At times, I can be very domestic. I spend more time in the kitchen than anyone normally should. Baking, cooking, eating and repeating. I love the process of it all. There is a simple beauty in being able to create something utterly delicious out of few ingredients. And nobody can do this better than the French.
Croissants are ubiquitous in modern society, and unfortunately, can be found everywhere. From specialist patisseries, to local bakeries and shockingly even to packaged versions stacked on supermarket shelves… it’s hard to believe that they were once only available in France!
This oversaturation and availability of the infamous French pastry, does however, lead to a truly disappointing croissant… it seems that the more people demand croissants, the more processed they become and the worse they evidently taste.
No purchased croissant, (unless from Pierre Herme) can quite replicate the taste of one that is home-baked from scratch… trust me, I have tried almost every croissant available on the market. So this week, after craving the true, traditional and buttery taste of a home-made croissant – I decided to make my own.
I have strong childhood memories of Pain au Chocolat, more commonly known as chocolate croissants. They were my special occasion after school reward. I fondly remember ripping open the pastry first, to devour the melted dark chocolate inside… and then taking my time to savour the last of the golden pastry. It was these I was craving… what’s not to love about buttery, melt-in-the-mouth pastry filled with oozing chocolate?
Despite the common pre-conception, croissants are really not difficult to make… as long as you understand some basic principles. The dough is made up of a mixture of flour, milk and yeast which is rolled with a thick slab of butter. It’s then folded and chilled, many times. This process, called lamination, creates thin sheets of butter layered into dough. In the oven, the warmth causes the butter to push the dough layers up, which results in a buttery and flaky pastry, much like puff. The process seems like a culinary feat but the reward of fresh and flaky croissants far outweighs every ounce of effort.
After ample kneading, folding and chilling… and a lot of waiting, I was finally content with the result. The Pain au Chocolat were golden, slightly crisp and filled with an oozing melted chocolate filling, swirled throughout the buttery pastry. They were full of rich flavour and tasted like decadent pillows of air, just the way croissants should.
These Pain au Chocolat may be simple, both in ingredients and appearance, but the flavour is both remarkable and indulgent… something definitely worth experiencing. They are a delicious delight on their own or are perfect to be complimented alongside a strong cup of black coffee (and newspaper) for a simple and luxurious treat.
Nothing compares to a warm and buttery home-made croissant straight from the oven, the richness and depth of flavour is indescribable and something that cannot be replicated from any purchased version. You can truly bring the decadent taste of France to your own kitchen with these Pain au Chocolat.
- 4 cups (600g) plain flour, with extra to dust
- ¼ cup (50g) caster sugar
- 2 tsps salt
- 1 (8g) packet of instant dried yeast
- 1½ cups (375ml) of warm milk
- 1½ cups (375ml) chilled unsalted butter
- 350g dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 egg, whisked
- In a small bowl, gently combine the yeast and warm milk. Set aside to prove until foamy for 5 minutes.
- Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and mix on a low speed for 1-2 minutes, or until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until the dough is smooth, 2-3 minutes. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and roughly knead for 5 to 10 minutes or until the dough holds its firm shape. (Sprinkle with extra flour and re-knead if still tacky). Chill and cover for 1.5 hours.
- Take the butter out of the refrigerator. Let sit for 10 minutes, until slightly softened but still firm. Dust the butter with flour and place between two sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, roll a 13x20 cm (5x8 inch) rectangle about 1.5 cm (2/3 inch) thick. Dust with flour to prevent it from sticking. Wrap in cling film and place in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to slightly harden. You want the butter to be about the same consistency as the dough.
- Lightly flour a work surface and flatten the dough. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 25 cm (10 inch) square about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick. Place the butter in the center, and rotate it so it faces you like a diamond. Take the dough corners and fold them in to meet in the center. Seal and press to enclose the butter.
- Roll the dough into a 30x40 cm (12x16 inch) rectangle. With the longest end facing you, fold the dough into third layers to overlap. Wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour.
- Remove the dough from the fridge, roll out again and fold into thirds as before. Wrap and rest again in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Repeat this process three times.
- For the final time, turn and roll as before. This time, fold the two ends into the center to meet and fold together as if closing a book. Wrap and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- When ready to make the Pain au Chocolate. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and rest for 15 minutes. Cut the dough evenly in half. Grease and line two baking sheets with baking paper.
- Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the dough to make 5 mm (1/4 inch) thick, 25 x 80 cm (10x32 inch) rectangle. Trim the edges to straighten. Cut eight rectangles at 10 cm (4 inch) intervals.
- On the shortest side of a rectangle sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the chocolate to make a 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick line and fold over once to enclose. Place another 2 tablespoons of chocolate across the dough in front of the fold and again fold over to enclose, creating two lines of chocolate filling. Continue with remaining rectangles.
- Arrange the Pain au Chocolat about 4 cm (1½ inches) apart on the prepared baking trays. Set aside in a warm, draft free place to prove for 1½ hours, until puffy. Repeat process with remaining dough and triangles.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Brush the Pain au Chocolat with the egg. Bake for 15 minutes or until, puffed, flaky and golden brown. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through for even baking. Transfer onto a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe slightly adapted from Baking: Wholesome Sweets & Treats by Rachael Lane
For step by step process photo instructions refer to: Top with Cinnammon ‘Chocolate Croissants‘ and ‘Croissant Dough‘