Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pain Au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants!)



Chocolate croissants are probably my favorite pastry. In fact, I'm pretty sure they're boyfriend's favorite pastry, too (He has told me stories of eating chocolate croissants at Whole Foods as a kid while his mom did shopping, and he's told me a thousand times that the best chocolate croissant he's ever had was in Paris, France.) I've been itching to try my hand at making them for years, but I wanted to do it right. I didn't want to buy puff pastry from the store-- I wanted to make it from scratch. I wanted to understand and master the skill behind that flaky, buttery pastry dough.

This was my first attempt, so the croissants aren't that pretty, but they were delicious! The dough was certainly complicated to make, but it wasn't necessarily difficult. It was just a long and tedious process. For that reason, I've included step-by-step pictures to show how it's done!

(Adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures)

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 cups cold whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces


Butter Square

  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Other

  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (Don't skimp on this part! Good quality chocolate is worth the money, believe me.)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)


Directions:

  1. To make the dough: 
    1. In a medium bowl, whisk 2 3/4 cups of the flour with the yeast, sugar and salt.
    2. Add the milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
    3. Add the dry ingredients and turn to the mixer to low, beating until the dough comes together in a rough ball, about 4 minutes.
    4. Add the pieces of butter and continue kneading until the butter is completely incorporated, about 5-6 minutes.
    5. The dough will still be sticky, but should form a rough ball and mostly clear the sides of the bowl (if you make bread regularly, this dough will be more sticky than you're used to and won't clear the sides of the bowl as fully as a typical yeast bread). If it's too sticky, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. 
    1. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. 
    2. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

  1. To make the butter square: 
    1. Place the pieces of butter on your work surface and sprinkle the flour over the top of them. 
    2. Use a bench scraper to smear the butter/flour mixture back and forth against the work surface. 
    3. Continue until the mixture is uniform and smooth.  Gather in a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a 7-inch square. 
    4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

  1. Making the Puff Pastry:
    1. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll into an 11-inch square, lifting and turning as you go to make sure the dough isn't sticking.  Place the chilled butter square diagonally in the center of the dough. 
    2. Lift each of the four corners of the dough up and over the butter square. 
    3. It's fine if they don't meet exactly, just pinch them together to seal completely.
    4. Use your rolling pin to gently tap the dough, starting in the center and going outward, until square gets larger and the butter begins to soften slightly.  Roll the dough into a 14-inch square, flouring your work surface and rolling pin as necessary to ensure the dough isn't sticking. 
    5. Fold one side of the dough to the center and then bring the other side up and over it - basically, you're folding the dough like you would a business letter.  This is also called a "turn" of the dough. 
    6. Complete a second turn by folding the top half of the dough down to the center and then bringing the bottom up and over it. 
    7. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
    8. Repeat the process above (roll into a 14-inch square and fold like a business letter twice) to complete 2 more turns of the dough.  Again, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Making Pain Au Chocolat:

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and roll into a 20-inch square (flour as necessary to make sure it's not sticking).  Cut the dough into 4 equal 10-inch squares. 
  2. Cut each of those squares into 3 rectangles (about 10 x 3 1/4-inches each) - you should have a total of 12 rectangles. 
  3. Add about 1 tablespoon (about 1/2-oz) of chopped chocolate to the center of each rectangle.
  4. Fold the top of the rectangle over the chocolate and down to the center, then lift the bottom up and over it (again, we're folding it like it's a business letter).
  5. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets, seam-side down. Try to keep the croissants horizontal as you move them so the chocolate doesn't spill out the sides. 
  6. Loosely cover the croissant with plastic wrap and let them rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes, or until they're puffy (they won't necessarily double in size).
  7. While they're rising, preheat oven to 400 F with racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.
  8. Brush the croissants with the egg wash then bake for 18-22 minutes, or until they are golden brown, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the halfway point.
  9. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the croissants cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
  10. They're best warm, but will keep for a few days at room temperature if tightly wrapped.

Makes 12 croissants

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