pains aux raisins

It has taken me a long time to make pastries, danish pastires, I’m happy with; these I was. They turned out fluffy, puffy and flaky. They had a beguiling sweetness and richness, not overt, not bland; they had the vanilla fragrance and softness, the little caramel, fruity bite of raisins you look for. They were ethereal to eat with coffee and hot milk, the kind of fatty stodge that eats like a feather, and makes you want more.

This is the sort of recipe you need time to make. I don’t mean hours of labour, so much as hours of repose. You need time to rest, and let the dough rest. I went home last weekend because I was ill as ill, wheezing, eyes streaming, wanting a warm swaddle of familial sympathy, which I got. And I had time to bake and to read, to mill and listen to the radio. That’s when you make good pastries: when you’re not in a rush to.

Forgive the shoddy picture. I took it on my five year old Nokia brick and texted it to my email address…

The dough recipe is half of that detailed by Paul Hollywood in his new book How to Bake. Through lax measurement, or imperial conversion, I found the liquid content of the dough too high. It was: 8oz flour, 3tbsp water, 4oz milk, 2 1/2 oz sugar, tsp salt, 7g yeast, kneaded and beaten together until elastic. I had to add more flour, so perhaps next time, I’d hold on the water. The dough rests for an hour in the fridge. You beat with a rolling pin 4oz cold butter into a 4″x8″”panel in a little flour. Roll out the chilled dough to approx 4″x12″ rectangle. Place the butter across two-thirds of the rectangle, and fold the exposed third of dough down over the middle third, covering half the butter. Slice off the exposed panel of butter and place it on the middle third. Now you fold up the bottom third of dough and seal the edges. You have a package of butter and dough which goes: dough-butter-dough-butter-dough. Roll out to a rectangle 4″x12″ and fold like a business letter in thirds along the short side. This is a “single turn”, in the parlance. Chill for an hour, complete another “turn”, chill for an hour and complete another. Now chill the dough overnight.

When you take the dough from the fridge in the morning, it’s puffy and firm, and deeply satisfying to touch and work with. But you mustn’t touch it too much. Roll out to a square 12″x12″. Spread with a quantity of chilled, thick creme patissiere (see below), leaving a two inch gap at the bottom, which you brush with egg wash. Give the creme pat very light sprinkle of cinnamon and a generous helping of raisins. Roll up into a sausage, like a swiss roll, as tightly and neatly as you can muster, and seal along the eggwashed seam. Cut the sausage into 9-12 slices and leave to rise in a cool place for 2hrs. Bake at 200 for 20mins and glaze immediately with melted, seived apricot jam.

Creme patissiere: 1/2pt milk, 2oz sugar, 2/3oz cornflour, 1egg boiled together until very thick with a tsp vanilla extract and chilled until well gelled and firmly spreadable.


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