As my obsession with Chef Mike’s dazzlingly orange Homemade Sriracha came to a head, I naturally began thinking about what I love Sriracha on the most- which is everything, but also sandwiches. And what better way to infuse the spicy, earthy, peppery goodness into an awesome sammy than mixing it into the sandwich bread itself, in this case, my favorite bread ever, pain au lait.
My introduction to pain au lait was a sweet one. During the Robuchon days, even before Alen and I began dating, as he would leave for the day, he would stop by my station as I prepared for the night’s service with beautifully crafted perfectly petite breads for me to try. My gifts from the Chef Boulangere consisted of saffron ciabattas, fluted olive breads and chewy rolls stuffed with melted comté cheese and anchovies. My very favorites though were the lush pillowy squares of laminated pain au lait, or milk bread, as it’s translated, for it’s soft, moist crumb and sweet dairy flavor. The texture and flavor of pain au lait make it the perfect vessel for individual sandwiches, and the versatility of this dough in terms of shaping and flavoring is endless.
Pain au lait is made with only 6 ingredients, so it’s very easy to make. The recipe calls for High Gluten flour (we use King Arthur’s Sir Lancelot), sugar, salt, yeast, milk and soft butter. I added the Sriracha solids that didn’t make it through the chinois and exchanged the milk for super fatty Beurremont creme fraiche, because I thought the heat would better translate through a very high fat dairy, and create a bit more density in the finished product.
To mix the dough is simple. First, the wet ingredients go into the bowl. Dump the dry ingredients right on top. Attach the hook and mix on speed one, just until the dough comes together. Add the soft butter and mix on speed one for 6 minutes. Boom. Done. Scoop out your dough-ball-baby and put it in a bowl. Cover the bowl with film and leave in a warmish place for about an hour. When time’s up, with your hands, squish the dough ball down into a rectangle and wrap in film. Put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until its firm enough to pick up without being squishy.
Next we take it out of the film and roll it down to about a third of an inch thickness. The long flattened dough gets a tri-fold and then wrapped back up into the freezer. In about 30 minutes we will do this again. And don’t worry. If you want to try this at home, a rolling pin works perfectly.
Finally, after the second fold, we roll the dough out to a half an inch thickness and place back into the freezer for about 20 minutes, so that we can portion it when it’s really cold. Once it’s firm but still able to be cut with a knife, we portion the Sriracha pain au lait into 3″x3″ squares. The portions get placed on a tray to proof for about 2 hours, or until about one and a half times it’s original height. The proofed buns get brushed with egg yolks and a sprinkling of Piment d’Espelette and put straight into the oven to bake.
After 12 minutes in the oven, our Sriracha pain au lait is perfectly cooked. The egg yolk wash gives the top a distinctive coloration and shine, and the scent is earthy and spicy with peppers and shallots. The interior is soft, and fragrant and begging to be filled with something as simple as scrambled eggs, but hearty enough for pork belly and jalapeno slaw. We filled ours with heirloom tomatoes and thick slices of avocado – spicy, fresh sandwich heaven.
Sriracha Pain au Lait
1000g High Gluten Flour
12g Yeast, Dry Active
700g Crème Fraiche
130g Sriracha, homemade if you can swing it!
200g Butter, Softened