Pain au chocolat or chocolatine is a viennoiserie. Viennoiserie is a category of yeast raised breads enriched with dairy, sugar, eggs, some kind of fat, and other ingredients that usually gives its namesake (raisins, chocolate, nuts, seeds, buttermilk, etc.), they come from a boulangerie rather than a pâtisserie. Like all yeast raised breads, it takes some time and love to craft. For pain au chocolat we will be doing a feuilleté with fat, so a good rolling technique and assiduousness are good too (unless you have a laminator, but I don’t).
Pain au chocolat is an elaborated croissant. A croissant consists of dough which encloses a type of fat – though not the easiest to handle, butter gives the most fragrant and delicious result. This is then rolled out, folded over, then rolled out again, and folded over and so on (this process is called “tourage” and it gives “feuilletage” or “feuilleté”) – the aim is to create many alternating layers of fat and dough. Depending on the method used, there can be up to 55 layers of fat.
There are a few variables to consider for a successful result, initially the dough and the fat must be at the same temperature, there must be sufficient resting time in the refrigerator to allow the gluten network to relax and the fat to harden between the tourage, the fat must not liquefy, and the dough should not be rolled out too thinly (3 mm limit). The flour should have higher protein content so that it can withstand the tourage and isolate the layers of fat. The fat should be butter of the best quality. In B.C. we have Holstein and Jersey cows. As much as I would like to drive down to visit Bessie the Jersey heifer for some freshly churned butter, I think that’s illegal here. There are different ways butters are manufactured with different properties, but the consumer here doesn’t care, so I don’t know what I’m buying. I will taste the butter, and if it’s delicious, reminds me of cream, has a slightly tart taste, then I will use it. Also, with the kind of butter we get from the supermarket, it shouldn’t be used when rock hard, it must not be liquid either, but still rather malleable. There is a method using “beurre manié” instead, which proposes to blend the fat with some flour, it is more manageable and easier to spread around the fat. If by rolling out the dough things go awry, it’s OK, the result will be more brioche-like rather than croissant-like, and can still be enjoyed.
Then there’s the proportion of ingredients and the method to consider. Despite the gourmet aspect of the finished product, the technique is closer to making bread, which aims by starting to develop gluten with the least kneading possible, followed by the quick addition of yeast and the rest of the ingredients, and finishing with a period of fermentation. It is important to remember that the boulanger starts with few ingredients, flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast or levain. So they are all very concerned about proper method and technique in manipulating flour and its taste. For the home cook, we do not have much control over the kinds of ingredients we come across. Most things at the supermarket are mass produced and it is at times impossible to determine where exactly they come from, so exerting such rigour on the proportion and method is for naught. Nevertheless I promise it will taste better than whatever is sold in a store, or even by a specialist.
Today I make a filling of chocolate and pistachio butter
– 500 g bread flour
– 5 g salt
– 20 mL dry yeast
– 100 g water
– 100 g milk
– 60 g sugar
– 75 g soft butter
– 200 g cold butter
– 1 yolk beaten with a bit of water
– good chocolate
– pistachio butter
Mix the water, milk, sugar and salt. Dissolve in it the yeast. With your hands, mix in the soft butter with the flour so it will look like sand.
Flour and butter
Once the yeast has dissolved, beat in the egg. Gradually introduce the liquid to the flour mixture. Knead 6 minutes. Keep this wrapped up in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, ideally 8 hours or longer. Meanwhile shape the butter into a flat square (not too large) between wax papers, and keep cold. I made halves.
Butter squares and dough
After 4 or 8 hours, remove the dough and roll out a long rectangle long enough so that it can enclose the butter once folded over while allowing a border of 1 cm, the same with the width. The butter should be removed from the refrigerator 5 or 10 minutes before the dough. If the dough is too warm, return it to the refrigerator, otherwise continue on. Place the butter square firmly in place on the lower half of the dough, fold over the upper half.
Flatten out the dough from the centre outward to chase away pockets of air. Press firmly around the edge to cage the butter well. Place the preparation before you as if reading a book, the seamed side is called the “clé”. With the rolling pin press down with some moderate force on the dough, like making a checkered lattice. Working quickly now, roll this out longitudinally into a long rectangle 3 times its width. Flouring the bottom can help, but do not use too much flour. Now we will do a tour simple, bringing the top third fold to the centre, and then the bottom, brushing away any excess flour in the process. Position this preparation again as if reading a book, with the clé on the right. Press down on the dough with the rolling pin up and down to immobilize the layers. Working quickly still, roll this out again into a long rectangle, and do a second tour simple. Some leave two thumbprints on the dough to remind them that they did two tours, wrap this up and refrigerate 30 minutes. Retrieve the dough, and again roll out into a long rectangle for the third tour. We now have 55 layers of butter. Finally roll this out into a long rectangle with minimum thickness 3mm. Place the chocolate pieces or sticks if you have them along the bottom seam. Today I am filling them with two portions of chocolate and pistachio butter as well (it’s pistachios with simple sugar that’s been food processed).
Line up pains au chocolat!
Cut the portions with a long knife. Enclose the chocolate and pistachio butter firmly, then roll them up gently. Place seam down on a baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and place in a warm area of the kitchen, but certainly not over 25C! Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Once they have raised, wash with egg yolk, and bake for 30 minutes. The smell that will fill the kitchen is heavenly, and evocative of so many memories…
Pain au chocolat
People will be waiting by the oven because of the smell. The result is light, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. This is obviously very caloric fare. Why? Because we’d otherwise take things for granted. Anyway, this doesn’t last long in my home, I barely had time to take pictures.