After the success of my first homemade puff pastry, I thought croissants and pains au chocolat would be just as easy. There is one major difference though: croissants and pains au chocolat (basically croissants with a different shape and stuffed with chocolate) are made with a softer more stretchy dough with yeast. And that makes it more difficult to work with than the simple pastry dough used for puff pastry, which after a good rest was well-behaved. It becomes especially difficult if you get overconfident and make a batch of these in parallel with cooking a four-course dinner. Not that I would attempt such a thing of course ;-)
The approach is very similar to puff pastry: make layers of butter and dough, roll out, fold, rest, roll out, fold, rest, etc. Temperature control is important. If the dough or the butter are too warm they will be too soft and are impossible to work with. If the butter or dough are too cold, they will be too hard and difficult to work with. This means that the time in the refrigerator, the room temperature, and how much you handle the dough with your (warm) hands will all have an impact.
For a first try the croissants and pains au chocolat turned out pretty good, although next time I will make them a bit smaller as these were almost a full meal each. This time I used strong (bread) flour rather than pastry flour, which made the dough more elastic (more gluten). Although those gluten also help to maintain the all-important layers, I may try pastry flour the next time around. The croissants and pains au chocolat were very flavorful, tasted of fresh butter, and were definitely worth the effort.
If you are serious enough about baking to try making croissants or pains au chocolat from scratch, you should use digital scales in grams. So I’m not going to bother to convert this recipes into cups and tablespoons. Sorry ;-)
For 10-12 croissants or pains au chocolat
500 grams flour
250 grams butter, cold
300 ml milk
50 grams sugar
10 grams salt
15 grams fresh yeast
for pain au chocolat: 100 grams of chocolate (in chips or broken to pieces)
optional: beaten egg
Warm up the milk to lukewarm (30ºC/85ºF) in the microwave.
Add the yeast and sugar and stir to mix.
Put the flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Turn on the machine on slow speed and slowly add the milk with the yeast and sugar.
Continue to mix until the dough has come together.
Switch to the dough hook and knead for 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about two hours.
When making pains au chocolat, now is a good time to turn the chocolate into sticks. Line a square or rectangular container with parchment paper and add the chocolate chips or pieces of chocolate.
Heat in 10 second bursts in the microwave, stirring between bursts, until the chocolate has melted and is smooth.
Flatten the surface and allow to cool to room temperature. The chocolate will solidify.
Take the chocolate out of the container and cut into sticks.
Put the butter between two sheets of parchment paper…
…and use a rolling pin to flatten it. The butter should be cold, so it helps to hit it with the rolling pin.
Roll out the butter to about 20 by 30 cm (8 by 12 inches). Wrap it in the parchment paper and refrigerate until needed.
After the dough has risen, sprinkle a wooden work surface with flour and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to at least twice the size of the slab of butter.
Take the butter out of the refrigerator and put it on top of the dough.
Fold the dough over the butter…
…such that the butter is completely wrapped.
Turn over the parcel such that the ‘seem’ is at the bottom.
Now roll out the dough to about 30 by 50 cm (12 by 20 inches). Use the rolling pin in both straight and oblique directions to keep a square shape.
Now fold 1/3 of the dough…
…and fold the other 1/3 on top of that.
Wrap the folded dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for half an hour.
After half an hour, take it out of the fridge…
…and roll it out to 30 by 50 cm (12 by 20 inches) again.
Fold it again, wrap it again, and refrigerate it again. Repeat until you have folded the dough at least 4 times.
Roll out the dough one final time, to about 45 by 60 cm (18 by 24 inches).
It is actually better to make the dough thinner and the triangles more narrow than is shown here.
For croissants cut the dough into triangles…
…or into rectangles for pains au chocolat. A pizza cutter is handy for this.
For a pain au chocolat, the square should be the width of the chocolate sticks. Put the first chocolate stick on the dough as shown…
…then roll it up and add a second stick of chocolate as soon as you have covered the first. Then continue to roll until the roll is complete.
For croissants, roll up each triangle starting at the base and ending at the tip. Bend the croissant slightly after rolling to give it the traditional shape.
Arrange the pains au chocolate and/or croissants on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Cover with a dish towel and allow to rise for one hour. At this point you can also refrigerate them overnight to bake them for breakfast. Then they go straight from fridge to oven.
Preheat the oven to 240ºC/465ºF (fan off).
Optional: brush the tops of pains au chocolat and/or croissants with beaten egg before baking.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown on the outside and cooked on the inside. They are best eaten when still warm.
Two years ago I presented this pizza with roasted vegetables. I now make pizza with an aluminum pizza plate and cold-fermented dough (and I take better pictures), but this topping is something I’ll make again.