Authentic Pain Aux Raisins are one of my favorite treats. Rich and sweet without being cloyingly so like your typical donut or danish, they make the perfect accompaniment to a good cup of joe.
Reading The Village Baker I came across a recipe for them and was surprised at how simple they are to make. So last weekend I tried making them and have been blissed out eating them all week.
The one type of danish that I have a weakness for is a cream cheese danish. Wouldn't you know it, the next recipe in the book is for a cheese danish. It even uses the same base recipe. I couldn't resist.
Without further ado, the recipes.
I lied: a little further ado.
If you don't have powdered milk in the house, don't sweat it: just replace 1/2 cup of the water with milk.
Note that this Pain Au Lait is essentially a Poor Man's Brioche. If you want you snails to be richer you could substitute a higher class (more butter) Brioche recipe. I find these to be plenty rich for my taste.
Pain Au Lait
1 package (2 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 cup water
3 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons powdered milk
4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
If using active dry yeast, proof it in 1/2 cup of warm water for 10 minutes. If you are using instant yeast, as I did, it can just be mixed in with the dry ingredients in the next step.
In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, powdered milk, and sugar. Add the yeast, water, and eggs and mix until ingredients are combined. Add the softened butter and mix or knead until the ingredients are thoroughly combined (Ortiz doesn't describe an extensive kneading step in this recipe, so I guess it is unnecessary). You should have a fairly sticky, satiny dough.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size (approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Punch the dough down, return it to the bowl and cover it again, and place it in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, divide the dough in half and, while still cold, use each half to prepare one batch (8) of each type of snails (or two batches of one of them, if the other doesn't interest you).
Before beginning, you'll need to make a simple egg glaze that you will use in both recipes:
1 tablespoon milk
Whisk to combine.
Cream Cheese Snails
(makes 8 snails)
3/4 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon egg glaze
Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, approximately 8 by 12 inches. Slice the rectangle into 8 long strips.
Stretch each strip as long and thin as you can (Ortiz says out to 24 inches. I only got mine about 12 to 15 inches long but they were still fine). Twist each strip and then curl each up to make a snail shape.
Place the snails on a parchment-lined or well greased baking sheet and brush them gently with the egg glaze.
Use your fingers to create a well in the center of the snail and then place one tablespoon of the cheese mixture on top. Ortiz also recommends adding a tablespoon of jam, but I find the cheese alone the be plenty sweet.
Let the snails rise for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until they are puffy. Preheat the oven to 385 degrees and bake the snails for between 15 to 17 minutes, until they are golden brown.
Immediately after removing from the oven, paint then with a light sugar glaze:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
If you like them to be extremely sweet, you can dribble them with a fondant glaze (1 to 2 teaspoons of hot water combined with 2/3 cup of powdered sugar) after they have cooled. I did not.
Pain Aux Raisins
(makes 8 snails)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, approximately 8 by 10 inches. Coat the rectangle with the egg glaze and then spread the cinnamon, raisin, and sugar mixture over it.
Roll the the dough up into a large log and then slice it into 8 pieces. Place each of the pieces onto a parchment-lined or well greased baking sheet, press down on them with the palm of your hand to flatten them, and then paint them gently with the egg glaze.
Let the snails rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they are puffy. Preheat the oven to 385 degrees and bake the snails for between 15 to 17 minutes, until they are golden brown.
Immediately after removing from the oven, paint then with the same sugar glaze you painted the cream cheese snails with above. Once again, If you like them on the sweet side dribble them with a fondant glaze (1 to 2 teaspoons of hot water combined with 2/3 cup of powdered sugar) after they have cooled. I did not think this was necessary.