Thursday, 7 August 2014

Pain au lait: My Bread Baking Obsession

Having a tough day? Just head for the kitchen and bake yourself a bread!! 
Seriously making bread from scratch is actually quite therapeutic. You can pound, knead, thrash the dough with all your might leaving you feeling much lighter and free of all your pent up frustrations. On the plus side, you are rewarded with a delicious loaf of freshly baked bread, the heady aroma completely healing your soul.
That is why I am so glad to be a part of this bread baking group "We Knead to bake" on facebook where you get to bake a new bread every month. (Though it is another matter that the healing therapy is required much more than just once a month but I cope). Each member is supposed to make the assigned bread where sometimes it is quite interesting to see the variations the members come up with. Aparna, who is the admin, does a lot of research and comes with amazing new breads every month, which probably would be hard to discover on your own. Check out my recipe of the two of these breads which I baked along with this group - Flaounes, which is a delicious Cypriot bread made on Easter and Foccacia Caprese. The recipes given for the breads are tried and tested by Aparna herself and not once have the breads failed to 'rise to the occasion'. 
Another great bread that we baked recently was Petit Pains au Lait which are basically small French bread rolls enriched with milk. As might be evident from the title, the only liquid used in the dough is milk and of course a generous amount of butter. The resultant texture is rich but still not as rich as Brioche and have a light airiness about them. Pains au Lait typically have a hint of sweetness in them and the pearl sugar that dots the surface adds to the sweetness. They have a beautiful golden crust on the outside concealing a soft flaky inside because of the unusual technique rolling and folding technique used. Then they are decorated by cutting through the top with scissors in a manner which results in a beautiful pattern typical of a Pain au lait. 
This dough is also pretty good to shape into any pattern of your choice.

(Adapted from Gourmet by Kat - )
2/3 cup warm milk (you might need a little more)
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup bread flour*
1/4 tsp salt
60 gm butter, soft at room temperature
Extra milk for brushing
Pearl sugar for topping (optional)**

*If you don’t have bread flour, put 2/3 tsp vital wheat gluten in your 3/4 cup measure and top up with all-purpose flour. Mix this well. 
If you don’t have vital wheat gluten, then just use 3/4 cup all-purpose flour like I did.
**This topping is optional. The pearl sugar looks pretty and adds a little crunch. You can also use large crystals of sugar or a bit of regular granulated sugar.

You can knead by hand or use a machine. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer. (No, please I am not trying to show off my KA machine here but I just can't stop telling everyone how fantastic it really is!!)
Put the warm milk, yeast and sugar in the bowl. 
Whisk it for a couple of minutes. 
Then add all the flour and the salt and mix until it looks crumbly.
Add the butter and knead until you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough that’s not sticky. Add a little more milk (in teaspoonful at a time), if your dough is dry, until you have the required consistency of dough. 
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, turning it over to coat with oil. Cover loosely and set aside to rise until double in volume. Punch the risen dough and knead well.
Once the dough is ready, punch out the air and make 10 equal parts.
Use a rolling pin to roll out a circle of about 8 cm.
Roll up the circle from one end, jelly roll style into a cylinder.
Pinch the ends and place seam side down on a greased tray. Allow to rise again.
Before baking, brush the dough with egg wash
Using a sharp scissor make diagonal cuts and sprinkle with sugar. 
(Check out the video here if you are interested to see exactly how to make the pattern on the bread.
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Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for about 15 minutes or until they are golden brown.
Let them cool on a rack. Serve them warm or at room temperature. 

1 comment:

  1. Yummy update.. hard work.. great.. appreciate it.. keep sharing more awesome thoughts over here..