This was the January challenge from Fresh from the Oven. I was very nervous about it: I had never made creme patissiere before, let alone anything that you had to roll up and slice before baking. But I loved the idea of the chocolate buns and was pretty excited to have a go.
I was very grateful that the instructions were so reassuring about kneading the dough. I probably had to knead this for at least 20 minutes before it was manageable, but it did eventually get there. It needed a lot of space - I had to clear the toaster, the fruitbowl and the bread bin off the work surface to get it all laid out.
The creme patissiere was great, much easier than I thought it would be. Having done some research, I've found that the flour stabilises the eggs so they don't curdle. The vanilla pod just makes it really lovely. I didn't add the cocoa to the custard because I wanted the creaminess, and I thought it would be a bit too chocolatey.
The other thing I found was that there was so much creme patissiere, I only really needed half. Perhaps I didn't stretch the dough out wide enough though. And chopping the rolls up was messy.
250g full fat milk
15g fresh yeast
500g strong bread flour
60g unsalted butter at room temp
40g caster sugar
2 large eggs
25g good quality cocoa powder
200g chocolate chips, milk or plain, or a mixture
2 eggs beaten with a pinch of salt for an egg wash
Creme Patissiere (recipe follows)
15g cocoa powder
Pour the milk into a pan and warm gently until it is about body temp - it should feel neither warm nor cold when you dip your finger into it.
To mix by hand, rub the yeast into the flour using your fingertips as if making a crumble. Rub in the butter, then add the sugar and salt, then the eggs, milk and cocoa powder. With the help of a plastic scraper, lift the dough onto your work surface. Even though the dough will feel quite soft and moist (and look like thick, sticky porridge) do not add any flour to the work surface.
Begin to work the dough, slide your fingers underneath it like a pair of forks, with your thumbs on top, swing it upwards and then slap it back down, away from you, onto your work surface (it will almost be too sticky to lift at this point). Stretch the front of the dough towards you, then lift it back over itself in an arc (to trap the air), still stretching it forwards and sideways and tucking it in around the edges. Keep repeating this sequence.
As you work the dough it will start to come together and feel alive and elastic in your hands. Keep on working until it comes cleanly away from the work surface, begins to look silky and feels smooth, firm but wobbly and responsive.
Now you can flour your work surface lightly, place the dough on top and form it into a ball by folding each edge in turn into the centre of the dough and pressing down well with your thumb, rotating the ball as you go. Turn the whole ball over and stretch and tuck the edges under. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 45 mins in a draught free place.
Make the creme pattissiere.
Once the 45 mins are up, use the rounded end of a scraper, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and, with a rolling pin, gently flatten it into a rough rectangle. Spread the chocolate creme patissiere evenly over the dough and sprinkle on the chocolate chips. Starting with one of the longer edges, roll the dough up until it resembles a Swiss roll. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 2cm slices and place them on their sides on a baking tray. Glaze with a little egg wash and leave to prove for 1 1/4 - 1 3/4 hours until the buns have roughly doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 250C.
Glaze again and put into the preheated oven, turning the heat down to 180C. Bake for 10-15 mins. As the chocolate dough is quite dark it can be difficult to tell when the buns are properly baked, and you need to take care not to under bake them - the best way to tell when they are ready is to lift one gently with a spatula and check that it is firm underneath.
If you don't want to bake the buns all in one go, you can freeze some. When they are cut, just before proving, put them on a small tray in the freezer and when they are hard put them into a freezer bag. To use them, take them out, leave to prove overnight and bake in the same way.
Makes 24 buns
In a bowl whisk together 6 egg yolks, 70 g caster sugar and 50g sifted flour. Put another 70g sugar into a saucepan with 500g (500ml) full fat milk, a vanilla pod split lengthwise and seeds scrapped in and the remaining cocoa powder. Place over a low heat. Leave until the first bubble appears, then remove from the heat. Whisk 1/3 of the milk into the egg mixture, then add the remaining 2/3 of the milk and stir again. Pour back into the pan and put back on the heat. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of mins, stirring constantly to ensure that the cream does not burn on the bottom. Pour into a dish to cool. Sprinkle a little icing sugar or flakes of butter on top to prevent a skin forming.
from 'Dough' by Richard Bertinet