This bread is inspired by a loaf of bread I saw when I was walking around some of the markets in London on a day out by myself. There’s something about having a day to yourself as you wander the streets on London hopping from different underground station to station and from line to line. Although I always end up in Leicester Square and Stratford for some reason!
The bread on display was a pain au lait, or milk bread. It was baked in a loaf tin and consisted of 3 rolls joined together. Now I couldn’t really justify the purchase so I decided to make my own milk bread. I tasted the bread with some samples and there was a distinct caramel flavour profile and when I asked the baker, he said he put brown sugar inside.
I decided to have a read through all my baking books and I couldn’t any brown sugar breads, let alone any milk breads so this recipe is completely my own. This is enough to make two 1lb loaves or one 2lb loaf.
300 – 350ml whole milk
2 x 7g sachets of fast action dried yeast
70g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
450g strong white flour (I actually used plain flour)
Place the margarine and whole milk into a large microwaveable mug and microwave until the margarine has melted and the milk is hot enough that you can’t hold your finger in for more than 5 seconds. Add the sachets of yeast, sugar, salt and vanilla extract and stir and set aside for 10 minutes or until the yeast has been activated and looks foamy on top.
Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add ¾ of the liquid and use your hand to bring it together, adding more liquid if required, to bring it to a soft, pliable but not sticky dough. Knead it for 10 minutes by hand until the dough springs back when a lightly floured finger is pressed into the dough. Place into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to prove for 90 minutes in a warm place until at least doubled in size.
For two 1lb loaves, once proved, divide the dough in half and then split each half into 3 pieces. Shape each of the pieces into a ball and then push the sides upwards to form a fat sausage. Repeat for the rest of the pieces and place 3 into a greased 1lb loaf tin, leaving space to prove. Cover with clingfilm and prove for 75 minutes or until doubled in size. For a 2lb loaf, simply place all 6 into the same 2lb greased loaf tin.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Brush the surface of the bread with milk and then bake the loaf for about 25 minutes until the top is dark and golden (don’t be scared to make it dark, the crust remains soft but this is because the bread is enriched so caramelises easily!) and the base, when tapped, is hollow.
Cool on a cooling rack completely before transferring to an airtight container.
This loaf is brilliant for your breakfast, here it is with a peanut butter and raspberry jam topping.