In a world where so many lent books are forever lost between the pages of life, mixed in with the gently worn moving boxes, half-dead houseplants, and mismatched socks, it’s amazing when a book comes back to you.
But this is how I came to be acquainted with Au Pied de Cochon: The Album. My boyfriend lent it to a fellow cook a few years ago. And it recently, miraculously, found its way back to him, this time making itself at home on my coffee table.
So I spent some time with the infamously foie gras-driven cookbook, pawing its pages filled with liver and sausage alongside more liver, cheese curds, and heaps of potatoes.
Foie gras poutine … page turn … boudin maison … foie gras and boudin tart … page turn … chicken pie with foie gras sauce and crispy chicken skin … page turn ….
Eventually, I came upon a bun recipe. “PDC bread,” as titled in the book, with a picture of the bread in gorgeous bun form at the bottom of the page. A bun with a shiny, lacquered top the color of a chestnut. A top that very clearly yielded to a tender brioche-like bottom.
I had been looking for a bread like this. The universe does not present such recipes very often. So I wasted little time getting to know it.
It’s the kind of bun that is quite good when eaten on its own, but is also easy to imagine paired with some enthusiastically sauced beef or drippy pig parts. It’s squishy and ever so slightly buttery. Precisely the kind of bread you want when you are eating something that might just get all over your face.
Life gets messy sometimes. It moves in ways that you could never predict. But it’s nice to know there are people out there that still return books. And still share cookbooks. And are willing to part with amazing bread recipes. Recipes that actually match up to the pictures taken of them.
Adapted from Au Pied de Cochon: The Album
2 cups whole milk
4 tsp dry yeast
5 cups flour (plus more for the kneading), sifted
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs, gently mixed together
7 tbsp butter, creamed
2 egg yolks
Heat the milk to 93 degrees Fahrenheit (it won’t necessarily feel all that warm if you touch it). Mix in the yeast and let stand for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate (you should start to see very subtle bubbles every once and a while and the yeast will get somewhat cloudy but there won’t be a flurry of activity). In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt; add in the yeast mixture when it is ready.
Mix at low speed using a dough hook for 10 minutes. (Start the mixer slowly so that the flour doesn’t go flying.) Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Gently mix in the two whole eggs and butter (i.e. on a lower speed) until most of the ingredients have been incorporated (you might want to cover the mixer with some plastic wrap, as some of the flour and eggs may want to jump from the bowl once you've added the eggs and butter); increase the speed of the mixer and blend with the dough hook for 10 minutes or until the bread dough looks very elastic and clings to the dough hook.
Generously flour a work surface and slightly knead the dough until it can form the shape of a ball (I added another ½-1 cup of flour here because my dough was really sticky). It will remain a loose-ish dough, but it should stop sticking to your fingers and should be smooth (not shaggy). Once the dough is formed into a ball, place it into a bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes (or until it doubles in size). (I always place my bread on my gas oven range because it’s the warmest part of my apartment.)
Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and divide it in half, divide each half in half and then divide each of your four pieces of dough into thirds so that you have a total of 12 pieces. (They should each weigh roughly four ounces if you have a scale.) Form each piece into a round ball and place on ungreased baking sheets (I placed 6 balls on each sheet). Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for roughly 45 minutes, or until they double in size.
While the rolls are rising, set the oven to 350 degrees and beat the two yolks together in a small bowl. When the rolls are ready, lightly brush their tops with egg yolk using a pastry brush, brushing down their sides, as well. Bake the rolls for about 25 minutes or until their tops are golden brown and shiny.
Makes 12 hamburger-sized rolls
-These are damn good. Just make them.