If you like sweet bread, golden on the outside and a fluffy inside, you’ll love this bread. French milk bread (pain au lait) makes the most beautiful buns and they’re very tasty as well. I love them with butter or also as sandwich bread.Jump to Recipe
French milk bread (pain au lait)
I have a love story with milk bread. When I lived in Lima, there was a coffee shop close to where I used to work that served milk bread (pain au lait). I LOVED THEM! There were days when I would have several of them for lunch, they were really good. I’ve wanted to make this recipe for a while now.
The nice thing about french milk bread is that they are slightly sweet and have a crumb that’s really soft. Pain au lait is an enriched dough. That’s the term used when a bread recipe has fat added besides the basics of flour, yeast, water and salt. This recipe has milk (which has fat) and also butter (also has fat of course). We also add an egg! So it’s in between basic white bread and brioche.
French milk bread or pain au lait typically has a series of scissor cuts along the top. This is very classic and looks so pretty. When I showed it on my Instagram account, many said that it looked like a dinosaur. It’s very funny to me and you are completely right. I love to make those cuts on the top. They’re very fun to make, look cute and it’s a good way to learn how to add texture to a bread using scissors.
To make the milk bread (pain au lait) dough, you can use a stand mixer and its hook attachment or knead by hand. Both methods work! On the video lines above I knead by hand but you can certainly use a mixer. The process is the same only that it’s more efficient when using a stand mixer.
When you add the butter, you’ll notice that at first, the butter won’t get incorporated easily. That’s normal, you need to have a bit of patience. It will come together as you knead. The result is a beautiful and lovely dough. It’s very easy to work with and very fluffy. That’s what makes them so delicious and airy.
For the bread
- 570 g all-purpose flour
- 80 g sugar
- 1½ tsp salt
- 6 g instant yeast
- 300 ml lukewarm milk
- 1 egg
- 80 g unsalted butter at rrom temperature
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp milk
For the bread
- In a bowl, place all the ingredients except the butter. You can use a stand mixer using the hook attachment on medium speed to mix everything together. If you don't have one, first use a spatula to mix and when it doesn't help anymore, continue with your hands.
- Knead for 5 minutes in a stand mixer or by hand for 10 minutes. The dough should look homogeneous and more elastic than when you started.
- Add half the butter and knead with a mixer or by hand. At first, you will feel like it's not coming together and something went wrong. Be a little patient and it will come together and it will look very good.
- Add the other half of butter and knead more. The second inclusion of butter will be easier than the first ;).
- Knead until the dough feels very smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes since the butter is completely incorporated.
- Place the dough in a bowl, cover it and let it proof in a warm spot for 1 hour.
- Weigh the dough and divide it into 12 equal portions.
- Form buns by flattening the portions, and folding the edges onto the centre. Turn it around and turn them against the table to close the joining. Avoid using a dusted flour surface at this point.
- Cover them and let them rest for 15 minutes.
- One by one, turn them over, flatten them with the palm of your hand and roll them into a long bun. Turn them around and push on their side using your fingers so that the friction closes the place the dough joins. You can see how it's done on the video lines above.
- Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper or a silicone mat. Leave a good space between them because they grow a lot in the oven.
- Cover them and let them proof for an extra 20min.
- Whisk together the yolk and milk. Use a brush to paint it on the bread.
- Use a pair of scissors to cut a line of triangles all along the bread. You can again watch the video above for a reference :). I love this part, it's really fun.
- Bake them at 180°C/350°F for 20min or until golden.