Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pain Au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)

Almost a week late (as usual?) I started the recipe for this month's Chocolate Therapy challenge between my friend at Create Cakes and me. I had stuff come up last weekend, and then there is the mental block that accompanies a recipe that takes all day. Luckily, I overcame that fear, partially by figuring out when I could leave the dough as long as I needed. So this recipe is taking 2 days for me instead of 1. :P

I have wanted to try croissants for years. Trying them with chocolate and with a friend for guidance is definitely a bonus.

Below is the recipe, intermixed with my commentary and thoughts while making them.

Pain Au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus more for dusting work surface
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk , cold
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Butter Square
24 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3 sticks), cut into 24 pieces
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Chocolate Filling
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine

Egg Wash
1 large egg , lightly beaten

1. For the dough: Whisk 2 3/4 cups of flour together with yeast, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Place milk in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Add flour mixture and knead at low speed until ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes. Add butter pieces to dough. Continue to knead until butter becomes fully incorporated and dough becomes smooth, begins to form ball, and clears sides of bowl, an additional 5 to 6 minutes. (Dough should be sticky, but if more dough is sticking to sides of bowl than to itself, add remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary.) Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Umm, figuring out how sticky to let it be was the hardest thing here. Also - do NOT stick your hand into sticky dough. Find another way to get it into the plastic wrap. Yikes!

2. For the butter square: Using bench scraper, toss together butter pieces and flour on clean work surface. Smear butter and flour back and forth against work surface until they have combined into smooth, homogenous mixture. Wrap butter mixture in plastic wrap and use edges of plastic wrap to form even 7-inch square. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Wow that is a lot of butter! But what an amusing process. I don't have a bench scraper, so I improvised with the back of a plastic knife and ruler. Forming the butter into a square in the plastic is easier said than done. Beating it homogenous with a few tablespoons of flour I don't know the purpose.

3. Lightly dust work surface with flour. Roll dough into 11-inch square. Place chilled butter square diagonally onto dough. Fold corners of dough up over butter square so that they meet in middle and pinch ends of dough together to seal them.

Part I am dreading that turned out to be amazingly easy. The dough rolled out silkily and didn't stick. Yay!

4. Using rolling pin, gently tap dough, starting from center of dough and going outward, until square becomes larger and butter begins to soften. At this point, start gently rolling dough into 14-inch square, checking often to make sure dough is not sticking and dusting with additional flour as necessary. Fold square into thirds to form long rectangle. (This method of folding is called a “turn” and resembles folding a business letter.) Starting from narrow ends, fold rectangle into thirds again to form square. You have now given dough 2 turns. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

5. Repeat step 4, giving dough 2 additional turns (for total of 4 turns) and chilling again for at least 2 hours.

Again, surprisingly easy. The butter is in pockets when I'm doing this - not evenly distributed per se, and I don't know if that's okay or not, but it looks alright! I was surprised at how easy rolling it out and folding it was. I did let it sit overnight after step 5. It got really large.

6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place chilled dough on floured work surface and gently roll dough into 20-inch square. Use pizza cutter and ruler to cut dough into 4 equal 10-inch squares. Cut each square into thirds to make total of 12 rectangles, each approximately 10 by 31/4 inches. Place 1/2 ounce (about 1 tablespoon) chocolate in middle of each rectangle. Fold each rectangle into thirds and place it seam-side down on baking sheet.

That is A LOT of chocolate! These should be pretty good with that much chocolate in them. I'm surprised that it only makes 12, when there are over 3 sticks of butter involved. Mmmm... these are going to be good! I didn't want to chop the chocolate, but was worried that the large pieces wouldn't work out, so I tried the mini food processor and didn't have too much luck overall so I have some chocolate powder and some chunks of chocolate in each croissant. Hope it works out!

7. Cover croissants loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise at room temperature until puffy (they will not double in size), 45 to 60 minutes.

Another thing this recipe uses a lot of is plastic wrap! How did people make these before plastic wrap and parchment paper?

8. Meanwhile, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 400 degrees. Using pastry brush, brush croissants with beaten egg. Bake until croissants are golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time. Cool croissants on wire rack until warm, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mine started smelling done and looking totally done at 14 min. I blame the egg wash, which I'm not a huge fan of. I left them in until 18 and they didn't burn (I think they needed it to set up the layers) but I was nervous!

Flavor? Amazing. Definitely fluffy and layery and delicate like croissants. The huge amount of chocolate seems like not much when eating it, though more would probably overwhelm it. It really melted down! Yummmm. I think making smaller ones next time might be nice. I could halve them easily. I even think it would be fun to try them without anything in them. Wow. I want to eat them all day! LOL.

I used a combination of Lindt dark chocolate and Hershey's special dark (since that's what I have on hand!) and it was great. Dark and flavorful. Mmmm. Good chocolate therapy.


Ashlee and Bill said...

Awesome! my recipe said to beat the butter and flour together with a rolling pin, scraping of between, but I cheated and used my pastry blades on my bosch.... I think a pastry blades would work just as well. I didn't chop my chocolate, just put 4 rectangles in each one, and they just melted down, worked well... Although I could still read "hershey" on the melted bar!

Ashlee and Bill said...

oh and your not late! It's still the first half of the month, and we don't have a due date! Unless one of us doesn't get it done until the 31st I wouldn't call it late... Are you going to try them again this month?

KMDuff said...

I want to do them again. I am planning on it. I'm thinking ham & cheese would be good, as well as plain... Mmmm...

Abby said...

I ate quite a few of these in France - they are so darn tempting! It was so easy to pop off the tour bus, go in a bakery, and buy one of these beauts. You've made my mind water and my mouth water!


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