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Step by step guide to making pain au chocolat

Plate with two pain au chocolat pastries

Golden, buttery, slightly sweet, slightly salty, flaky and chocolatey. No one makes pain au chocolate quite like the French. In the southwest of France they’re sometimes called chocolatine. No one knows for sure who had the genius idea of combining croissants and chocolate but they’ve been popular in France for, it’s said, at least 200 years. And if you want to make them at home, this step by step guide to making pain au chocolat is from the famous LeNôtre bakery in Paris, published in their gorgeous French pastries and desserts recipe book (details at the bottom of the post).

Makes 15
Active time: 10 minutes + making the croissant dough
Rising time: 2 hours
Cooking time:18 minutes for each baking sheet
Storage: Up to 2 months in the freezer (unbaked), in a sealed freezer bag

EQUIPMENT

Instant-read thermometer
Stand mixer fitted with the dough hook
2 silicone baking mats (optional)
2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper

INGREDIENTS

Water dough

⅓ oz. (10 g) fresh yeast
1 tbsp (15 ml) lukewarm water
2 tbsp (25 g) sugar
1½ tsp (7 g) fine salt
1 tbsp (20 g) butter
¼ cup (60 ml) water
¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk + 1 tbsp for the sugar and salt
2¾ cups (9 oz./250 g) bread flour

For laminating

1 stick + 1 tbsp (4½ oz./130 g) butter

Chocolate filling

30 pain au chocolat sticks, weighing ⅙ oz. (5 g) each, or 15 sticks weighing ⅓ oz. (10 g) each (see Chef’s Notes)
1 egg, lightly beaten

METHOD

To prepare the water dough

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, stir the sugar and salt into the 1 tbsp milk until dissolved.

Heat the 1 tbsp (20 g) butter in a small saucepan with the water and milk, until the butter has melted and the temperature reaches 86°F (30°C).

Sift the flour into the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat in the sugar/salt/milk mixture on low speed, then the warm butter/milk mixture. Finally, mix in the dissolved yeast.

Continue kneading until the dough is smooth, comes away from the sides of the bowl, and is just warm to the touch (about 1 minute).

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature, ideally around 77°F/25°C, until doubled in volume (about 1 hour).

Dust a shallow baking dish with flour and press out the dough over the base. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2–3 hours.

To laminate the dough

Remove the butter from the refrigerator about 30 minutes ahead, so it will be easier to work with. Place between the two silicone baking mats or two sheets of parchment paper, then beat with a rolling pin to make the butter as malleable as the dough. Cut into 2 equal pieces, wrap 1 piece, and return it to the refrigerator.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle three times as long as it is wide.

Cut the butter into small pieces. Dot these evenly over the bottom two-thirds of the dough: the butter should be slightly softer than the dough at this point. Fold the top third of the dough down over the butter and the bottom third up. Give the folded dough a quarter turn and roll into a rectangle again. Fold in thirds as before. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or, for best results, overnight.

When ready to proceed, remove the remaining butter from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Beat with a rolling pin until malleable, as described in step 7, and repeat the rolling and folding instructions (steps 8–9) with the chilled dough and butter. After giving the dough a quarter turn, in the same direction as before, roll it into a rectangle measuring about 8 × 10 in. (20 × 25 cm). Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 35 × 6 in. (90 × 15 cm), with a thickness of about ⅛ in. (3 mm), and cut into 15 equal-sized smaller rectangles.

Make the croissants

Place 1 large or 2 small chocolate sticks near the base of each rectangle and roll up the dough around the sticks to enclose them. Divide the croissants between the baking sheets, seam side down, leaving space between each one. The tops can be scored using a bread knife for a decorative effect. The croissants can now be frozen, if desired (see Chef’s Notes).

Brush the croissants with a little beaten egg to prevent them from drying out while rising. Let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, until doubled in volume. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas Mark 6).

Lightly brush the tops of one sheet of croissants with half the remaining beaten egg, taking care not to deflate the dough. Place immediately in the oven and bake for 18 minutes, until deep golden brown. If the croissants are browning too quickly, reduce the heat to 350°F (180°C/Gas Mark 4). Rotate the baking sheet toward the end of the baking time, if necessary, so they brown evenly. Brush the tops of the second sheet of croissants with the remaining beaten egg and bake in the same way.

Cool the croissants on a wire rack.

Chef’s Notes
    • Croissants are traditionally made using fresh yeast, as it gives the best results. If fresh yeast is unavailable, you can substitute 2¼ tsp (7 g) active dry yeast or 1¼ tsp (3.5 g) instant yeast. Instant yeast must be mixed directly into the flour before any liquid is added, rather than dissolved in the water, which can be omitted.
    • If pain au chocolat sticks are unavailable in stores, they can be purchased online from various suppliers.
    • If freezing, place the unbaked croissants on the baking sheet in the freezer until solid, then place them in a freezer bag, seal, and return to the freezer. Let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then proceed with steps 4−6.

Extracted from French Pastries and Desserts by Lenôtre: 200 Classic Recipes Revised and Updated (Flammarion, 2021). Photo: © Caroline Faccioli

Read more about the history of croissants

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