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Monday, April 16, 2012

Pain au Raisin

 This was my favorite treat at Buns/Rolls/Muffins/Scones night.  The dough here is amaaazing.  And the special je-ne-sais-quoi here is a homemade almond cream filling wrapped up in the dough that cradles the raisins like an adoring lover.  See?  Even the memory of these makes me wax a little French.   

Mon cheri...

Pain au Raisin (print recipe)
Makes 20 rolls

3 T unsalted butter
Scant 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh compressed yeast
Generous 1/2 cup cold water
3 1/3 cups bread flour, plus extra if needed
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Generous 1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup plus 2 T room temperature unsalted butter
Almond Cream, recipe follows
Hydrated Raisins, recipe follows

Egg Wash:
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
Scant 1/4 cup whole milk

1.  Prepare the dough: Melt the 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Allow the butter to cool to room temperature. It should be warm to the touch.

2.  In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the cold water. Place the flour, salt, sugar, milk, and melted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Set the mixer on medium speed and mix just until the ingredients are dispersed, about 5 seconds. Add the dissolved yeast and beat on medium-high speed until the dough is well combined and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute. If the dough is too soft, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it is firmer. (The dough is too soft when it cannot hold its shape.) If the dough is too hard, add cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until it has softened. (The dough is too hard when it is difficult to mix in the mixer.) Remove the dough from the mixing bowl. If the dough is slightly sticky and ropy, knead it with your hands for about 30 seconds, until it is smooth. Pat it into a ball. Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and let it proof at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

3.  Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out to an 8 by 15-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Wrap the rectangle in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. The cold retards the rising process, allowing a slow fermentation to help develop the flavor of the dough.

4.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap the rectangle, and place it with a long side facing you on a lightly floured work surface. Spread the softened butter evenly over the right two thirds of the dough. Incorporate the butter by folding the (butterless) left third of the dough over the center, Then fold the right third of the dough to the left, to resemble a folded letter. Roll this out into another 10 by 30-inch rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Fold each short end of the dough to the middle so they meet but do not overlap. Then fold one half over the other half and, if necessary, rotate the dough so that the seam is on your right. Wrap the folded dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.

5.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it into a 10 by 30-inch rectangle and turn it so a long side faces you. Give the dough a single fold by folding the left third of the dough over the center, then fold the right third of the dough to the left. Now the dough should resemble a folded letter. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

6.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough into a 10 by 36-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Keep the thickness even and the edges straight. This will make it easier to cut.

7. Use an offset spatula to spread a 1/8-inch-thick layer of almond cream over the dough, spreading it all the way to the edges of the rectangle. Sprinkle the top of the almond cream with the hydrated raisins. Roll the dough toward you, starting at the long side. Try to keep the roll tight and even. Cut the roll into 1-inch-thick slices. You will have a tail on each slice. To close the pain au raisin, simply tuck the tail under the dough. Place the pain au raisin on a parchment covered baking sheet, spaced about 2 inches apart. Allow the Pain au Raisin to proof at room temperature until they have doubled in size and appear light and full of air; about 1 1/2 to 3 hours depending on the temperature of the room and of the dough.

8.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Make an egg wash by whisking together the egg yolks, whole egg, and milk in a small bowl until well combined. With a pastry brush, very gently coat the pastries completely with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Leftovers can be stored in the freezer if well wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 2 weeks. Thaw at room temperature and warm in the oven before serving.
Almond Cream:
Almond cream is always baked to a spongy, cake-like texture and can be used by itself or in combination with nuts or fruits. The addition of starch to this recipe ensures that it will not run out of a pastry shell during the cooking process.
1/2 cup plus 1 T unsalted butter, room temperature
Generous 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Generous 1 cup almond flour
1 large egg
Scant 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1.  Place the butter, sugar, and almond flour in a medium-size mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer set on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The mixture will be dry and sandy until the butter begins to incorporate. Add the egg and mix well. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. The egg is well incorporated when the mixture is light and creamy, about 3 minutes. It is important to allow time for this air to beat in, otherwise, the almond cream will be too heavy.

2.  Add the flour and beat on low speed just until it is no longer visible, about 30 seconds.

3.  Pour the almond cream into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Allow it to come to room temperature before using and beat it lightly with an electric mixer set on medium speed until it returns to its initial volume and is once again light in texture and color.
Yield: 1 3/4 cups

Hydrated Raisins:
1 cup raisins
Water, as needed
1/2 cup dark rum or flavored liquor

Place the raisins in a mixing bowl or glass jar and add water so that it covers the raisins by at least 1/2-inch. Stir in the rum or flavored alcohol. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours. It is even better to allow the raisins to hydrate for 2 to 3 days. You can keep them in the refrigerator for a few weeks. When you are ready to use them, strain the amount that you need through a fine-mesh sieve before adding them to the recipe.

-OR- you can do what Dessert Club member A.M. did, which is pour hot water over the raisins and let them sit for a few hours.  Strain well before adding to the rolls.

Yield: 1 cup

Recipes from Food Network via Dessert Club member A.M.

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