Brioche col Tuppo

The first time I had brioche col tuppo was in Palermo, Sicily. Little did I know at the time that this was the typical breakfast for Sicilians; a sweet brioche roll filled with granita? What a way to greet the day, especially when it is hot! The last time I had this cool treat was not in Sicily at all but in Spoleto in Umbria when I spotted a sign in a pasticerria that said “brioches siciliana I.G.P.”

The buns are called col tuppo because they have a little knob of dough in the center that resembles how Sicilian women wear their hair tied up in a bun.

Granita is the classic filling, and 100 percent a Sicilian invention. It is made with sugar, water, fruits, and fruit juices and has an icy texture. Gelato on the other hand, is creamy, made with milk, sugar, very little air whipped into it and fruit pulp.

We can thank Mt Etna and the Arabs for this refreshing treat, who were clever to gather snow from the mountain to cool their drinks. The Arabs introduced sugarcane in the 9th century along with lemons and other citrus fruits whose juices were mixed with snow that really caught on and Sicilians began buying snow and storing it in caves in the mountain to prevent melting. The ice cream of the Arabs was called “sciarbat” and was often flavored with honey, fruits, spices, nuts and even flowers. Gelato is also a popular filling but was not invented in Sicily. There is great debate as to who invented it but a certain Bernardo Buontalenti, a Florentine native gets the credit and was said to have created it for the Medici family in the 16th century.

And so it was that granita evolved into today’s luscious slush and the breakfast of Sicilians!


  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110F)
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (110F)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp flor di Sicilia extract (available from King Arthur Flour)
  • 4 1/2 - 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsaltet butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten for egg wash


  1. In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water and mix with a spoon until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture ferment for about 5 minutes. Small clusters of chalky-looking bubbles should appear on the surface. Stir in the milk. With a fork, beat in the eggs one at a time. Set the mixture aside.
  2. In a bowl, mix together 4-1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, and salt. Break up the butter over the dry ingredients and work it in with your hands until a crumbly mixture is obtained. Add the yeast mixture and mix with your hands until a ball of dough is formed. Add additional flour if necessary to obtain a dough that is soft but not too sticky.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead it for 3 to 4 minutes, until a smooth ball of dough forms. Let the dough rest on the work surface for 10 minutes, covered with a towel or inverted bowl. Knead the dough again for 5 minutes, until smooth and no longer sticky.
  4. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil butter. Gather up the dough, place it in the bowl, and turn to coat it in the oil or butter. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  5. When the dough has risen to approximately two times its size, use two fingers to make two indentations into the center of it. If the indentations do not close up, the dough is sufficiently risen and ready to use.
  6. Divide dough into 13 equal size pieces and roll 12 pieces into balls. Divide the remaining ball into 12 marble size pieces. Make a deep x cut in the center of each ball with a scissors and place one of the tiny balls in the center of each ball.
  7. Place them spaced about 2 inches apart in greased muffin or brioche tins. Cover and let rise until double.
  8. Preheat oven to 375F
  9. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash.
  10. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks. When cool, remove the baking sheet or tins.
  11. When completely cool, slit the buns horizontally and fill with granita or gelato.
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