Having made the commitment at the beginning of this year to eat only foods that are fresh, unprocessed and nutritious, I know what it feels like to give up foods that one has become accustomed to and has enjoyed over the years. It was therefore with a great sense of empathy that I learned that Héloïse, the 10½ year old daughter of my good friend Flo (author of the wonderful food blog Makanai), was recently instructed by her physician that she needs to exclude all dairy products from her diet. A French young lady who can no longer eat ice cream, butter or cheese? Quelle horreur! And that’s not to mention the prohibition on all the butter-enriched sweet breads and pastries for which the French have become famous. This is a situation which must be rectified!
Most sweet breads use butter and milk as ingredients to get the soft, tender crumb characteristic of these types of breads. But who’s to say that the fat and milk need to be of animal origin? An ideal, non-dairy source for these ingredients is the coconut. Coconut milk, while being dairy-free, is still a good source of calcium and coconut oil adds that rich coconut aroma that pairs perfectly with any sweet bread. Agave nectar, instead of the usual cane sugar, rounds out the eclectic ingredient list. The aroma of this bread while it is baking is indescribable. And the crumb has that close, feathery texture found in the finest brioche. Héloïse, ce pain est fait pour vous!
- 500 g King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
- 205 g Unsweetened Coconut Milk
- 70 g (1 large) Egg
- 10 g Osmotolerant Instant Dried Yeast
- 5 g Salt
- 120 g Light Agave Nectar
- 55 g Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil
- 4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- Egg wash, as needed
Into the bowl of a stand mixer is placed the flour, yeast and salt. In a separate bowl is placed the egg, agave nectar, vanilla extract and coconut milk. The liquid mixture is then beat with a whisk until smooth. This liquid is then added to the flour mixture and the combined ingredients are mixed using the stand mixer on speed 2 until all the ingredients are incorporated, about 2 minutes. The mixer speed is then increased to speed 3 and the dough is given an intensive mix until a smooth windowpane can be drawn, about 10 minutes. The mixer speed is then reduced to speed 2 and the coconut oil is added. The mixing is continued until all the coconut oil has been incorporated into the dough, about 10 minutes. During this time, it may be necessary to stop the mixing and fold the dough over a few times by hand to facilitate the coconut oil incorporation.
The dough is then placed in a lightly coconut oil-greased container, covered and allowed to ferment at 76ºF for 1 hour. The dough is then divided into 4 pieces, each piece pre-shaped into short logs and the pieces then allowed to rest at room temperature, covered, for 10 minutes. The dough pieces are then shaped into 10 inch long strands. Two strands are twisted around each other and then placed in a lightly coconut oil-greased 8½”x4½” bread pan, as shown:
The second two dough strands are treated in the same way. Both pans are then covered with Saran QuickCovers and allowed a second fermentation of 1 hour at 76ºF. The pans are then uncovered, the loaves brushed with egg wash, and the pans loaded into a 375ºF oven. The loaves are allowed to bake for 30 minutes until mahogany brown, the first 10 minutes being under steam. When the loaves have finished baking, they are immediately removed from their pans and allowed to cool on a wire rack before slicing.