Pains au lait from The Larousse Gastronomic Dictionary
This is a sweet and buttery bread served for breakfast or for the “goûter des enfants” at 4 O’clock. And Wednesday afternoon is my favourite time to bake bread with the children- today, just my youngest!
Put 500g of flour into a pyramid shape in a wide dish. Add a pinch of salt, 20g of sugar and 125g of soft butter. Add a packet of bakers yeast or fresh yeast (20g) mixed in a bit of hot water. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon then wet the mix with 250ml of warm milk (full milk, do not boil).
Work well with floured hands then roll in a ball and cover with a plastic bag and hand towel. Leave to rise in a warm, draught-free place for the night or about 12 hours.
In the morning, knead further until the dough responds with elasticity and spring; divide the mix in 10 to 15 elongated balls, make a cross with a knife on the top, brush with a beaten egg and bake in a hot oven (250°) for 45 min. Tip to get a soft crust: put a small bowl of water in the oven with the buns.
There is real magic in bread: how it is so simple and so truthful but at the same time mysterious and archaic… Something that really entrances children when they knead and feel the dough getting warm and alive in their hands: I love their smile and their pleasure when “it works” and the bread finally rises like a crackled sponge from the depth of the bowl…