My very first post was about croissants, which, I bet you won’t agree with me, are easy to make. You simply have to give them time and practice. But did you know that they have a brother? Yep, it’s a Pain au Chocolat or simply chocolate croissants.
They are made from the same dough as croissants, only have a different shape and, of course, chocolate. These tasty Pain au Chocolat are perfect for a sweet homemade breakfast.
You can find a Pain au Chocolat recipe at the end of the post, but I feel the need to explain this kind of pastry itself before that. Remember, I said it’s easy to make croissants, but it’s easy only when you know what you’re doing.
And this blog is made to explain EVERYTHING, so I can’t give you just the recipe. It’s too boring.
First of all, what is Pastry?
I’m gonna quote it from the book ‘On food & cooking’ by Harold McGee. By the way, it’s an awesome book if you wanna get really deep about food.
Here it is: ‘Pastry is an expression of the fragmentary, discontinuous, particulate qualities of wheat flour. We use just enough water to make a cohesive dough from the flour and work in large amounts of fat to coat and separate flour particles and dough regions from each other.’
Believe me, that’s a short and simple definition.
Now, pastry has 4 styles. They depend on the way fat was incorporated into the dough and the development of the flour gluten.
- Crumbly pastries. Minimal gluten development, low protein content. By kneading we incorporate fat into the dough to separate super small flour particles. This pastry is for all your tarts.
- Flaky pastries. Controlled gluten development using higher protein content flour (11-12%). Fat is worked into dry flour to make pea-sized pieces, and then use a super small amount of cold water, just enough to make the dough. This pastry is for all your American pies.
- Laminated pastries. High or very high protein content (11-15%) in flour cause we need to develop lots of gluten, especially if you are making strudel. Short and simple: making of a dough-fat sandwich. It’s our puff pastry, phyllo, and strudel.
- Laminated breads (HYBRIDS). It’s basically the same as for laminated pastries, but we are using bread dough. We are making richer and tender sandwiches. This is where we are today. It’s our croissants, Pain au Chocolat and Danish pastries.
Laminated pastries and laminated breads
What is a laminated pastry?
It is a pastry where fat is folded into the dough, rolled out, and folded onto itself. We repeat rolling, folding, and refrigerating a total of 6 times and create 729 layers.
You need a flour that has higher protein content to develop the gluten (11-13%).
When it’s done, you can see lots of very thin layers that are super delicate, delicious, satisfying, and shatter in the mouth.
How laminated pastry differ from laminated bread?
Laminated pastry dough is made only from water and flour. In contrast, laminated breads’ dough is richer because of milk, yeast, sugar, and eggs, depending on what you’re making.
The laminated pastry is basically only laminated to make lots of layers. On the other hand, pastry-bread hybrids need lots of fermentation, and that takes time.
Fermentation is the key to fuller flavor.
Why are laminated breads called hybrids?
Because croissants, Pain au Chocolat, or Danish pastries are essentially bread doughs.
And, for instance, authentic croissants were yeast-raised breads shaped into a crescent. Only later the Parisian bakers had an idea to make this dough laminated and create a croissant that we know today.
Because this dough is a laminated bread dough, we have a flaky but still moist and even richer flavor.
Why do you need to chill pastry after each turn?
Short and simple. We need to rechill the butter and relax the gluten.
Let’s start with the fat.
Butter is very demanding. At different temperatures, it gives us different consistencies. We have to ensure that it’s not too solid and not liquidy (15-20°C). Otherwise, we’ll have crumbled butter in the dough, which means uneven layers, or water in the butter will glue layers together.
Trust me, you do not want any of that.
Now, when talking about gluten, remember that you gonna roll the dough lots of times, and each time you are stretching the gluten, making it more elastic. But. Gluten has its limits as well and will resist you. It will be harder to handle the dough. So, please, put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
How to make laminated bread?
You can see how to make laminated bread in the recipe down below, but here I want to remind you of a few important points.
- Do not knead the dough too much at the beginning.
You don’t need to develop that much gluten at the beginning. This pastry needs time for fermentation to enhance flavor and become lighter whether you need the dough a lot or not. During resting, rolling, and folding, you WILL develop enough gluten.
- While you are a beginner, 4 turns are more than enough.
It is hard to nicely roll the butter, so it doesn’t crumble and make perfect layers. Quality over quantity. It’s better to make 4 good turns than 6 but shitty ones.
The last time I made Pain au chocolat, I tried making 6 turns and failed. I ruined the layers. So, yep, I’m not that advanced yet as well.
- Always rechill the dough.
I wrote about it above. But just to remind you, by rechilling, you give the fat a chance to resolidify and the gluten to relax. If you don’t do so, there is a high chance to glue the layers, and the dough will resist you as well.
- WARNING* Rolling the dough.
It is a crucial part! Be very gentle and try to feel the butter. If you feel that it’s crumbling, give it additional 15 minutes to warm up. Do not rush.
And always roll in the same direction. Remember, you can not ruin this dough’ structure.
What’s the difference between Croissants & Pain au Chocolat?
Honestly, basically nothing. It’s just called fancier.
The difference is the shape and chocolate. Instead of making triangles with nothing, we are making rolled squares with chocolate.
Personally, I like simple croissants more than chocolate ones. Even though Pain au Chocolat does sound fancier, croissants are more luxurious and truly reflect the butter’s richness.
More dessert recipes:
- How to make French croissant recipe by hand | Classic
- Quick & easy banana bread recipe | No fail
- Red Velvet cake from scratch | Valentine’s day recipe
Pain au Chocolat recipe
4.5g instant yeast
250g bread flour
30g granulated sugar
25g melted unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
138g unsalted butter
1 egg and splash of milk
150g your beloved chocolate
- DAY 1
- In a cup, mix water at 35°C with yeast until you can’t see yeast grains, only one mass. If you mix it with water at 40°C or more, the yeast will die.
- In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Over low heat, in a pot, gently melt the butter. Don’t need to heat it up; just melt it.
- Pour water with yeast, melted butter, and egg yolk into flour, salt, and sugar mixture. Mix everything.
- Slap & fold for like 4 minutes and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Do the FIRST TURN. It means stretch & fold. Then turn the dough over. Leave to rest for another 10 minutes.
- SECOND TURN. Stretch & fold and turn over. Leave to rest for 30 minutes. Now it should be pretty smooth and non-sticky. It means we’ve developed some gluten.
- Take a large piece of parchment paper, place and flatten the dough, fold it with the parchment paper’s sides, and roll the dough till you get 18*18 cm (7*7 inches) square. Don’t use flour! Then cling film the dough (with parchment paper) and leave it in the fridge for 12h or more. I leave it till the next day.
- Do the same with the 138g of butter; only make 10*10 cm (4*4 inches) square.
- DAY 2
- Take the dough and butter from yesterday out of the fridge and leave them at room temperature for 10 minutes. If your home is cold, make it 20 minutes.
- Place the butter onto the dough as it shows in the picture. After that, fold all the sides, make sure butter is hidden and leave it for 2-3 minutes.
- Turn that massive square over and start rolling. Roll it till you reach approximately 46cm (18 inches) in length.
- First turn. Imagine four parts of the dough. The first two are smaller and the second two are bigger. Fold small with the small and big with the big. Cling film it and leave it for an hour in the fridge.
- Second turn. Now repeat it all over again, only this time you will imagine three equal parts and fold the dough like a square envelope. Cling film it and place it in the fridge for an hour. Repeat this step two more times to have 4 turns done.
- Leave it in the fridge overnight.
- DAY 3
- Take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. We need butter to warm up a little.
- Now it’s time to start rolling. You need to make it 25 cm (10 inches) and about 6 mm (1/4 inch) thick. Only when you reach the correct width start concentrate on the length to make the right thickness.
- When you have a beautiful rectangle, cut it into 6 equal small rectangles. Place the chocolate (as much as you want), and roll them into Pain au Chocolat.
- Whisk one egg, add a splash of milk, and brush the Pain au Chocolat. Leave them to proof for 2h.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (400F or 200°C was way too much).
- Brush croissants with egg mixture one more time and bake till golden brown, about 15 minutes.