About a year ago I came across Joanne Chang’s cookbook Flour. After thumbing through the book and drooling over the recipes her brioche dough caught my eye. She mentions that brioche was one of the things that could get her out of bed for those early 3am wake up calls and 16 hour shifts. If brioche can do that for her then surely it was worth taking the time to make. Well, fast forward a year and I’ve finally gotten around to making it. I decided I wanted to try her Pain Aux Raisins recipe. The thought of pastry cream and sweet plump raisins encased around a rich egg and butter dough was too good to pass up.
Her clear ad precise directions in the recipe were easy to follow and making the dough was a breeze even for a brioche novice like me. The dough was a dream to work with and not the least bit sticky to roll out. I’m terribly afraid of a large slab of dough sticking to everything – my hands, the counter – oh the mess! I was on the road to tasting my first attempt at brioche and boy was I excited! It also gave my Kitchenaid mixer a really good workout.
Out of the oven they came and I was ready to sink my teeth into one of these while they were still warm. The verdict? They were amazingly good. The luscious pastry cream oozed from the bread with every bite and the raisins added just the prefect amount of sweetness. I was in heaven!
I strongly urge you to try these. Your mouth will thank you.
Pain Aux Raisins Recipe (adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook)
This recipe does seem daunting at first considering the multitude of steps involved in making it. I suggest splitting it up over 2 days – making the pastry cream and dough the first, allowing the dough to proof overnight and actually assembling and baking the pastries the next).
Basic Brioche Dough (makes 2 loaves)
- 2 1/4 cups (315g) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 cups (340g) bread flour
- 1 1/2 packages (3 1/4 tsps) active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp (82g) sugar
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (120g) cold water
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup plus 6 tbsps (310g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 piece
- In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and the eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until all of the ingredients have come together. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.
- On low speed, add the butter one piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Then, continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrap the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is important for all of the butter to be mixed thoroughly into the dough. If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally and break up the dough with your hands to help mix in the butter.
- Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium and beat for another 15 minutes, or until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny. It will take some time to come together. It will look shaggy and questionable at the start and then eventually it will turn smooth and silky. Then, turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute. You will hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it: it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and move like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. It is ready when you gather it all together and pick it up in one piece.
- Place the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. At this point, you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Pastry Cream (makes about 2 cups)
- 1 1/4 cups (300g) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 1/4 cup (30g) cake flour
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- In a medium saucepan, scald the milk over medium-high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the milk is not boiling). While the milk is heating, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and salt. (Mixing the flour with the sugar will prevent the flour from clumping when you add it to the egg yolks.) In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in the flour mixture. The mixture will be thick and pasty.
- Remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg-flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. When all of the milk has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk continuously and vigorously for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. At first, the mixture will be very frothy and liquid; as it cooks longer, it will slowly start to thicken until the frothy bubbles disappear and it becomes more viscous. Once it thickens, stop whisking every few seconds to see if the mixture has come to a boil. If it has not, keep whisking vigorously. As soon as you see it bubbling, immediately go back to whisking for just 10 seconds, and then remove the pan from the heat. Boiling the mixture will thicken it and cook out the flour taste but if you let it boil for longer than 10 seconds, the mixture can become grainy.
- Pour the mixture though a fine-mesh sieve into a small heat proof bowl. Stir in the vanilla, then cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until cold, or up to 3 days.
Pain Aux Raisins
- 1/2 recipe Basic Brioche dough
- 1 recipe pastry cream
- 1 cup (160g) golden raisins (I used sultanas)
- 1 cup (140g) confectioners’ sugar
- 2 to 3 tbsps water
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 16 by 12 inches and 1/4 inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a long side is facing you. Spread the pastry cream evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the cream. Starting from the long side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll rightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Even off the ends by trimming about 1/4 inch from either side.
- Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 10 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide.
- Space the pieces, cut-side down, evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Cover the pastries lightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for 2 hours, or until the dough is puffy, pillowy and soft.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the pastries are golden brown on the edges of the spiral and pale brown in the center. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes.
- To make the glaze: While the pastries are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, 2 tablespoons of the water, and vanilla until smooth. Add more water as needed to thin the glaze enough to make it spreadable.
- Generously brush the tops of the still-warm pastries with the glaze.
- The pastries are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 300 degree F oven for 5 minutes before serving.