Pain Au Lait with Artisan David Schnell of Brown's Court Bakery

by Lisa Kolb
Antoinette Bruno
December 2013

Remember the bread course you had to take in culinary school, or did you block it out completely? For many chefs—truth be told, even some pastry chefs—there is something about baking bread from scratch that is scarier and more intimidating than breaking down a whole pig. Blindfolded. With one arm.

Peanut Butter Banana Roll with Peanut Butter Glaze

Peanut Butter Banana Roll with Peanut Butter Glaze

Artisan David Schnell of Brown’s Court Bakery - Charleston, SC

Artisan David Schnell of Brown’s Court Bakery - Charleston, SC

Brown’s Court Bakery - Charleston, SC

Brown’s Court Bakery - Charleston, SC

Artisan David Schnell of Brown’s Court Bakery

Artisan David Schnell of Brown’s Court Bakery

But as 2013 Starchefs.com Rising Star Artisan David Schnell proves in historic Charleston’s Brown’s Court Bakery, the only things standing between a chef and a perfect loaf of bread are a good recipe and a few proper techniques.

For enriched dough like brioche and pain au lait, which incorporate generous (borderline unconscionable, but in a good way) quantities of fats like butter, cream cheese, and eggs, Schnell starts with a mixing bowl filled with dry ingredients (reserving the salt) on one side, and the liquids on the other. For this particular pain au lait, Schnell also adds cream cheese and eggs at the beginning of the mixing stage.

The mixing starts slowly for several minutes, eventually adding salt and kicking up the speed as the dough continues to develop gluten. Mixing the dough to “the correct tension; exactly the structure we want,” is key, says Schnell, as is proofing the dough until the proper rise has been achieved.

Taking care to remove the dough from the bowl as cleanly as possible, Schnell places the dough on a baking sheet, covers it tightly with plastic wrap so the dough “doesn’t burst out the sides,” and allows it to rise. (The dough can also be frozen for up to a week.)

Schnell’s bread philosophy, “blend the traditional with the modern,” is demonstrated by his Sriracha croissants for example, and by his peanut butter-banana roll recipe—a rich, gooey, yet modern bread the likes of which Elvis only dared to dream.

Pain au Lait Technique 

  1. In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook, combine the ingredients and mix on low speed until combined.
  2. Mix on medium speed 5 to 7 minutes, or until dough comes together.
  3. Rest dough 45 minutes, covered.
  4. Transfer to lightly floured work surface and flatten into a large rectangle, or use as desired
Related Photo Galleries