Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The few, the proud, the raisin lovers! (TWD)

As I was reading the various write-ups of last week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, I noticed a recurring theme... lots of people don't like raisins.  Some people left them out, while some substituted other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries (which sounds like a variation I'll have to try).  So I'm curious to see the results from this week's recipe, Brioche Raisin Snails, selected by Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody.  I, for one, love raisins, and I love them even more now that I learned how tasty they are after being soaked in rum and set on fire.  I must admit, though, that I did leave the raisins out of one end of the roll, so that Brianna would actually eat the finished product. =)

This week's recipe is really three recipes in one.  First you make brioche, which I've contemplated before, but never worked up the courage to try.  Then you make pastry cream. I've done that before, though this version is much thicker than the ones I've made in the past. Then you take those two items and put them together with rum-soaked raisins and some cinnamon sugar to make some sinfully delicious cinnamon-roll-like buns.

The brioche dough wasn't as scary to make as I thought it would be, but I do have a standing mixer to rely on.  I might have a different feeling if I had to make it by hand.  I was surprised at how solid the dough was when I took it out of the fridge the next morning, but I guess that makes sense considering how much butter is in it.  I had a pretty easy time rolling it out, though it started to get a bit too soft because I was taking too long.

As I mentioned, the pastry cream was very thick, no doubt due to the amount of cornstarch in it.  I wasn't prepared for how quickly it thickened.  Don't stop whisking, whatever you do!  I'm not a huge fan of custardy things, so I only made the half-recipe I needed to make the snails. While the end result was good, I think I'll leave the cream out next time and go with a more traditional cinnamon roll filling.  Edited... I forgot to mention that I added a pinch of salt to the pastry cream, which seemed to improve the flavor.  (That's what I get for writing up this post without referring back to my notes...)

The raisins weren't actually too scary--I made sure to use one of my super-long grill matches, and I kept a lid handy in case things got out of hand.  I did end up using it, but only because I got tired of waiting for the flames to go out on their own.  I will absolutely soak and flambé raisins again--I love the way they stayed nice and moist even after baking.  

Thanks to Ulrike of Kuchenlatein for the wonderful suggestion to cut the dough with unwaxed dental floss!  I usually just use my serrated knife when cutting things like cinnamon rolls, but this dough was much too soft for that.  The dental floss worked perfectly.  

Overall, this was an extremely worthwhile and tasty experience.  I learned lots of great new things that I will incorporate into my future baking adventures, and I got to eat some fabulous buttery pastries.  Thanks, Peabody!

Brioche Raisin Snails
(adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

1 cup moist, plump raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves(page 48), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight) (recipe posted below)
1/2 recipe Pastry Cream (page 448) (recipe posted below)

Getting Ready: Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour over the rum. Standing back, ignite the rum. (A long grilling match works well.)  Stir until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum can be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.)

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

On a flour-dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it up to 2 months; see Storing for further instructions. Or, if you do not want to make the full recipe, use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder.)

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they're ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds a scant 1 inch thick. (I used unwaxed dental floss--slide the floss under the roll, wrap around and cross the ends on top, and then pull both ends until it cuts through the dough.)  Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them.

Lightly cover the snails with wax paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubled in volume--they'll be puffy and soft--about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Getting Ready To Bake: When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you're using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack.

Golden Brioche Loaves

2 packets active dry yeast (I used 3 1/2 tsp instant yeast)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

For The Glaze
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can--this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the covered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans. (I didn't bother doing anything to the pan I baked the rest of the dough in--I figured it had more than enough butter to keep it from sticking.)
Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time will depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk--this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. (Mine never actually boiled.  And watch out--it thickens all of a sudden.)

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.


  1. I love raisins too, so I was happy to use them both of these weeks! I am glad to hear that this pastry cream was thicker than others you have made; I'd never made it before and it seemed thicker than what I had anticipated.

  2. Agree with chelle, it's nice to know that it was made to be that thick. Yours look so golden and tasty!

  3. I'm with chelle on the raisins - especially plumped up and tucked into buttery dough. Yours look amazing!

  4. Your snails look so nice. I probably should have cooked mine side down. This pastry cream did seem thicker than others I have made but it tasted good!

  5. Your snails look great! Count me in as another raisin lover! And Rum and Raisins...well, that is heavenly bliss to me!

  6. Flambéing was so much fun, and I definitely thought that soaking and flambéing the dried fruit (cherries, in my case) added an extra dimension to the rolls. Next time I'll make sure I have unwaxed dental floss in the house. My mother always used it to slice her cinnamon rolls.

  7. I like raisins, sometimes, but they are much better soaked in rum and set on fire! Your snails look great!

  8. I am with your daughter in the raisin hater club. She's adorable btw! I was surprised at the pastry cream too and thought I did something wrong! haha. Your snails look delish. Great job!

  9. Chelle, Caitlin & Marie - Yay, more raisin lovers! =)

    Leigh & Cheri - the pastry cream was okay, but it's not my favorite thing. I may have to try other flavors; maybe I'd like it more.

    Mari & Sarah - the flambéing was more fun than I expected.

    CB - What's funny is that Brianna isn't really a raisin hater. She just doesn't like them in baked goods. In fact, she made me put a handful of them on the side so she could eat them with her snail, just not in it.

  10. Yours look fabulous!
    The craisins were tasty. I was hoping to do dried cherries, but my store didn't have them. I like the idea of making the rolls like cinnamon buns too.

  11. You're a good mom to leave the raisins out for the little one! Your snails look lovely, and from your post, you had similar experiences to mine, which is a comforting thought!

  12. Katrina - I may have to try the craisins. I wonder what the girls would think of those?

    Madame Chow - That's one of the things I love about TWD. It's nice to see how others' experiences were similar as well as get cool ideas from the different things other people have done.

  13. I'll have to buy unwaxed, unflavored dental floss next time I make these. Mine got a touch on the deformed side when I tried to cut them with a knife. Yours look just gorgeous!

  14. These look amazing! I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes raisins! I was also surprised at how thick the pastry cream was, but I thought it was soo delicious!

  15. Wasn't it a lovely recipe! Your Brioche Raisin Snails look delicious.

  16. Great to see your little girl enjoying one of them! The snails looked wonderful! Glad you enjoyed the raisins!

  17. They look fantastic! I never thought of adding salt to the cream - great tip!

  18. I LOL'd at your title. I'm not a raisin fan but it really isn't the fault of the fruit. I just OD'd on them as a kid. Enough about me...GREAT job and the cutie pie eating them is adorable!

  19. Ooh! They rose beautifully! I love the "in action" eating photo! :D

  20. i love raisins too :) beautiful job!

  21. What a perfect swirl! I've got to try that dental floss trick ...

  22. You did a fabulous job! I would have to leave the raisins out for the husband but I would happily eat his share!!

  23. What a great result, yours look so tasty!

    Greetings Ulrike from Küchenlatein

  24. I'm glad you found it worthwhile. I thought it was a great recipe.

  25. great job on your snails! i'm a raisin fan too so the more the merrier for me. :)