Pain au Chocolate (Chocolate Croissants) – The Art of French Baking

If there was ever a time for diet cheating, it would have to include French pastry. There’s no denying the enticing smells of butter & pastry that lures you into the kitchen before you know it. Puff pastry or any laminated dough like those used for croissants are and should be a respected art for its refined technique. Yes, there’s not much room for error or leeway, and yes, that probably doesn’t sound like much fun for most. But believe you me, there’s no better reward for something that’s not that ingredient heavy & simple as long as you keep within these two principles:

1. Cold dough = flaky dough

2. Rollin’ & foldin’ 3x

Totally simplified & really what you need to keep in mind when making these labors of love. Although they can be stuffed with just about anything under the sky, who wouldn’t want chocolate? Pain au chocolat is a classic for a reason, and the sharpness of the dark chocolate (I used a 60% cacao) with the buttery richness of the croissant, makes for a heavenly pairing with a piping hot cup of joe. So whenever you have a day to spare (or a couple of days you’re making these ahead), try these out! Et voila!

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*Classic Croissant recipe: https://shannonseats.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/classic-butter-croissants-a-labor-of-love/

Makes 10 chocolate croissants (Pain au Chocolat)

Recipe:

-3 2/3 cups (475 g) bread flour

-2 1/2 teaspoons (10 g) dry, active yeast

-1/3 cup (65 g) granulated white sugar, divided

-1 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

-2 tablespoons (25 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

-1/2 cup lukewarm water (about 70F or 20C)

-1/2 cup lukewarm whole milk (about 70F or 20C)

-1 cup (226 g) cold unsalted European style butter, sliced lengthwise

-2 cups (350 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

-1 large egg for egg wash

Making the dough (can be made 2-3 days in advance):

In a large measuring up or bowl, mix together water, milk, yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Let rest for about 5-10 minutes or until small bubbles form and is foamy and thick.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, cut in the butter until it is the texture of coarse crumbs. Stir in reserved yeast mixture until you have a crumbly, shaggy, and sticky dough. Allow to rest for about 15-20 minutes at room temperature. Then on a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14 x 10 inch (35 x 25 cm) rectangle. Transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet and sprinkle more flour over the top so it doesn’t stick to the plastic wrap. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days. The goal is for the dough to be thoroughly chilled.

Butter block/slab:

Take a large piece of parchment paper and trace a 10 x 7 inch (25 x 18 cm) rectangle on one side. Flip it over and lay down cold butter slices within the rectangle. Cover with another large piece of parchment paper and using a rolling pin, forcibly roll or pound the butter to spread it evenly to fit the rectangle. If your butter is pliable and retains some dents when pressed but is still chilled or cold to the touch, then this step will work. Once my butter was almost to the right size, I folded the papers along the stenciled lines to create a crisp rectangle. Run your hand over the surface to ensure that the butter is the same thickness all around. Once the butter fits the size of the rectangle, freeze for about 10-15 minutes or until it is firm and solid.

Lamination + the 1st & 2nd double turns:

For the lamination, remove dough from fridge and check to see if it’s still 14 x 10 inch (35 x 25 cm) rectangle. Remove butter from the freezer as well. Lay the dough horizontally on a lightly floured surface and place the butter in the center. Bring the edges of the dough together to seal it around the butter block. It doesn’t matter if there’s a little overlap between the two edges of dough, so long as the entire butter block is enveloped by the dough. For the first fold, turn the dough so the seam that we made to seal the dough around the butter is facing up and vertical. Roll (or you may need to lightly pound it first) starting from the center, then away and towards you. You want a long 24 x 8 inch (60 x 20 cm) rectangle that is longer than it is wide. To be honest, mine was slightly wider than 8 inches (20 cm) so the width isn’t as critical. Periodically lift the dough to make sure it is not sticking to the surface. If so, add more flour underneath or if at anytime the dough/butter starts to melt, then refrigerate until chilled and mostly firm. Now we need to do a double turn. Take the end furthest away from you and fold it about 1/2 way towards the center. Repeat with the opposite end. Then fold the entire dough in half to create something that looks like a book. At this point, my dough was still cold enough to repeat this double turn/fold, but if it begins to get too soft or melt, refrigerate/freeze immediately until it is firm. If still solid and cool, rotate 90 degrees so it’s a vertically-facing rectangle. Roll into a 24 x 8 inch (60 x 20 cm) rectangle and repeat the double turn, flouring as needed and checking to see if the dough needs to be chilled. After the second turn, place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.

The 3rd simple turn + sheeting:

Once the dough is firm to the touch, roll into a 24 x 8 inch (60 x 20 cm) rectangle again. Now create a simple turn which is basically a business letter fold. Take one end of the dough and fold it to meet the center. Now take the opposite end and fold it over the previous fold.

To sheet the dough, roll into a 16 x 9 inch (40 x 23 cm) rectangle and return to a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45-60 minutes or overnight.

Shaping the croissants + proofing:

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat. Beat 1 egg in a small bowl for the egg wash. Set aside.

Roll the dough into a 18 x 12 inch (45 x 30 cm) rectangle. Cut about 10 rectangles with about a 3-31/2 inch (7.5-9 cm) base per rectangle. For each rectangle, place it lengthwise and place a single layer of chocolate chips across horizontally about 1/2″ (5 cm) from the end. Roll to cover the chocolate, then place another layer of chocolate in front of where you just rolled (parallel to the chocolate you just rolled in). Roll until you have a cylinder and place seam side down on a lined baking sheet. When all of them have been rolled, brush with beaten egg. If proofing them the same day (I refrigerated them overnight and proofed them a day later as it was getting too late), then rest them at room temperature, preferably 70F (20C), for 2-21/2 hours. If you’re going to bake them the next morning/day, then remove them from the fridge a couple hours before baking so they come to room temperature and can proof a little more. You know when the croissants are done proofing when they become slightly larger (not doubled) and wiggle when the pan is slightly shaken.

Baking the croissants (finally!):

Preheat oven to 425F (218C). Re-brush croissants gently with more egg wash, being careful not to deflate them, and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F (180C) for an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes and enjoy warm!

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