This Caribbean bread will satisfy all your cravings for a rich fluffy bread with none of the hassles of a brioche! It has a crunchy dark crust, a very soft center, and the most buttery crumb! The best thing is the dough comes together quickly and doesn’t require a second rise. You can get this Caribbean bread in the oven in (almost) no time!
I grew up on an island called Martinique, where this Caribbean bread is called pain au beurre (butter bread). It’s a pretty straightforward name since a third of the ingredients is butter. Pain au beurre brings back so many good memories, but it’s also equally comforting because of its buttery flavor and amazing crumb. If you don’t enjoy the taste of butter, then this recipe isn’t for you because my oh my is it buttery!
A TRADITIONAL TREAT
Pain au beurre is usually eaten at the end of the day on special occasions; communions, weddings, baptisms, always accompanied by a cup of spicy hot chocolate. This traditional Caribbean bread is less sweet and a bit drier than a brioche. Is this why we dunk it in hot chocolate or was it made this way for the purpose of dunking, I couldn’t say.
In any case, pain au beurre offers a great contrast of textures; a crusty exterior with a fluffy pillowy center. Stopping yourself after just one slice is im-pos-si-ble! You could eat a slice of Caribbean for breakfast/afternoon tea with jams or chocolate spreads (or why not MORE butter). My husband acts like my Caribbean bread is a Turkish açma (fluffy brioche bun) and spreads tomato paste on it to eat with cheese. Sweet or salty, you can’t go wrong! Personally, I just love it on its own, just me, the Caribbean bread, and its amazing buttery flavor.
THE TASTE OF BRIOCHE, BUT HASSLE-FREE
This recipe isn’t fussy at all! The dough is really easy to make. For a brioche, you would slowly incorporate softened butter during the kneading stage, which can be messy if 1/ you are not used to kneading doughs, 2/ you don’t have a stand mixer to do the job for you. But with my pain au beurre, you simply rub the butter in the flour lightly with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. This technique is usually reserved for pie crusts but it works wonderfully well for Caribbean bread too! Kneading becomes so much easier when the butter is already fully incorporated into the dough.
I like using cold butter on hot days because otherwise, it would start to melt and ooze away between the kneading, rising, shaping, etc… Don’t worry, even if the butter is cold, it will get to room temperature quickly so it won’t hinder your dough’s rise. If at any time you feel like the butter is oozing, cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until it hardens again. Putting too much flour to compensate would make the Caribbean bread drier but cooking it with oozing butter will make the loaf dense.
Another advantage of the Caribbean bread is that it doesn’t even need a second rise after it has been shaped. You just glaze the pain au beurre and that’s it, in the oven it goes!
CRUNCHY vs SOFT
Everyone (in the Caribbean) has their own pain au beurre preferences. Obviously everyone loves a fluffy crumb but the level of crustiness of the perfect pain au beurre is up for debate. Some want their Caribbean bread to have a nice bite. In a way, it makes it even more rewarding to reach the softest part of the butter bread. I love a crusty pain au beurre but not everyone wants a super crunchy exterior so this recipe is on the fluffy side.
If you prefer a crunchy butter bread, roll the pieces of dough in more flour than necessary while shaping the ropes. You should also omit the steps to create steam in the oven while you bake the Caribbean bread. You’ll also get a fluffy crumb but the overall pain au beurre will be less soft with a harder crust.
SHAPING THE BUTTER BREAD
You could let the dough rise overnight in the fridge if you want to bake your loaf early in the morning for breakfast. Just make sure to let the dough come to room temperature before shaping the butter bread.
I’ve made a very traditional looking pain au beurre, with the 3-strand plait, the pomme cannelles sitting on top and the vanille all around the loaf. But by no means, should you feel obligated to shape your Caribbean bread this way. There isn’t just one shape of pain au beurre. You can give free rein to your imagination! I’ve seen pain au beurre shaped like turtles, Martinique, hearts, just one long braid,… You can check out this video if you are unsure about the 3-strand plait. However it’ll look, it’ll taste just as good. If you don’t feel like taking the time to shape the Caribbean bread like I did you could also follow this recipe to make 8 pomme cannelles with the same dough! It’s quicker and will be just as delicious.
Whichever shape you pick, be patient! I know it’s hard to resist a piece of warm brioche, but wait for the loaf to be cold before slicing it. Otherwise, it might collapse and have a doughy/dense crumb.
➝ How to freeze a Caribbean bread? If you don’t eat everything on the day you made the butter bread, it’s best to freeze what’s left of the pain au beurre to preserve its freshness. Brioche-style loaves get stale pretty quickly. Slice the Caribbean bread and place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Freeze the slices and after 1 hour (they should be frozen solid by then) put them in a freezing bag. This way you’ll be able to take out the specific number of slices you want from the bag to let them thaw at room temperature. If you directly put them all in a bag before they are frozen solid, they will all freeze stuck to each other and you’ll be forced to thaw everything.Print
Caribbean bread will satisfy all your cravings for a rich fluffy bread with none of the hassles of a brioche! It has a crunchy dark crust, a very soft center, and the most buttery crumb.
For the Caribbean bread dough:
- 125ml whole milk (½ cup)
- 1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
- 8g active dry yeast (2 tsp), around 1 packet
- 500g all-purpose flour (3 ½ cup)
- 2 tsp salt
- 200g butter, cubed (fridge-cold if you’re making the recipe on a hot day) (7 oz)
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp milk
For the Caribbean bread dough:
- Heat the milk to 32°C (90°F) and pour it down in a small bowl. Add in the sugar, yeast and stir. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 10 min. Bubbles should start to appear, meaning you will have activated the yeast.
- Mix the flour and salt together in a big mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it in lightly with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
- Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the milk mixture and the beaten eggs. Using one of your hands, bring the mixture together until a soft dough is formed.
- Tip it out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 min, until you have a smooth dough that is just slightly sticky.
- Lightly oil another mixing bowl, put the Caribbean bread dough in it, and cover the bowl with a damp dishtowel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, around 1h30 to 2h, in a warm place. Your dough will thrive at 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F).
For the 3-strand braid:
- Punch the dough and fold it in on itself to knock it back and remove the air. Weigh your dough and tear off 1/3 of it. Cover it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. You’ll need it later on for the decoration.
- Now divide the 2/3 of the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each of these on a lightly floured surface or using the palms of your hands into ropes measuring 50cm (20in). Try to keep each rope the same thickness and length.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the ropes on it (lengthwise). It’s okay if the ropes are sticking out of the tray for now.
- Pinch the ends together at the top to join them. Rotate the tray vertically so the ropes are in front ıf you. It’ll be easier for you to braid if you’re not used to it.
- Take the outside rope on the right and place it over the rope next to it (the rope to the immediate left). The rope that had been on the right becomes the middle rope. The original middle rope is now on the right.
- Now take the rope on the left and place it over the ‘new’ middle rope (the rope to the immediate right). The rope that had been on the left is now in the middle.
- Now repeat the sequence (alternately placing the right rope over the middle rope, then the left rope over the middle rope) until you get to the bottom. Keep the braid fairly tight as you work your way down.
- Pinch the ends together and tuck them underneath. Then join the ends of the braid to form a circular ‘crown’. Don’t worry if a spot looks a bit messy, you can hide any flaws with the decoration. Adjust the braid on the baking parchment so that it’s in the middle of the tray.
- Now, it’s time for the ‘decoration’ that will be placed on top of the braid. If it’s a particularly hot day, you can place the tray in the fridge while you shape the pomme cannelles and vanille.
For the Caribbean bread decoration:
- Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F). Take the dough out of the fridge. Weigh it and tear off 1/3 of it. You’ll use it for the vanille, but for now, cover it in plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge.
- Now divide the 2/3 of the dough left into 3 equal pieces. These will be for the pomme cannelles. Roll each of these on a lightly floured surface or using the palms of your hands into ropes measuring 35cm (14in).
- Wrap each rope around itself, placing one layer on top of another, like a snail shell. This will give volume to the small ‘pile’ of dough. The extremity of the bun should be pointy.
- With a pair of scissors, make small notches in the pomme cannelles every 2cm (1 in). Then place them symmetrically on top of the Caribbean bread.
- You’re almost done! Now it’s time to shape the vanille. Take the small dough out of the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces.
- Roll each of these on a lightly floured surface or using the palms of your hands into ropes measuring 60cm (24in).
- Pinch the ends together at the top to join them and twist the two ropes together tightly. Place the vanille all around the exterior of the Caribbean bread.
- If you want your Caribbean head to be extra fluffy, put a roasting tray on the bottom shelf of your oven, and carefully fill it with boiling water. This will create steam that will keep your bread soft.
- Mix the ingredients for the egg wash in a small bowl and delicately brush the loaf. Bake for 35 min on the middle shelf of your oven. If the top browns too much, you can cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil during the last 10 min.
- The Caribbean bread is ready when it has a dark brown color and sound hollow when tapped. Leave the butter bread to cool completely on the baking tray before slicing it.
Caribbean bread is best the day it’s made but it’ll keep, wrapped airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Stale slices of butter bread are great to make French toasts wtih!
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 297
- Fat: 15.2g
Keywords: breakfast, yeast dough, caribbean, butter bread