Not to be confused with the much maligned, but nonetheless delicious, garlic snail, these snails (the literal translation is raisin bread) are a delicious viennoiserie made from a buttered pastry dough, custard and sultanas, rolled together into a tightly spiralled bun. Every region of France has its preference as to what type of dough they use, from the rich and flaky croissant dough used in the south, to the fluffy brioche in the north. Although a pain aux raisins always relates to a custard and raisin filling, you will find a similar-looking product called a roulade, which comes with an almost infinite combination of fillings, from pistachio and chocolate to praline and chocolate.
In keeping with the underlying philosophy of this book, this classic snail recipe is simply a blueprint for you to experiment with different types of fillings and textural combinations, from almond creams or crushed nuts, to fresh fruits and exotic spices. Whatever filling you choose, you will (hopefully) always end up with a fantastically moist and delicious pastry.
- Yield: 10
- 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) Brioche Dough
- 9 oz (250 g) sultanas (golden raisins) or raisins
- 2 vanilla beans, halved lengthways
- 1¾ fl oz (50 ml) rum
- 12 oz (350 g) cold Custard
- 2¾ fl oz (80 ml) cold whipping cream (35% fat)
- 2 eggs
- pinch of fine salt
- Prepare the brioche dough to the end of the first prove. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- You will also need to rehydrate your sultanas or raisins the day before. Put the sultanas in a heatproof bowl. Put the vanilla beans, rum and 500 ml (17 fl oz) water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Pour over the sultanas, then immediately cover with plastic wrap. Set aside until cool, then refrigerate overnight.
- Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the custard on medium speed for 1 minute, then add the cream and beat until smooth and shiny. Mixing in the cold cream helps prevent the mixture from setting again.
- Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside. If you are not very experienced with rolling dough, you can divide the brioche dough in half to make life a little easier. Brioche is softer and stickier than most other bread doughs, including croissant dough, so you will need to use a bit more flour and try to be quick! Roll out the cold brioche dough on a lightly floured work surface into a rectangle about 3 mm (1/8 in) thick. If necessary, stretch the dough using your hands to achieve a rectangular shape. As a guide, the shape should be twice as long as it is wide — about 15 x 30 cm (6 x 12 in).
- Using a spatula, spread the custard over the dough, right to the edges. Don’t spend too much time trying to achieve a perfectly smooth, even layer of custard, as your priority is to work fast while the brioche is still cold and firm. Drain the sultanas well, then sprinkle them evenly over the custard. Starting from one long side, roll the dough into a tight, long roll. The roll should be 6–7 cm (2½–2¾ in) in diameter; if it is any bigger, use your hands to gently stretch it out until you reach the right thickness. Using a large knife, cut the roll into 3 cm (1¼ in) thick slices and place on the lined trays, spacing the slices about 10 cm (4 in) apart. Cover with a dry cloth and set aside in a warm place to prove for 1 hour, or until risen by half.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). To make an egg wash, lightly beat the eggs and salt in a small bowl, then set aside for 5 minutes. When the rolls have proved, brush them liberally with the egg wash. Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool. Depending on the size of your oven and how many trays you can bake at one time, keep your unbaked snails in the fridge, to stop them overproving while they are waiting to go into the oven.