I brought these along with the pain au chocolat to my last book club meeting, and it wasn't a surprise that everybody chose the chocolate variety. But Isabelle, our organizer who comes from southern France, took the untouched pains aux raisins with her and said she ate them before she got to the highway. "The pains au chocolat were delicious,'' she said, ''but the pains aux raisins were out of this world!" She added that they were very authentic, and that she doesn't dole out undeserved flattery. Which is appreciated! The consensus was the same at home. Joe found a few I had squirreled away in the freezer to bring to my mother and sister in New York: "Hey, there are more pains aux raisins in here!!" I forbade him from touching them. Trust me, he more than ate his share!
The many layers bake up golden and flaky, and the pains are brushed with an apricot glaze. The pastry cream becomes not so much a filling as an element of moisture and flavor.
Pains aux Raisins
From Sarabeth Levine's Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours
Makes 12 pastries
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for rolling the dough
½ recipe Croissant Dough
½ cup Pastry Cream (recipe below)
½ cup seedless raisins
1 large egg, well beaten with a hand blender
Apricot Glaze (recipe below), hot
Confectioners' Glaze (recipe below)
- Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Dust the work surface well with flour. Place the dough with the open seam facing you, and dust with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin, roll the dough into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle; let the weight of the pin do much of the work. Keep track of which side contains the seam. Using a yardstick and pizza wheel, neatly trim the rough edges of the rectangle. Fold into thirds, place on the half-sheet pan, and refrigerate uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Unfold the dough onto the work surface. Spread with pastry cream, leaving a ½-inch border, then sprinkle with raisins. Starting from the top, roll down the dough. Do not pinch the long seam closed. Cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Tuck the loose end of each pastry underneath the roll, and place, tucked side down, on the pan, 1½ inches apart. Cover with parchment paper and a half-sheet pan. Gently press on pan to slightly widen the pastries. Remove the top pan and the parchment paper.
- Choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip the pan into a tall "kitchen-sized" plastic bag. Place a tall glass of hot water near the center of the pan. Wave the opening of the bag to trap air and inflate it like a balloon to create "head room," being sure the plastic does not touch the delicate dough. Twist the bag closed. Let stand until the pains look puffy but not doubled, 1½ to 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°. Remove the glass from the bag, then the pan. Lightly brush the pains with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350° and continue baking until the pains are crisp and golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Brush the hot apricot glaze over the hot pains, followed by the confectioners' glaze. Let cool until the glazes set. Serve warm or cool to room temperature.
1½ cups whole milk
½ plumped vanilla bean
4 large egg yolks
⅓ cup plus 2 tbs granulated sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
- Place a heatproof medium bowl with a medium-mesh wire sieve near the stove. Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Squeeze in the vanilla seeds from the vanilla bean. Split the bean lengthwise and add to the saucepan. Bring the milk mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and sugar together in another heatproof bowl until the mixture is pale yellow. Whisk in the cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
- Whisk constantly over medium heat, being sure to reach into the corners of the saucepan, until the pastry cream comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute. Continue whisking until the cream begins to thicken, about 1 minute more. Strain through the sieve into the bowl. Discard the vanilla bean. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the cream. Pierce a few holes in the plastic with the tip of a sharp knife. Cool completely.
⅓ cup apricot preserves
2 tbs water
Combine the preserves and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute. Strain through a medium-mesh wire sieve set over a small bowl and discard the solids in the sieve. Let cool slightly, but use while warm. (The glaze can be cooled and store in a covered container for up to 1 month. Reheat and melt over low heat before using.)
½ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
5 tsp water, as needed
Whisk the confectioners' sugar and enough of the water to make a glaze about the consistency of half-and-half.