This Mother’s Day, surprise that special mom (or grandmother, stepmom, sister, friend, etc.) with a home baked gift. Nothing says “I love you” like something homemade from your kitchen, and this White Chocolate Orange Zest bread is so decadent and delicious it screams “you are the best mom in the whole world!” It’s easy to make, but so incredible, and can be used in so many ways. Great for a Mother’s Day brunch, you also can make rolls for sandwiches, or use for bread pudding or French toast. Or just eat plain – it’s that scrumptious!
Ages ago I was a corporate defense attorney practicing international law in Paris, France. On a trip back to Paris in 2010, I was on a mission to try as many boulangeries, patisseries and choolatiers as humanly possible in 6 days. On the top of my list was a small nondescript bakery in the 2nd arrondisement, Au Panetier, that was listed in my guidebook as being known for its “pain au chocolat blanc” or white chocolate bread. Second probably only to the croissant, a pain au chocolat is as much of a mainstay in France as white bread is here in the United States. Rich buttery flaky pastry dough wrapped around two pieces of decadent chocolate, there is almost nothing that compares to a pain au chocolat fresh from the oven. I had probably eaten more than I’d like to admit when living overseas. But a pain au chocolat blanc? A white chocolate pastry? I had never seen or heard of such a creation.
Not surprisingly, Au Panetier has been in existence since 1896. It was tiny, as many boulangeries are in Paris, and was filled with what seemed to be regulars from the neighborhood, as well as all the many wonderful aromas of éclairs, fresh bread, pastries, macarons and other delights. I asked for a pain au chocolat blanc, expecting to be handed a pain au chocolat, but with white chocolate wrapped inside rather than dark chocolate. Much to my surprise, I was handed what appeared to be a small boule, the traditional shape for rustic French bread resembling a somewhat smashed ball.
This was no regular pain au chocolat, but truly was PAIN au CHOCOLAT BLANC – white chocolate bread. Pillowy soft inside, this boule, or ball of bread, was exactly what it was called. So simple but also so complex. There were no chunks of white chocolate within the bread, or a white chocolate glaze over the top of the bread. No, it was as if the white chocolate had been incorporated directly into the dough, and the bread itself was white chocolate, just as wheat bread is wheat bread and rye bread is rye bread. The bread was not gummy or doughy or dense, but maintained the perfect structure of bread while still being filled with the decadent taste of white chocolate. It was the most uniquely divine bread I had ever tasted.
Upon returning to Louisville I embarked on a mission to replicate this bread. I searched and searched and was unable to find any recipes for white chocolate bread, and thus I was working with a blank canvas. I was in culinary school at the time and I discussed it with my culinary instructors. I made several attempts to recreate the white chocolate essence of this bread. Many, many failed attempts ensued. You could not just add white chocolate chips – while yummy, this just resulted in chunks of white chocolate throughout regular bread. Nor could you add white chocolate too late in the bread making process – this resulted in bread that did not proof correctly. But I was determined to accomplish my goal, and several months later I finally developed a recipe that, while not exactly the same, was close enough to take me back to the first time I tasted this white chocolate masterpiece.
Several years later, I have tweaked this recipe and added extra touches. I used an egg bread recipe as a base that became somewhat like a cross between a challah and a brioche bread recipe. To me, the white chocolate and rich buttery taste of the egg bread lent itself well to citrus notes, so I added fresh orange zest and a thin glaze accented with fresh orange juice and orange zest. In addition to the boule shape, I have rolled the dough into three strands and made a braided egg bread, or created small individual rolls. I have used the bread for bread pudding and French toast, and the rolls for small sandwiches. Or, on occasion, I have simply devoured the bread on its own as it is equally decadent just simple and plain. This is undoubtedly my favorite bread of all time, and when I owned my bakery, Ooh La! La! Bakery, it was one of our most popular items. We routinely sold out of this bread every week.
The following recipe will make one large boule, two small boules, or one medium three strand braided bread. You also can portion 2 ounce rolls from the dough, for approximately 15 rolls.
If you do not want the taste of orange in the bread, just omit the orange extract and orange zest, and make a plain white chocolate bread.
The recipe is best measuring the ingredients by weight – you get more accurate measurements of you ingredients – although I also have included volume measurements.
White Chocolate Orange Zest Egg Bread
16 ounces Water
5/8 ounces (shy 1/8 teaspoon) active dry yeast
36 ounces (6 ½ cups) bread flour
¾ oz (1/8 cup) salt
4 oz (1 cup) sugar
2 oz (1 1/4 plus 1/8 cup) dry milk
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) softened butter
4 ounces (2 eggs) eggs
1 ½ cups white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 orange, zested
¼ cup orange juice (or milk)
1 teaspoon (orange extract)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
I use a standing Kitchen Aid mixer to mix the dough.
It is best to measure all of your ingredients first and have them ready to add, known as “mise en place.”
Reconstitute yeast in 8 oz of the water, tempered to warm. Hydrate the milk powder in the remaining water. Blend butter, salt and sugar with the paddle attachment of the mixer. Add eggs in stages, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the mixer after each addition. Add yeast solution and milk solution, and extracts and zest, and mix one minute on low. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Melt the white chocolate and add. Mix well. At this point the mixture will be mostly liquid.
Add the flour in increments to mix well. If using a Kitchen Aid mixer, use the bowl cover to keep flour from escaping the bowl. Change to the dough hook and develop the dough. The dough will be ready once it pulls cleanly away from the side of the bowl, although this is a wetter dough.
The dough will need to proof overnight in a bowl or container coated with non-stick cooking spray. You can either transfer the dough to a new bowl, or lift the dough from the mixing bowl, spray the mixing bowl, and replace the dough.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, take the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. If you are making one large boule, lightly flour your hands and shape the dough into one large ball. You also can evenly divide the dough for 2 small boules, portion 2 ounce balls for rolls, or divide the dough into thirds to make a braided bread.
Lightly cover the shaped round(s) with plastic wrap and let them rest for about 20 minutes on a parchment paper covered tray.
After resting, roll the round(s) into boule shapes (or smaller rounds for rolls whatever you desire) and place the round(s) onto a parchment lined baking sheet. You also can roll the balls out into longer strands to make a braided bread. Once you have the braided bread, you also can roll the braid around itself to make a braided loaf.
Spray the round(s) with a light mist of water and cover with plastic wrap. Let the round(s) proof at room temperature for about 60-70 minutes. The round(s) will appear “puffed” when ready for baking.
Brush the tops of the round(s) with egg wash (2 eggs, 1 egg yolk, and 1 tsp of water) and place in the oven to bake.
Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Baking times will vary depending on the size of the round(s) and your particular oven. Check at 20 minutes. If the dough is browning too quickly, reduce the temperature by 20 degrees. Continue baking until the bread is a nice golden brown.
Once finished baking, remove from the oven and sheet pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Once the bread has cooled, you can add the glaze if desired. You can add a plain glaze (using milk as your liquid), or an orange zest glaze. You also can vary the thickness of your glaze by adding more or less confectioner’s sugar. It is best to place the bread on a wire rack over a parchment paper covered tray – you can then reuse any glaze that drips off the bread. It also makes clean up so much easier!
Enjoy within a day or two, wrapping in plastic to avoid drying out.
You can also check out the entire how-to video on our YouTube Channel at