Thursday, August 07, 2008

Got milk? Ginger ice milk and pains au lait

Linda of Make Life Sweeter is organizing an event to promote breast-feeding awareness, and has requested that participants post recipes that include milk. I'm all for breastfeeding, and I also like Linda's blog, so I wanted to make a contribution.

Yet I had a hard time finding tempting recipes with milk. For instance the thought of riz au lait (rice pudding?) makes me shudder, but then again, I'm sure Aran's arroz con leche crème brulée would quickly dispel that prejudice.

Finally I chose two recipes: pains au lait (milk rolls), and ginger ice milk.

Pains au lait are a common afternoon snack food for French children. Given they contain milk I always thought that they were a healthier alternative to brioche. But these might as well be called "pains au beurre" since the recipe I used contains 25% butter (as a percentage of the flour) in addition to milk. No wonder kids like them. I myself prefer a good brioche (more eggs, and even more butter...), but these are lovely to take out of the oven for a hungry crowd of children. They can be made plain, or sprinkled with crystallized sugar.

The ginger ice milk on the other hand is a very reasonable indulgence. I got the recipe from Nick Malgieri's Perfect Light Desserts. According to the book there are 86 calories per serving. Isn't that less than an apple? A first for my blog!

My ice milk came out a little soupy, as I had an issue with my ice cream maker. But after firming it up in the freezer, we enjoyed the fresh flavor and surprisingly smooth texture (despite the absence of cream). The ginger flavor is strong but not harsh, tamed by the milk.

Recipe: Ginger Ice Milk

Source: Perfect Light Desserts, by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim
10 servings (86 calories per serving)

- 1 1/2 cups water
[This water is used for making a ginger "tea" with which to flavor the ice. I used 1 cup water as I really didn't want to dilute the ice too much. I intended to try it with milk instead next time, but thankfully Linda warned me in the comments that ginger might curdle the milk.]
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped peeled ginger (2 1/2 ounces)
- Zest of 1 lemon, stripped off with a vegetable peeler
[I used a microplane grater]
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the ginger and lemon zest. Cover the pan and allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture into a large bowl and cool it to room temperature.

The ginger and lemon zest "tea" after straining

Combine the milk and sugar in a large saucepan and whisk to mix. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar dissolves.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a bowl to break them up.

When the milk boils, whisk a third of it into the egss. Return the remaining milk to a boil over low heat and whisk in the egg mixture in a stream. Cook the custard, whisking constantly, for about 20 seconds. Strain the custard into a bowl and refreigerate it, stirring occasionally, until it is very cold.

Whisk the ginger tea into the custard mixture.

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. [...] Serve the ice in chilled dessert bowls or glasses.[...]

Recipe: Pains au lait

Source: La cuisine d'Annie

- 500g flour
- 15g fresh yeast
[dry instant yeast could certainly be substituted. I think then you would need 5g, or about 1 tspn? Don't hold me to these conversions though!]
- 50g sugar
- 10g salt
- 250g (1/4 liter) milk
- 1 egg
- 125g butter, neither too cold nor too soft
- 1 egg yolk for glazing

Mix flour, yeast, sugar, salt and milk until dough is firm and elastic. Add the egg, and knead for about 5 minutes. Add the butter one small piece (1 tablespoon) at a time. Knead for 5 minutes more.

Let the dough rise in covered bowl for about 1 hour, or until doubled in volume. Punch it down, cover bowl in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight.

The dough after kneading, and the dough after one hour rising. Doesn't look doubled, even though my kitchen was warm. I proceeded anyway with recipe

[The recipe did not say anything about shaping or baking, so the rest of the instructions are mine]

Left is the dough after one night and a morning in the fridge, where it did rise significantly. I rolled it into a log and chopped it first in half, then in quarters, then each quarter in four pieces. One half of the dough is still in my fridge, waiting for today's snack. I don't know if it will taste yeasty from waiting around so long, we'll see*!.

Cut dough into 16 to 20 pieces (or work with one half first, leaving the other half in the fridge so it doesn't get too warm. This kind of buttery dough is easier to handle when cold).

Shape into balls or "navettes" (the oblong shape I tried but didn't entirely succeed in making. I think the key is to make them more elongated than you want them, as they will puff out as they rise.) Place rolls on baking paper on baking sheet. Cover the rolls, for instance with a large food-grade plastic bag, and proof for one hour to one and a half hours.

I found shaping smooth oblong "navette" shapes is not so easy. The rolls are proofing wrapped in a large plastic bag

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Brush with egg yolk, snip cuts with kitchen scissors, and optionally sprinkle with crystallized sugar.

Put rolls in the oven, then lower the temperature to 200°C (convection oven. Traditional ovens may need a higher temperature). Squirt steam in oven if you can: I have a gadget on my oven that lets me do it, but you could simply spray some water on the walls of the oven, as described here. Or skip the steam part altogether.

Bake for about 15 minutes, and let cool on rack before eating.

I wasn't sure how to snip them with my scissors, and tried both parallel and perpendicular snips. They both look good, but not quite like the boulangerie petits pains I remember.

Tip: for shaping smooth dough balls, see these instructions from All Recipes. They really improved my shaping technique for round balls of dough. Now I need to find similar help on shaping the oblong "navettes" that are traditional for pains au lait.

* Update the next day: the second half of the recipe came out of the oven a few minutes ago and tastes even better. Photo below, and also the one at the beginning of the pains au lait recipe. What I did differently: I lowered the oven temp to 200°C after putting the rolls in the oven, and baked them a little longer. Or maybe it was the longer retarded fermentation in the fridge that made a difference.