So yesterday was bad. Terrible. A complete bummer. I ended up at Kroger at 9:30, filling the cupboards that at that point contained half a box of oatmeal & a bag of pasta. I’d spent the day forgetting to turn in assignments, spilling my coffee & overall ruining most things I touched.
At 11:30 last night, knowing I would be up at 6 the next morning, I began pain au chocolat. There was a time in France (a time before Joe discovered pithiviers, a time when we felt like we should eat infinite pastries while abroad) when each trip to the boulangerie for a baguette also meant a pain au chocolat was coming home with us. Pastries still seem like magic to me–that flaky crust, the buttery flavor, the golden color. I was eager to try my hand.
I’ve been itching to get at this recipe for a while, & I picked up a few necessary components (though I switched the caster sugar for regular granulated sugar & I don’t think my rapid-rise yeast was feeling very speedy in the end) while we were at Kroger. Getting a sudden burst of energy from my recover-and-unwind, late-night porter, I started the recipe last night & baked the lil’ guys this morning.
I think I burnt my mouth, biting into one before they had a chance to really cool. Worth it. I’ve never felt so successful, which was surprising considering they were much heavier (& a bit crispier) than the professional version. It’s a work-in-progress, but I think you’ll enjoy the result. Before you cry about the process, let me show you something. This (along with a buttery, flour-dusted table) was the sum mess of the project:
That’s it! Here we go… (adapted from Complete Comfort Food)
- 2 1/4 cups white pastry flour
- 1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
- 2/3 cup softened butter
- 1/2 cup hot water (not boiling, but hurting your hand a bit)
- 5 oz. chocolate, chopped
- 1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon of milk for brushing on the pastries
A few notes: (1) You know me. I’m all about whole-wheat, all natural. But don’t ruin the texture of these with whole-wheat. You need the lightness of white flour. It’s a pastry, for crying out loud. Nothing about this says, “Health Food.” (2) I didn’t have caster sugar. You’ll be fine, but it would be helpful (again, for weight & texture). (3) Do not skip the salt. What’s wrong with you people? (4) I used Hershey’s special dark chocolate. It breaks into perfectly sized chunks, & you can but it in huge bars. So convenient. (5) USE BUTTER. Butter is cream + salt. It is delicious, natural & fully digestible, instead of being riddled with foreign substances your body doesn’t know what to do with. It also helps that “flaky” factor immensely.
Now let’s get started.
- Mix flour, sugar, salt & yeast. Melt two tablespoons of your butter. Add butter, milk & hot water to flour mixture. Combine to create homogenous dough.
- Flour your hands. I knead dough in the bowl, to make it easier & contain mess. Knead the dough for about five minutes, until it easily puffs back out when you poke at it. Cover it with a towel & give it time to double in size. (In the mean time, cut your chocolate & flour a space for rolling out the dough.)
- Form your butter into a thin brick. Plop your dough ball onto the floured surface & form a ball. Cut a cross in the dough. I’m adding a picture to explain these next few steps: Roll the edges of the dough out, leaving a half-ball portion in the middle. **This is a good time to realize that you have no rolling pin. Get extra glad you drank a beer. Rinse out the bottle. Shake out the water. Hold the bottle firmly at the skinny end & push your palm down on the other end. Introducing the Redneck Roller!**
- Add your butter brick to the dough, right on top of your half-ball portion. Fold the rolled-out sides over top, wrapping the butter like a Christmas package. Roll the dough out to a thin rectangle. Fold into thirds. Seal the seams. Chill for 15 minutes.
- Repeat this twice. (Roll the dough out. Fold in thirds. Chill 15 minutes.) Now. You’ve rolled, folded & chilled your dough three times. This process is important. It helps the butter mix with the dough without being incorporated fully. It creates those layers & layers of dough. Let’s move on.
- Roll the dough out to about 2 feet by 1 foot. Cut length-wise into thirds, then cut each third into three parts. AKA create nine rectangles of dough.
- Preheat oven to warm.
- Place two squares of chocolate on the dough, all facing the same way length-wise (All long & short sides should match.) Fold one long side of the dough over one square of chocolate & “secure” between the two chocolate squares. Fold the other long side of dough over the next piece of chocolate, securing it to the dough covering your other square. (The result should be a sort of figure-8 surrounding chocolate.)
- Press your seams & ends closed. Repeat for the other eight rectangles of dough.
- Place on a cookies sheet & put in oven for five minutes. After five minutes, increase temperature to 400F (200C).
- Bake for 12 minutes.