Thursday, July 14, 2011

Petit Pains Au Lait - Little Milk Bread!

Soft salty crust. Sweet pillowy insides. These are kind of amazing. 

     I came home from work yesterday to a package on my porch. An unexpected package, which is, of course, the very best kind. It turned out to be from my friend Miguel who moved to Texas. He works at a used bookstore so he sent me a bunch of, what else? Books! A couple vegetarian cookbooks, a book on religion, and a BEAUTIFUL book on bread.  It has information and recipes on breads from different countries, and I took it straight to the kitchen to figure out what to make first. Flipped past Britain, and there in the French section, right after croissants, was this recipe. Petit pains au lait. 

     I'm pretty sure I didn't dissolve the yeast properly (I think the authors are English, so they phrase some things differently and I got confused, ha ha), but these didn't suffer for that at all. They are fluffy, with a wonderful sweet flavor from the milk, and the crust has just the right amount of resistance. Perfect with some melted butter. (What isn't perfect with melted butter?)
And for breakfast we slathered on some blackberry jelly and that was pretty awesome too......

     Just a guess here, but I'm thinking that there probably is no bad way to eat these.
Mmm. Tell me you don't want to rush to the kitchen right now and make these. 
(Go ahead. No judgements here.)

Petit Pains Au Lait 
(adapted from The Bread Bible by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter)
My two cents is in italics.

4 cups white bread flour I just used all purpose.
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar Just plain white sugar worked.
1/4 cup butter
1/2 oz fresh yeast I think that's about equal to 3 tsp or so, that's what I used.
generous 1 cup lukewarm milk, plus a little extra for glazing.

(I left the milk and the butter out on the counter for an hour or so, then microwaved the milk for a few seconds til it was just a smidgen hotter than room temperature.) 

1. Lightly grease a baking sheet. I used parchment paper instead. Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar. Rub the softened butter into the flour. I rarely bother sifting dry ingredients, and I just kind of creamed the softened butter in til it was combined.

2. Cream the yeast with 4 tbsp of the milk. Stir in the remaining milk. Pour into the flour mixture and mix to a soft dough. Here's where I screwed up. Apparently when they say to "cream the yeast," they are talking about fresh yeast. I use dry. Only figured that out later though, so while I followed the directions and ended up with undissolved yeast in lukewarm milk, I should have heated the milk a tiny bit more, added some of the sugar here with the yeast, let it sit until bubbly for about 5 minutes. That's what I'll do next time, and what you should do if using dry yeast. :)

3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled clear film and leave to rise, in a warm place, for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

4. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and gently knock back. They mean punch it down. Divide into 12 equal pieces. Shape into balls and space on the baking sheet.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top of each roll. Cover with lightly oiled clear film and leave to rise, in a warm place, for about 20 minutes or until doubled in size.

6. Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush the rolls with milk and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. After brushing with milk, I sprinkled a bit of sea salt on top. I think mine only cooked for 18 min, but ovens are all different. Just set the timer for 18 minutes and then keep an eye on it. Also, I just let most of them cool on the baking sheet. The rest of them never got the chance to cool because we had eaten them already. With butter. :)

Happy Eating!

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