I love a challenge. I love nothing more than someone (usually my dad) being blown out of the water by a professional pastry, and then trying to recreate it on my own. I know I’m at a disadvantage with non-professional ovens and a lack of training, but I love it. Sometimes truly amazing things are created, other are… well… learning experiences.
About a month ago I was fortunate enough to visit Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. It was 7:30 on a Sunday morning and there was a line out the door already! after staring at the bakery case for 15 minutes it was our turn to order and WOW, it was worth every penny. The star of the show was a pain aux raisin. This spiral danish had raisins and currants and had the perfect flakiness and flavor. I have been determined to make them ever since. I Finally had a chance to attempt recreating this beautiful pastry this weekend. I spent a lot of time looking for a recipe. I was really hoping to find a Thomas Keller recipe, but had no such luck, so I started browsed cook books and the internet looking for anything I could find And surprisingly there was not a lot on yeastpotting (so I guess I should add mine). Every pain aux raisin recipe I found used brioche dough, and this just didn’t seem right to me. I knew from the way the pastry tasted and looked that it was a croissant/danish-like laminated dough. But all the recipes had one other thing in common, pastry cream! I never would have thought there was a custard in there, but all recipes said so, as well as raisins soaked in rum or hot water. So I made croissant dough, along with some homemade pastry cream and rum soaked raisins and currants.
It was somewhat time-consuming, but when it’s broken down into elements it wasn’t too tough. I made the croissant dough using 1/2 the tartine recipe I used when I made croissants a few months ago. I also turned to tartine for the pastry cream recipe, it used fewer eggs than most and resulted in a not overwhelming rich and heavy cream. It also had an amazing pearl of wisdom in the recipe, if you see that your pastry cream is grainy you can use an immersion or counter top blender to smooth out the overly cooked egg. This really beats having to throw out a batch and start all over!
Anyways, this was definitely a learning experience for me. By no means did my danishes turn out bad, they just weren’t what I wanted. They looked like what comes in any continental breakfast basket at a Marriott, not something straight out of a pastry shop. I think this was because of a few things – I think I rolled the croissant dough too thin, I think i should have rolled the buns (forgive me for the kindergarten analogy) hamburger and not hot dog way, and I should have cut the danishes thicker. All things I now know for the next attempt. Also, while I’m sure the classic pain aux raisin has pastry cream in it, I’m not sure if the Bouchon roll did. Looking back at the photo from the shop, the layers of dough do not look like they are separated by anything but raisins and currants.
Also, there was so much pastry cream left over there’s a bonus recipe – apple tart!
Pain aux Raisin
Half batch of Croissant dough
pastry cream (below)
1 cup mix of raisins and currants
1 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
1 egg or milk ( for a wash before baking)
1/2 cup of apricot or fig preserves
- Make the croissant dough and start the turning process. I did this starting at night, letting the dough rise and incorporating the butter in the morning. I then did the first and second turn.
- Make the pastry cream and let cool.
- In a small bowl pour the boiling water over the raisins and currants and add the rum extract (you could also use rum instead of water and extract). Let the fruit soak for at least an hour before draining and blotting dry with a paper towel.
- finish the croissant dough with the last turn and roll the dough out into a large rectangle, probably about 12′ x 18″. I like to do this on a layer of plastic wrap, it makes rolling the dough into a log much easier later.
- using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of pastry cream over the dough.
- sprinkle the raisins and currants over the pastry cream.
- starting with the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a log (like rolling cinnamon rolls). I like to use the plastic wrap and pull it in the direction away from me to create a nice tight roll. As I mentioned before, next time I will start rolling with one of the shorter sides.
- let the dough sit in the fridge until firm. several hours or over night. The longer the dough is refrigerated the easier the danishes will be to cut.
- cut the log into slices about 1/4 inch think and place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Next time I will be cutting them thinker, probably about an inch.
- Preheat the oven to 425° F and let the rolls proof.
- create either a milk or egg wash and brush over the top. I tried both and you can see how it affects them. (left is milk, right is egg wash)
- Bake the pastries for about 15-20 minutes until nice and golden brown.
- While the pastries are baking heat the apricot/ fig preserves in a small pan with 1/4 cup of water.
- Let the pastries cool for a few minutes, and then coat with the thinned out fruit preserves.
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut open down the middle, seeded
1/4 tsp of salt
4 Tbls cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 Tbls butter, cut in small cubes
- Heat the milk, vanilla seeds and salt in a pan and put over medium heat, and bring to a boil.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and eggs until smooth.
- Slowly add 1/2 of the milk mixture into the egg and whisk constantly to temper them.
- Add the remaining milk and return the whole thing to the saucepan.
- Cook until you get a thick consistency, whisking non-stop.
- Remove from heat and pour into a bowl through a thin sieve, let cool for 10 minutes and then incorporate the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until smooth.
- If the cream is grainy now is the time to use the blender
- Cover the surface with plastic wrap, directly touching the cream, let cool completely in the refrigerator.