Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pain au Chocolat

I recently came across a quote that was attributed to Michael Pollan. It was something along the lines of If you're willing to make it, you can eat it. I might have to get my hands on a copy of Food Rules or In Defense of Food to see if there's more to that quote. No matter who said it, those words do ring true. Costco's chocolate croissants often call to me from the shelves, but I always pass them up because I know that those bulk quantities are more than I need to be consuming, and there are ingredients in them that I don't want to be consuming!

That's what I like about cooking--100% control over the ingredients in my food. Pain au chocolat is nowhere near a health food, but the simple ingredients that went into my lovely batch of butter flaky goodness were are things that start out rather whole and haven't been processed into something we don't recognize. So I followed Pollan's advice--I wanted croissants, so I made them myself!

I was very glad I read through the recipe ahead of time, as making those flaky, buttery layers required rolling and folding the dough 4 times, letting it chill for 30 minutes before each rolling. After the final folding the dough sat in the fridge overnight, waiting for the morning's final rolling, cutting, and shaping. Let's start at the beginning.

For the croissant dough:
3/4 cup warm milk
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

And for the butter layer:
1 cup cold butter
1/4 cup flour
1-3 tablespoons lemon zest

Start by stirring milk and yeast together in a large bowl. (Have a minor freak out when suddenly your dslr lens doesn't appear to be working correctly, hence some odd photos.)
Add eggs, vanilla, and sugar to the yeast bowl--mix well.
Add one cup flour and the salt, again, mix well.
Slowly add remaining flour to dough. (Have another minor freak out as it suddenly seems that there may not be enough flour to complete this recipe. Squeak by with only about 1/2 cup of extra.)
Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth (about 5 minutes).
Wrap that dough baby in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

While the dough chills, combine 1 cup cold butter, 1/4 cup flour, and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest. Beat until smooth and set aside for later.
When the 30-minute chilling period has passed, turn dough ball onto lightly-floured surface and roll into a 13'' x 18'' rectangle, about 1/4'' thick. Spread the butter mixture over 2/3 of this rectangle. Fold the remaining 1/3 of the rectangle over, covering half of the butter. Fold the remaining butter side over. Cover dough with plastic wrap, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
You repeat the roll, fold, chill process 2 more times.
After the final folding, put dough in fridge for 5 hours, or overnight. When you return to work, roll dough to 1/4'' thick, then cut into rectangles (mine were about 4'' x 6''), and fold/roll into pain au chocolat shape. I put chocolate in about half of the batch, and left a few others plain. They all came out with just a hint of lemon, so I'd probably add more lemon zest to the butter in the future. Place seam side down on your baking sheet, or they will probably come unrolled in the oven.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 14 minutes, until golden brown.
 See how wonderfully flaky they turned out? It is very tempting to dive right in and start eating when your croissants are fresh from the oven, but wait! Cooling gives the butter layers a chance to solidify, which is how you get the most of that flakiness that screams croissant.


  1. Hooray! I made my own pastry dough once, too, and everyone thought I was crazy. Even the hard-core bakers tend to call for "frozen pastry sheets, thawed." If you can make it, why buy it?? Nice job, they look delicious! Except you didn't tell us dear readers what kind of chocolate you used.

  2. mmmmmmmmmmmmmm


  3. You can make some for me when you get home. And just like Nichole, I couldn't fine chocolate in the recipe. But I did see it in the photos. Not quite like the way you learned to make them in second grade, is it?