pâte brisée (French) contains gluten, but the label doesn’t list any of my son’s allergens—milk, egg or almond.


The French-speaking cantons of Switzerland eat tarte aux pruneaux this time of year, in part because it’s plum season, but also because of the upcoming mid-September holiday—Jeûne  Fédéral. Historically, this was a federal fasting day “in remembrance of wars, pestilence or other misfortunes.” A traditional fast-breaking feast included tarte aux pruneaux, which could be made in advance.

While I haven’t heard of anyone planning to fast on September 16, the practice of making and eating plum tarts has continued—as demonstrated by my son’s recent classroom activity. This tart took almost no time to make, and my husband finished it up at breakfast this morning.


Vegan Tarte aux Pruneaux

Adapted from a recipe featured in Migros’ cuisine de saison.


1 prepared tart crust, such as Coop’s Pâte brisée

1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
15-20 plums, pitted and quartered
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Place prepared tart crust in an 11-inch/28-cm, nonstick springform pan (use greased parchment paper, if necessary). Prick the crust with a fork. Spread ground hazelnuts evenly on the crust.


Next, gently arrange the pitted and quartered plums on top of the hazelnuts. Please note: you can pack the plums tight and overlap them a bit; they’ll shrink as they bake. Then, sprinkle sugar over the fresh plums.


Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the plums have softened and the crust is lightly browned.




My Sunday plans include a huge, 4-course feast celebrating local Suisse-Romande cuisine. I look forward to discovering some new Swiss foods I can safely recreate at home for my family. Bon week-end!

Birthday Cinnamon Rolls and Hail Storm

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday. Before my morning run, I quickly made some dough for cinnamon rolls. The recipe came from my favorite Betty Crocker cookbook, which I adapted to be dairy, egg and nut-free. While I think it’s possible to find cinnamon pastries in Switzerland (pain or brioche à la canelle or franzbrotchen), I wanted to make big and doughy American-style cinnamon rolls that the whole family could enjoy for breakfast.



Cinnamon Rolls


3 ½ to 4 cups flour
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 ½ teaspoons yeast
1 cup very warm rice milk
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoons vanilla sugar
2-3 teaspoons rice milk

1. Whisk together 2 cups of flour with sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the warm rice milk, oil and flax meal mixture. Mix together well and form a wet dough.

2. Then, add the remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle. Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

3. After it’s risen, punch down the dough. Flatten with hands or rolling pin into a rectangle, about 10-15 inches (25-38 cm) on a floured surface.

4. Spread the 2 tablespoons of margarine on the dough. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over the dough.

5. Roll the dough into a tight cylinder and cut into about 10-15 pieces. Let rise in a greased pan for another 15-30 minutes. Then, bake at 180°C/350°F for 30 minutes.

6. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Whisk together the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the rolls.


Massive Hail Storm

In the evening, a huge hail storm swept through Switzerland. As I was making dinner and putting the final touches on my (soy) yogurt birthday cake, the skies darkened and the wind picked up. Chunks of hail started falling and accumulating like snow. My husband walked home in the storm, and snapped a photo of the icy debris.

2013-06-20 17.52.45

Hope you have wonderful plans for the first official weekend of summer. Bon week-end!