Friday, April 13, 2012

White chocolate bread from Club Med

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My version of Club Med's white chocolate bread

We spent spring break this year with my extended family at Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Florida. I've been to other Club Meds, so I knew the food would be good and the bread truly outstanding. You can take the baker out of France, but you can't take France out of the baker.

At every meal we had a choice of nearly a dozen different breads. Baguettes, of course, and brioche in various shapes. I ignored the breakfast omelettes and loaded up on the raisin bread, dense with sweet, plump raisins, with a few triangles of runny Brie.

But the hands-down family favorite, and one of Club Med's signature recipes, is the white chocolate bread. Despite the name, it's not too sweet. As I learned from head pastry chef Charles, that's because there's no sugar in the dough. It's basically a standard French bread dough with white chocolate chips, which melt and caramelize to give the bread its characteristic golden coat.

Club Med Sandpiper lead pastry chef Charles making white chocolate bread

Chef Charles's tip: Hershey's white chocolate chips work much better in this bread than fancy, expensive white chocolate. Why? He's not sure - they might have a higher sugar content, he thinks, which helps them caramelize more deeply in the hot oven.

And my tip: When you vacation at a resort or large hotel, tell the manager you're interested in meeting the chef and seeing the kitchens. If you write a food blog, give him your card and explain that you love writing about the places you travel to. As I always say: Ask for the story you want. At Club Med Sandpiper, manager Lionel was more than happy to arrange a private cooking demo for me so I could take pictures.

My version of Club Med's white chocolate bread is a little simpler and adds some whole wheat flour. Don't forget to get some steam into the oven - you won't get a good crust without it.

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White chocolate bread a la Club Med
Every Club Med around the world serves white chocolate bread on its pastry and bread buffet at every meal. This version is adapted slightly from Club Med's signature recipe. White whole wheat flour is a lighter whole grain flour, made from winter white wheat; it is widely available in the baking section of major grocery stores.
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp dry yeast (instant or regular active)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • approximately 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
Add the flours, yeast and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix briefly to make sure all dry ingredients are evenly distributed. With the mixer running on low, add half the water. Add the rest slowly, stopping when the dough comes together and starts moving around the bowl in a ball. You want the dough to be somewhat wet, but it should still move as one around the bowl. I wish I could tell you exactly how much water to add, but bread doesn't work that way - it depends on the flour, the humidity in the air, and other mysterious and unpredictable things. When the dough has come together, feel it. If it feels dry, add a little more water. Mix briefly, then add the chocolate chips. Set the mixer on the next to lowest speed and walk away for about five minutes. The mixer will do all the hard work kneading the bread dough.[If you don't have a mixer, put the dry ingredients in a big bowl, add the water, and use your muscles. Add the chips after the dough has come together into a shaggy but recognizable mess. You'll need to knead at least 10 minutes by hand. Good luck.]After kneading the dough will be relatively smooth and the chips will be more or less evenly distributed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, put it in a warm place, and leave it to rise until it's doubled in bulk (around 2 hours, but again, it depends heavily on your local conditions). Turn the dough out onto the counter and punch the air out of it. For large rolls, divide it into approximately 12 even pieces. You can make smaller rolls or one big loaf if you prefer. Put the rolls or loaf onto two parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving plenty of room for rising. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. The second rise will be shorter, about 45-60 minutes.Heat the oven to 450. Fill a spray bottle with clean water; if you don't have a spray bottle, put a heavy baking dish or cast-iron skillet on the bottom rack of your oven while it's heating up.When the oven is hot, quickly open the door, slide in the bread, and either spritz the bread with the spray bottle or pour some water into the preheated pan on the bottom rack. Close the door immediately to trap the steam and turn the oven down to 400 degrees. If you used the spray bottle, spray again after about 5 minutes of baking. Bake about 30 minutes (maybe 20 for smaller rolls, 45 for one large loaf), until the outside of the bread is golden brown and studded with dark-brown caramelized chips. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 rolls


Rocky Mountain Woman said...

There is a combo I would never have thought of, but I'll bet it works!

Thanks for the tip about asking to see the kitchens, I will definitely try it next time...

Dena said...

OOOh. Looks wonderful! Glad you had a good trip.

Whitz said...

Awesome recipe! Thanks so much for sharing:) Today is my second time using it!

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