Pain Au Lait
aka milk bread
aka one of the most versatile bread recipes you'll find
aka my favorite bread roll
|How it's traditionally served. If you're familiar with The Great British Baking Show, you've probably seen this picture before. If you haven't, I feel you for you. It's on Netflix, make haste.|
So, what is this stuff? Well, it's white bread made with milk, milk powder, butter, flour, salt, water, yeast, sugar, alligator toenails, pencil shavings, no water or milk powder, are you paying attention?
I've made this for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and it's been a big hit. I've made hamburger buns out of it for summer cookouts and not had any left over. This one is well worth your time.
Your tools and equipment are as follows -
Assorted measuring cups and spoons and implements of destruction
Two mixing pitchers
Mixing bowl (or bread machine or stand mixer)
9” x 13” baking pan
And representing the edibles team are, in no particular order -
12 oz by weight of AP flour
2 teaspoons of dry yeast
2 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
one large egg
2.5 oz by weight of unsalted butter
5.5 fluid oz of room temp whole milk
The day before you intend to bake, make a poolish starter. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll already know what that is. If you're new here, I'm happy to have you here and everything, but what the hell took so looooooooo I mean I'll tell you right now.
|Well, since you're here, go wash your hands.|
It is, simply put, a young yeast starter that adds extra yeast flavor to your bread. For this recipe mix two ounces of AP flour and two ounces of water, both by weight, with a pinch of dry yeast. I recommend a two cup measuring pitcher. Everything in said pitcher, mix it up good with a fork, cover it with plastic (the cup, not the fork) and let it luxuriate in your refrigerator for 24 hours. When you pull it out to use it you'll have a nice yeasty flavor that hasn't turned into a sourdough starter yet. Given time it would, but we're not concerning ourselves with that right now.
Before you start in earnest, make a sponge starter. Same deal as before, if you've been a regular reader (heya, Donna, Kayla, Kailah, Mom, et al) you'll probably know what that means. If you're not a regular, well, I'm choosing to celebrate the fact that you're here now. Combine one cup of your flour and all your milk and yeast in a one quart mixing cup or bowl, whisk it together until it has the consistency of pancake batter, and let it sit on the counter, covered, for about half an hour to sixty minutes. When it's all bubbly and lively it's ready to go.
Combine the rest of the ingredients, dry stuff first, wet on top - including the starters -in a mixing bowl.
Unless you're using a bread machine, which I'm 100% okay-fine with you doing. If it's helping you make your own bread, then excuse you while you kiss the sky. Put all the ingredients, dry first and wet on top, in the work bowl. Set your machine to the dough setting, push the button, and go take a meditative journey to the center of your mind until it's ready.
|Take it down a notch, Mr. Natural.|
Unless you're using a stand mixer. I'm also completely fine with that. It will combine, and knead your dough much faster than doing it by hand. Ingredients in the bowl, dry first, wet on top. Put the bowl in place, and using the dough hook, combine on slow speed for three minutes, then turn up the speed to medium for three minutes. Put your dough ball in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic, and let sit, undisturbed, until the ball doubles in size. Punch it down, which is to say use your hand to knock the gas out of the dough, and let it rise again until the ball doubles in size again.
Unless you're doing it by hand. This is the classic method, after all. This is how it was done before there were stand mixers and bread machines. Mixing bowl, wet, then dry. Using a bowl scraper combine your ingredients until they form a shaggy looking wad. Then turn the bowl out onto a lightly floured purpose and knead by hand for one hundred and fifty (150) turns. Use the windowpane test to see if your dough is ready.
The windowpane test. I've touched on that elsewhere, too. Pull a bit of dough up from the ball, gently run your thumbs over the bit to stretch it out. If your dough does not rip before you get a thin membrane of dough you can see daylight through, you're all set.
Put your dough into a lightly oiled bowl and you no doubt have the gist by now.
|In the interest of disclosure, I used this bad boy this time around.|
As ever, you do you.
Our first and second rises have ended and it's time to consider portioning.
Weigh your dough on a digital scale. Divide the number by twelve. That's how many rolls you're going to get. Cut off a hunk of dough, weight it, add or remove as necessary. Once your dozen is divvied up, you can start shaping. Knead all the pieces together, should only take two or three turns, then roll them against your floured surface using just the tips of your fingers. This is what makes them rolls. You've rolled them into shape.
Put your balls into the...the dough balls, people, c'mon now.
|Go to your room and think about what you're doing with your life.|
Put the dough balls into a greased pan, cover with cling film, Or (you just know there was an or coming, and you probably knew what that or was going to be) you can boil a small pot of water on the stove, place that steaming pot on in the oven on a rack on the bottom position, then put your pan of rolls on a rack on the second to top position. In either case, let them rise until they've doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 425F – remembering to take the rolls and water pan out and putting the top rack onto the second to bottom position - and bake for five to six minutes at 400F. Then turn the pan halfway around and bake for another five to six minutes to ensure even baking.
|The rolls go in,|
|The rolls come out.|
And there's your new favorite dinner roll.
That's not enough, is it? It's ok, you can double the recipe, or make more than a dozen rolls. You're in charge here.
I'd advise eating this with a good quality butter. It's a holiday feed, after all. You want something special.
|This is a good choice, and I'm not being paid to say it.|
Picture courtesy of our good friend Kayla.
She was the one in the panda head end of last year.