I had a bit of leftover cream sitting in the fridge about to pass it’s use by date and couldn’t for the life of me think what to do with it; I had been planning on baking some pain au lait and then I had a thought – why not use cream in place of the milk? I wasn’t entirely sure how well it would work, whether the cream would make the bread too heavy, but I gave it a go regardless and was incredibly pleased by the result.
The rolls were a little denser than traditional pain au lait, but still turned out incredibly soft and were utterly delicious – rich, light and slightly sweet; flavourful enough to enjoy on their own, but equally delicious split and filled with jam, toasted and buttered, or, my favourite, dipped in to thick hot chocolate. Damian rapidly devoured three of them as soon as I was done taking photographs (I nabbed one as soon as they were cool enough to handle… though in my defense it was a wonky one…). I don’t know whether any of you have ever tried Jamaican hard dough bread before, but these very much reminded me of that – rich, dense, chewy, soft and slightly sweet.
They are fairly simple to make, though the dough is quite soft and sticky at first; give it a few minutes of kneading though and it stops sticking to your fingers, develops a smooth skin and becomes silky and elastic (though still quite soft). You will need to start the day before you want to bake the rolls as the dough needs to be left to rise in the fridge overnight, this allows it to rise slowly, which develops a better flavour, and to firm up a bit so it is easier to shape. They stay soft for a good few days in an airtight container but do need to be warmed through before serving; either pop them in a low oven for 5-10 minutes or split and toast them.
- 300g (2 + ½ cups) strong white bread flour
- 4g (1 tsp) fast action yeast
- 1tsp salt
- 40g (3 tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
- 200ml (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) double cream (heavy or whipping)
- 60-100ml (1/4 cup - scant ½ cup) warm water
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water, to glaze
- Start the day before you want to bake. Place the flour in a large bowl and add the yeast to one side and the salt and sugar to the other. Mix in the cream and enough water to make a soft, sticky (but not wet) dough. Be aware that it may look a little dry at first but as you begin to knead it it will become stickier so don't add too much water straight away.
- Turn the dough out on to an un-floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough has become elastic and formed a smooth skin, it will be quite sticky at first, but as you knead it will become smooth and supple.
- Place the dough in a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight, this will allow it to firm up a little.
- The following day, remove the dough from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for half an hour or so to warm up a little. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or a silicone liner. Give the dough a very brief knead then divide it into 10 equal pieces.
- Shape each piece into a ball then roll them out on a lightly floured surface into a disc about 10cm (4in) wide. Roll the disc up tightly into a batard, roll from either end so that the centre is fatter, pinch the seam tightly to seal and then use your hands to neaten it - it should be fat in the centre and slightly pointed at either end.
- Place the shaped rolls seam side down on the baking sheet, making sure that they are well spaced apart. Loosely cover with a clean plastic bag (making sure that it doesn't touch the dough), or with oiled clingfilm. Leave to rise for about 45 minutes until puffy and the dough springs back slowly when you poke it with a finger, if it springs back quickly then it needs a little longer. (They don't rise as much as standard bread dough so don't expect them to quite double in size).
- Meanwhile heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Once the buns have risen, gently brush them with egg wash then use a sharp pair of scissors to make about 6 diagonal cuts on the top of each bun in a zig zag pattern.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden and the internal temperature registers as 94C/200F (or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean). Transfer to a wire rack to cool, store in an airtight container, best served warm.