Posted by Grace Massa Langlois on Saturday, 29th January 2011
You already know I’m a huge lover of Italian Pastries. What you may not know (because I’ve hardly talked about it) there’s another pastry in my life. It’s true. I’ve been unfaithful to my beloved Italian pastries. I’m also a huge lover of French Pastries, especially Pain au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants). Oh là là!
But to be completely honest, just about any type of pastry will do. I’ve had a sort of love/hate relationship with pastry because although I love to eat it, I have had a fear of making it. I decided recently that it was time to put my fears to bed and try my hand at Pastry Dough.
I’ve always wanted to make authentic Pain au Chocolat, a pastry with one or two pieces of chocolate in the middle. Pain au Chocolate can be made with Pâte Feuilletée (Puff Pastry) or Pâte Croissant (Croissant Dough).
I set out to compare the Pastry Dough’s, their recipes and their methods. And in the process I learned something very surprising. Pâte Feuilletée does not include a leavener. How could it rise so high I wondered? The answer is in the precise combination of its four main ingredients, flour, butter, salt and water.
Unlike Pâte Feuilletée, Pâte Croissant does in fact use a leavener, yeast. After careful consideration, I thought the method for making Pâte Croissant was a little easier with less opportunity for failure and the added boost from the yeast would help with the rise. Considering this was my first attempt at pastry dough, easier was better, right?
I soon learned that easier is only better when you read the recipe correctly. Sacrebleu! I thought I went through all the steps carefully. Then I shaped and filled the Croissants with chocolate and set them aside to rise for 45 to 60 minutes.
At the 30-minute mark I decided to take a peek and see how well my little pastries were doing. Imagine my surprise when I saw that they hadn’t risen at all! Mon dieu! In the midst of my French profanities I wondered if maybe they just needed a little longer to rise? I took a deep breath and reminded myself to be patient. Within minutes I had an “aha” moment and then it took everything in me not to scream a few more choice words. I knew exactly what I’d done wrong – I used active dry yeast instead of the called for instant yeast. Can you believe it?
I finished my last turn for batch number 2 in the wee hours of the morning. Although I was tired I was determined to stay awake to finish the Pain au Chocolat so the kids could enjoy them for breakfast. I set out on this final batch of dough to roll, cut, shape, fill, set aside for final rise and then, finally, to bake. As determined as I was, at a certain point in the quiet morning hours, my drowsiness finally won over and I dozed off.
I did finally persevere and get those pastries done. How did they turn out? A far cry from batch number one (see photo just below), don’t you think? They were golden brown and crispy on the outside and they puffed up magnificently.
The pièce de résistance is on the inside – layers and layers of buttery goodness. I was finally successful in making flaky, melt-in-your-mouth French pastry and when combined with luscious dark chocolate – I couldn’t ask for anything more.
If this isn’t enough to entice you to try making your own Pâte Croissant for Pain au Chocolate, maybe thoughts of an intensely seductive aroma wafting throughout your house will. The combination of buttery, yeasty sweet dough and chocolate, baked together, was completely irresistible. It reminded me of the early morning trips to the bakery, surrounded by the sweet aroma of all-night baking. Yes, there are a lot of steps involved in this recipe, but the destination is well worth the journey!
Now that I’ve mastered the technique for making Pastry Dough the possibilities for using it is endless.
I’ve tucked away countless recipes for savoury appetizers from Dara’s site, Cookin’ Canuck but this one for Pancetta, Caramelized Onion Ravioli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce will be my first. Dara’s taken 3 of my favourite ingredients and rolled them into one amazing dish! Do yourself a favour and visit Dara’s site but just one warning – don’t visit on an empty stomach!
Pâte Croissant and Pain au Chocolat-Croissant Dough-Chocolate Croissant
(From Cooks Illustrated, only slightly adapted)
- Pâte Croissant – Croissant Dough
- Pain au Chocolat – Chocolate Croissant
Pâte Croissant – Croissant Dough
A few things to keep in mind when making the Pâte Croissant – the croissant dough must be completely chilled before rolling. If it is not chilled the butter will melt making it quite difficult to roll and shape. If at any time through the rolling and folding process you find the dough becoming warm or sticky, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator to chill until the dough becomes workable. The pâte croissant is best made in a cool kitchen. The alternative is to place a large tray of ice on your work surface to chill it down before beginning the rolling and folding stage or if you are using a portable working surface you can place the working surface in the fridge to chill.
- 3 cups (15 ounces) plain (all-purpose) flour, divided (¼-cup reserved), plus more for dusting work surface
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- ¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
- 1¼ teaspoons table salt
- 1¼ cups (10 ounces) whole milk, cold
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch (1.3-cm) pieces
- 24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 24 pieces
- 2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
For the pastry dough
- Place 2¾-cups (12-ounces) flour into a medium-sized bowl. Add the yeast, sugar, and salt to the flour. Whisk until well combined.
- Place the cold milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the flour mixture and knead at low speed until a ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes.
- Add butter pieces, one-at-a-time, to the dough. Continue to knead until butter is completely incorporated and the dough is smooth, begins to form a ball, and clears sides of bowl, 5 or 6 minutes. (Dough should be sticky, but if more dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl than itself, add remaining ¼-cup flour, 1-tablespoon at-a-time, as necessary.) Remove dough from bowl and transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape dough into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and then place in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.
- Follow instructions below for the *butter square; shape butter and flour mixture into a 7-inch (18-cm) square, wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Lightly dust clean work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll chilled dough into an 11-inch (28-cm) square. Remove plastic wrap from butter square and place diagonally on top of the dough square. Fold one outside corner of dough in toward the centre and bring the opposite corner of dough in and over so that they meet in the middle and overlap. Pinch the edges of the dough to seal. Repeat with the other two corners. Butter should be completely enclosed and the edges completely sealed.
- Using a rolling pin, gently tap the dough, starting from the centre of the dough and going outward, until the square becomes larger and the butter begins to soften. At this point, start gently rolling the dough into a 14-inch (36-cm) square, checking often to make sure dough is not sticking to your work surface, lightly dust with flour as needed. Fold square into thirds to form a rectangle, fold one outside edge of dough in toward the centre (using your finger tips, seal the edges of the dough) and bring the opposite edge in over the top (seal the edges of the dough). (This method of folding is called a “turn” and resembles folding a business letter.) Using a pastry brush, brush off excess flour. Make another “turn”; starting from the narrow end, fold rectangle into thirds to form a square (do not seal on this turn). You have now given the dough 2 turns. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Repeat step 6, giving the dough 2 additional turns (a total of 4 turns). Return the dough to the refrigerator to chill again for at least 2 hours.
For the butter square
- Sprinkle 1-tablespoon flour onto a clean work surface. Place the butter pieces on top of the flour. Sprinkle the remaining flour over the butter pieces. Using a bench scraper, toss together the butter pieces and flour.
- Using the bench scraper, smear the butter and flour back and forth against the work surface until they have combined into a smooth, homogenous mixture.
- Transfer butter to a piece of plastic wrap. Using the edges of the plastic wrap form a 7-inch (18-cm) square. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Pain au Chocolat
Pain au Chocolat is at its best when made with good-quality chocolate. The ideal shape is rectangular because it is much easier to execute than the classic crescent shape used for regular croissants. Depending on the dimensions of your chocolate bars, you may have a little left over chocolate when cutting out the batons; these pieces can be enjoyed by the chef or coarsely chopped and added to each croissant.
- Pâte Croissant (1 recipe)
- 200 grams (8 ounces) (2 X 100-gram or 2 X 4-ounce bar) good-quality chocolate, semi-sweet or bittersweet, cut into 24 pieces approximately 3-inches X ¾-inch (7½-cm X 2-cm) batons
- Egg wash – 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick baking paper, set aside.
- Place the chilled Pâte Croissant (Croissant Dough) onto a clean, lightly dusted work surface. Lightly dust the top of the dough and your rolling pin and then roll the dough into a 20-inch (51-cm) square.
- Using a pizza cutter and ruler, cut Pâte Croissant into 4 equal, 10-inch (25-cm) squares.
- Cut each of the squares into thirds to make a total of 12 rectangles, each approximately 10-inches by 3¼-inches.
- Please take a moment to watch this video to ensure the instructions are clear. Form Pain au Chocolat one-at-a-time; working from the narrow end of the rectangle to the other; place one chocolate baton (about ½-inch in from the edge) on top of the dough. Lift the ½-inch edge of dough up and over the baton and seal the edge with your fingertips. Place the second baton on the sealed edge and then fold over so that the baton is covered. Continue to fold over to the end of the rectangle. Make sure there is enough dough remaining to fold under the croissant. (If you get to the end and there is not much dough left over so that the seal is at the bottom – unroll slightly and stretch the dough a bit to create a longer rectangle to ensure the seam-side is down.) Transfer to prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat until you have assembled all of the Pain au Chocolat. When placing Pain au Chocolat on baking sheets leave enough room for them to puff up; you should place 6 per baking sheet.
- Cover Pain au Chocolat loosely with non-stick baking paper and let them rise at roomtemperature until puffy (they will not double in size), 45 to 60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400° F (205° C).
- Immediately before baking, using a pastry brush, brush Pain au Chocolat with beaten egg. Spritz with cold water and then bake, rotating baking sheet from front to back halfway through baking time, until Pain au Chocolat are golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes.
- Transfer Pain au Chocolat to wire rack until warm, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
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Posted in Baking & Pastry, Baking Mise en Place, Basics, Fillings, Frostings & Dessert Sauces, Pasticcini, Pastries, Pastry Doughs & Batter, Recipes, Ricette di Base, Yeast Breads & Yeast Dough