Before I was a blogger, a pastry chef, a personal assistant, a recipe tester, an editor, I was an intern. In fact for a while – it felt like I was ALWAYS an intern. I’m convinced the movie, “The Intern,” is roughly based on my life. I am Robert Dinero – always.
One of my first food world internships was with Bouchon Bakery at the Time Warner Center in NYC. There I’d assemble sandwiches, cut fruit, pick chicken, and slice hundreds on hundreds on hundreds of slices of bread. Every day bread. I’d take the freight elevator with my rolling racks up to Per Se and grab the Pain au Lait for slicing, every.single.day.
You think after never ending bread interaction I’d be sick of the stuff. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As an unpaid intern, I felt it was my right NAY my obligation to all unpaid interns everywhere to sneak the odd bread ends and eat them for my lunch. I became dependent on the bread, I’d even say addicted. I’d count the minutes until I was able to go up and get the impossibly soft, uber rich, perfectly crusted bread.
Once after loading my rolling rack to the brim with bread, I got stuck in the elevator on the way back to our kitchen. Two hours I was in there, freaked out but comforted by the carbs. Realizing I was missing, my chef came and pried the doors open to discover me in between two floors, covered in crumbs doing a Gollum crouch over a pile of Thomas Keller’s precious Pain au Lait. As he scolded me for eating their product, I argued, “Chef! I could have died in there, the bread was keeping me going, I needed my strength!” – He seemed to think an hour and 37 minutes wasn’t cause for panicked face filling. Agree to disagree, I guess.
At the end of my internship, the staff, who seemed to like me and think I did a good job other than the elevator day, gave me a signed copy of the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. I whizzed past their words of encouragement and well wishes to find… AH HA! the recipe for Pain au Lait.
Now I can happily say I can make it anytime I want! Would you believe I even tweaked it? Few people have as much bread eating experience as I do – and while I think Mr. Keller’s recipe is perfect – I wanted to make one that was a little more friendly to the homecook.
So here is my recipe and you don’t even have to be an unpaid intern stuck in an elevator to eat it!
Okay friends – get your ingredients out!
Place the flour and yeast into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix with a dough hook until combined.
Add the sugar, salt, eggs, butter and cream cheese.
Add the water.
Mix on low until the dough starts to come together.
Once the dough starts to form, turn the mixer to medium and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides and appears elastic and smooth.
Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and knead for 15 minutes until smooth.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise for 2 hours.
Allow the dough to double in size.
Oil a bread pain (I use a pullman loaf pan) and form the dough into roughly the same shape as the pan.
Place the bread in the pan and brush the top with egg wash. Let rise for an additional hour until the dough has nearly reached the top of the pan.
If using a pullman loaf pan, place the dough in to a 375° F oven and bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes until the bread is golden brown.
If you are using a regular bread pan bake for 30 – 35 minutes until golden brown and puffed.
Let the bread cool slightly in the pan and then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
Slice the bread thick and eat it however you desire. It is perfect plain, toasted with butter and jam or as the backbone of a killer grilled cheese sandwich.
TK's Pain au Lait
6 grams of active dry yeast
547 grams of all purpose flour
32 grams of granulated sugar
11 grams of salt
35 grams of eggs
25 grams of unsalted butter
79 grams of cream cheese
285 grams of room temperature water
1 egg, whisked for egg wash
Measure out all ingredients using a scale.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together flour and yeast.
Add sugar, salt, eggs, butter, cream cheese and water.
Mix on low until the dough starts to come together. This will only take a few minutes.
Turn the mixer to medium and mix until the dough looks smooth and is elastic.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand about 15 – 20 times.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Once doubled, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape it into a log roughly the same size as the bread pan.
Transfer the dough into a greased loaf pan, brush the top with egg wash and set aside again. Let rise for an additional hour or until the dough has nearly reached the top of your loaf pan.
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
If you are using a pullman loaf pan, bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes until the bread is golden brown.
If you are using a regular bread pan just bake until golden brown, 30 – 35 minutes. This pan should be greased as well.
Let cool slightly, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Your bread is ready!!! Carbo-load away!
*This recipe was adapted from Thomas Keller’s Pain au Lait recipe in the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook.
*I was an unpaid intern there so I’ll make this bread as many times as I damn well please.