The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking's Pain au Lait Recipe

The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking's Pain au Lait Recipe

[Photograph: Donna Currie]

It's hard to resist a bun recipe with honey, milk, and butter. These pain au lait buns from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking aren't as rich as brioche since there are no eggs, but there's enough butter and milk to add buttery flavor and a slight yellow color. The honey is subtle.

This isn't a fast recipe but it's also not difficult. Most of the time is spent on the dough rising. Because it's such a rich dough, it takes its time, but in the end you get some rich, flavorful buns. Maybe they're not for every dinner, but they're certainly a great addition to a special occasion meal.

The dough will seem too dense and dry before the butter is added, but don't be tempted to add extra water. The butter will loosen it up considerably.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking to give away this week.

Adapted from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking by the French Culinary Institute. Copyright © 2011. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved

  • Yield:Makes 14 buns
  • Active time: 45 minutes
  • Total time:5 hours


  • 543 grams / 1 pound 3 ounces bread flour
  • 405 grams / 14 1/4 ounces cold milk
  • 12 grams / 1/2 ounce fresh yeast
  • 12 grams / 1/2 ounce honey
  • 12 grams / 1/2 ounce salt
  • 65 grams / 2 1/2 ounces cold unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg for egg wash


  1. 1.

    Prepare the mise en place.

  2. 2.

    Combine the bread flour with the mild, yeast, honey, and salt in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the hook. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes, or until blended. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix for about 8 minutes, or until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, feels elastic, and gives some resistance when tugged, Check the gluten development by pulling a window.

  3. 3.

    Place the butter on a clean, flat work surface and, using a rolling pin, lightly pound on it to soften.

  4. 4.

    With the mixer on low, add the butter, a little at a time, and mix for about 5 minutes, or until the dough has come together and pulls away from the bowl.

  5. 5.

    Lightly oil a large bowl or container.

  6. 6.

    Scrape the dough into the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic film and set inside to ferment for 1 hour.

  7. 7.

    Uncover and fold the dough. Again, cover with plastic film and set aside to ferment for 1 hour.

  8. 8.

    Lightly flour a clean, flat work surface.

  9. 9.

    Uncover the dough and divide it into 14 75-gram / 2 3/4 ounce rounds on the floured surface. Cover with plastic film and bench rest for 15 minutes.

  10. 10.

    Line a 12 x 18-inch sheet pan with parchment paper.

  11. 11.

    Uncover the dough and, if necessary, lightly flour the work surface. Gently press on the dough to degas and carefully shape each round into a round, a batard, or any decorative shape you desire. Place the rolls onto the prepared pan, seam side down. Cover with plastic film and proof for 90 minutes.

  12. 12.

    About an hour before you are ready to bake the rolls, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

  13. 13.

    To make the egg wash combine the egg with 14 grams / 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl, whisking to blend.

  14. 14.

    Uncover the dough and, using a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of each roll with the egg wash.

  15. 15.

    Transfer the rolls to the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, the sides are firm to the touch, and the rolls make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

  16. 16.

    Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.