for 4 or so log-shaped pieces
- 300g flour
- 100ml milk
- 100g brown sugar
- 75g butter
- 25g baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 10g vanilla sugar (if not available, you can either make your own by placing a few cut vanilla pods in sugar and leaving it to macerate for a week or so, or you can just use regular sugar and add a touch of vanilla extract)
- 1 tsp cinammon
- ‘nib’ sugar – large decorative sugar crystals for the top
Make sure that the milk and butter are room temperature before you start.
Warm about half the milk slightly, but not more than 30°C/86°F and then dissolve the baking powder in the warmed milk. The yeast in the powder will die if the milk is a higher temperature, so be careful. The mixture should foam up, as the yeast activates. Then set the foaming mixture aside. Now, when I made this, I did not let the mixture sit long enough, and my bread came out flat, and not thick and chewy as it should be. The result was still tasty, fortunately.
Sift together the flour, half the sugar, vanilla sugar, cinammon, and the salt. Spread out the sifted mixture on a plate and make a depression in the center, like a long, flat volcano. Break the egg in the center, and add a bit of the milk mixture, bit by bit. Mix will and add more of the milk mixture as needed until you obtain a fairly homogeneous dough.
If necessary, you can add some of the milk that you did not mix with the baking powder. Once the dough is pretty sticky and flexible, you can add the butter. Knead the mixture until you get an elastic consistency. Place the dough in the center of the plate and let the dough sit for about an hour at room temperature, covered by a kitchen towel.
Once the dough has sat for an hour, preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F.
Divide the dough into pieces of about 100g a piece. Roll them out on a floured work surface and then make sausage-like packets of them, say 7cm by 12cm or so.
Then spread out the nib sugar granules on another work surface. Take your logs and flatten them into the sugar granules, so that the granules stick to the dough.
If you’d like, you can mix the sugar granules into the dough by including them when you are flattening the dough, but I don’t bother. However, if you do decide to add the crystals into the dough, you should still press the finished product onto a surface covered with nib sugar: the top of each log should have a layer of them.
Put the logs on baking trays covered with parchment-lined baking trays. Bake the logs for about 30 minutes, until they are completely golden.
While they are baking, make a syrup by heating (on low heat) the sugar with a tablespoon of water. Once the pains à la grecque have finished baking, take them out of the oven and brush them with the sugar syrup – really slather the stuff on, as it’ll create a more caremelized top.
Then leave them to cool on cooling racks.