As much as I like trying new things, some things are just difficult to say no to, however often you have already tried them. And one of those things for me was the Pain Suisse sold at Paul’s opposite my old office in London: think rich brioche dough wrapped around a vanilla bean flecked pastry cream covered in a thick carpet of chocolate chips. (Also, I am not sure how anyone could have the willpower to say no to such sugary delights when you are an overworked junior associate in a large international law firm as high on billable hours as you are low on quality sleep.)
The good news is Pain Suisse tastes equally good once you are a bit more settled in your career, you have swapped Brussels for London and French pastries are much easier to come by. That being said, it never hurt anyone to have a go at making their favourite pastries at home (or to re-visit some classic flavour combinations in the process).
I am not sure when I first encountered banana and miso in the same dish, but suffice to say I adore that sweet, salty and ever so slightly funky, combination. And it’s been far too long since I played with this (if you go way back in the archives of the blog you’ll find the recipe for a Miso Banana Custard Tart I made about four years ago, shortly after arriving in Brussels). You could certainly make the recipe below and simply substitute about 350g of your favourite thick pastry cream recipe if the banana and miso combo sounds a bit out there, I won’t judge. You could also make your favourite thick pastry cream recipe but replace the vanilla bean with grated tonka bean and instead of chocolate chips use some chopped sour cherries. That would actually be a very good idea. But I would also urge you to give the banana miso combination a try – a spoon of that pastry cream tastes like the filling of banoffee pie!
One thing I learned testing this recipe is that making brioche dough without a stand-mixer is actually very doable, at least with such a small quantity of flour. I simply used the dough-hooks on my handheld mixer, placed the mixing bowl on a kitchen towel to stop it from dancing across my kitchen counter and, quite importantly, kept switching between my right and left hand to hold the mixer (while telling myself that maybe it was a good idea I skipped my yoga class that day and saved my energy to knead the brioche dough into submission (submission = passing the window pane test)).
Pain Suisse with Banana Miso Pastry Cream and Chocolate Chips
Notes: This recipe is not per se technically challenging but here are a few trouble-shooting tips: make the dough the night before you want to bake this – the high butter content means the dough is easier to handle straight from the fridge (and easier to divide neatly too). The other thing to make sure is that the pastry cream is very thick and much thicker than you would normally want it (it will thin out once the banana is added but you want a firm, spreadable cream to minimise leakage during the baking process). Another tip is to add the banana and miso to the pastry cream only once you are ready to fill the pain suisse – this helps to stop the pastry cream from discolouring.
For the Brioche
250g strong flour
½ tsp/3.5g dried active yeast or 10g fresh yeast
1/4 tsp salt
125g soft butter
For the Pastry Cream
1 medium banana (ca. 100g peeled)
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp white sweet miso
For the filling
125g chocolate chips
For the egg wash
1 egg yolk, a small glug of milk
For the finishing syrup (optional)
Start by making the brioche dough. In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast and pinch of salt. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Set aside to cool a little bit before whisking the eggs into the butter. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Knead the dough until it passes the window pane test. This is easiest done in a stand-mixer but I just do it with the dough hooks of my handheld mixer (a bit of an arm workout but doable with such a small quantity of dough), which takes about 7-10 minutes.
If you want to bake the brioche on the same day, cover the bowl and set aside somewhere warm to proof for 3h. Alternatively, cover the dough and place it in the fridge overnight. I have tried both methods for this and prefer the overnight method. Not only does it mean I can enjoy the pain suisse warm from the oven for breakfast, given the high butter content, the cold dough is also easier to handle when it comes to filling and dividing the pain suisse.
For the miso banana pastry cream heat the milk in a small saucepan until it starts to steam. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and yolks with the cornstarch and sugar. Pour 1/3 of the steaming milk over the eggs, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan with the milk. Whisking constantly, cook the pastry cream on a low to medium heat until very thick (this will take 5-10 minutes). Set aside to cool.
When you are ready to fill the pain suisse, add the miso and banana and blend into the pastry cream using an immersion blender (you can also use a food processor for this). Cover and set aside to cool. Waiting to add the miso and banana at the very last moment prevents the pastry cream from discolouring.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Knock the brioche dough back and briefly knead before rolling out into a 45x25cm rectangle, with one of the shorter sides of the rectangle facing you.
Spread the pastry cream evenly over the bottom ½ of the dough, leaving a 2cm border. Scatter the chocolate chips over the pastry cream and gently press into the pastry cream with the palm of your hand. Fold the 2cm border over the filling, and then fold the top half of the dough over the bottom half. If they are uneven, cut off the edges of the rectangle, so you end up with a rectangle with straight sides all around.
Cut the rectangle into 8 evenly sized fingers and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Cover and set aside to proof for 1h.
Whisk together the egg yolk with a splash of milk then brush this over each pain suisse.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the pain suisses are well-risen and golden brown in colour.
While the pain suisses are baking, prepare the sugar syrup by heating the sugar and water until the sugar is completely melted. Brush a thin layer of syrup over each Pain Suisse to give it some extra shine.
Set the Pain Suisses aside to cool before eating (if you can resist that long …).
Note that these are best eaten on the day they are made but can also be frozen for later.
PS: If you counted correctly, you will have seen that the recipe leaves you with 3 spare egg whites. But fret not, I have just the recipe for three egg whites (my take on the crunchy yet soft apple tart from El Pan de la Chola in Lima, Peru and you can easily substitute the hazelnuts for another nut and the apples for another fruit – a poached pear-almond-cardamom version would be lovely for example).