Monday, February 08, 2010

Pain au Chocolat


I love pain au chocolat. 

It reminds me of solitary walks on cold winter days.

I love just walking around on my own. I do it less for fitness and more because it makes me feel good. In my early 20's when I lived away from home for a year, I used to walk out of necessity. I had to get to places and so I did a lot of walking which invariably led to a lot of thinking and self-analysis. Walking always clears my head and helps me stay calm and focused. 

In the course of all that walking, I used to stop over at a small bakery not far from where I lived. If I got there early enough in the morning, I could get myself some still-warm-and-fresh-from-the-oven heavenly smelling pain au chocolat. Flaky and crispy on the outside, soft in the middle with a center of warm, gooey chocolate. Such a rich treat, but so light and airy, you are deceived into believing otherwise.

It was the best I have ever had. Maybe because it was freshly baked. Maybe it was the kind of chocolate filling they used. Maybe because I was 21 and every experience, culinary or otherwise, seems awesome or exaggerated in hindsight. 
 
Recently watching Meryl Streep making chocolate croissants in 'It's complicated' has had me thinking about that pain au chocolat all week. Then  this blog post I came across here finally compelled me to give it a try and make my own.


Here is the original, unmodified recipe from dinner with julie. For myself, I halved it because it yields 3 dozen and I didn't want to make that many. Especially since this was going to be a trial version and there was no knowing if this would turn out either pretty or edible. 

I was pleasantly surprised - for someone who has never worked with this kind of dough (or many other kinds), this was fairly easy to work with. I couldn't roll out the perfect rectangle each time but that wasn't so catastrophic. I had a lot of fun and was rather impressed with myself for creating, what I used to think, was a very complicated pastry. That too at 2:30a.m.! (couldn't sleep and am crazy enough to make dough for french pastries when the insomnia hits me, instead of quite simply reading a book and winding down)


Pain au Chocolat

Danish Dough:
3/4 cup milk, warmed
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, cold
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup good chocolate. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips.

In a large bowl, stir the milk and yeast together. 
Stir in the eggs and vanilla and mix well. 
Add in a cup of flour with the salt, stir and then add the remaining flour gradually while stirring till it is all incorporated.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth. 
Form dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator 30 mins. 

While the dough is chilling, beat the flour and butter together with an electric mixer until smooth. Set aside. 


Turn out the chilled dough onto a floured surface and roll into a 13" x 18" rectangle, 1/4" thick. 


Spread the butter evenly over the right 2/3rd of the rectangle. 
Fold the left 1/3rd of the rectangle over, covering half the butter.
Fold the right side over. (all the edges should line up).
Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins. 


Turn it out again onto the floured surface, with the open sides to your left and right. Roll it out again into a 13"x 18" rectangle. 
Fold the left and right 1/3rds like you did before, cover and chill again for 30 minutes. 

Repeat this entire process 2 more times, and then cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 5 hours or overnight. 

Roll out the dough 1/4" thick. Cut into rectangles - any size you like. I went with Julie's idea of making them finger-sized, so my rectangles were roughly the size of a calling card.

Place chocolate chips/chunks in the middle of the rectangle. Roll up from one side and place seam-side down on an un-greased baking sheet. 


Preheat oven to 400 and bake the pain au chocolat for 15 mins, or until golden. 

Then serve some, straight out of the oven, to your DH as he's leaving for work and watch the expression on his face. 

Priceless.  








2 comments:

ChefboyarDijon said...

you didn't say what to do with the yeast.

ChefboyarDijon said...

never mind...i see now...this is the best recipe i found so far...

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