Since making pain aux raisins went so well a few weeks ago, I decided to continue my French baking journey and make pain au chocolat over the weekend.
Little did I know that the process would span three days, and include me waking up at 5:30 AM today to finish them. I guess that was a personal choice, because I could have finished them last night instead. But why would I do that when I could enjoy them fresh out of the oven in the morning?
I used a recipe from King Arthur Flour instead of the one from my “Pâtisserie at Home” cookbook. I did it partly because King Arthur Flour’s recipe sounded more straightforward, and didn’t call for me making the chocolate filling from scratch.
However, the King Arthur Flour recipe takes *a lot* of time. I’m talking two to three days, depending on how you time it. It’s fine, because you can do steps of the recipe and then go and do other things. But just know that if you want these to turn out well, you have to devote some time.
I had a lot of success with this recipe, with some caveats: First of all, you should probably buy pain au chocolat sticks to go in the pastries. You can use regular chocolate from the store, but if you want your pastries to taste more authentic, you should invest a little in the right chocolate. I got mine from King Arthur Flour, and they worked really well. They melted down nicely and added just enough chocolate to each pastry.
Also, I read through all the comments before I started baking. I think this is a good rule in general if you’re cooking a recipe that’s posted online, because oftentimes, people will have tips about what worked for them and what didn’t. I read that one commenter added extra turns, or folds, to the dough before letting it rest for the final time in the fridge. This is a good idea because it makes the pastries even more flaky.
The same commenter said that she grated the butter for the dough instead of rolling it out as a solid block. I did the same thing, and it was way easier. Grating butter is not as bad as it sounds (it’s sort of like grating cheese), and then because it’s in small pieces, it’s easier to roll out.
Grating your butter also means that there’s less of a chance that it will leak out of the dough and get soupy during baking. I didn’t even realize that could happen until I read the comments.
In terms of choosing butter, go with the best you can find. For me, that means Plugra European Style butter, but maybe you have a favorite brand. Trust me when I say, using good butter makes a big difference. I used regular grocery store butter for my pain aux raisins, and they didn’t taste as good as my pain au chocolat.
Finally, let these rise in a very warm place, especially if you live somewhere where it’s cold. I have problems with my pastries rising every time I make them, so this time, I tried a trick I read online. I set my oven to 170 degrees F. Then I turned it off and put the pastries inside, and left the door open with the oven light on. This worked, more or less, but the pastries on the top shelf turned out best.
For the last part of the rise, I took them out and started to preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and left them sitting on top of the oven covered with a dish towel. This worked extremely well. In all honesty, they should have sat for longer on the counter because they were not completely puffy when I put them in the oven. But I have little patience, especially when it comes to pain au chocolat.
The best part about these pastries, besides how they taste, is how your apartment/home tastes when they’re baking. The whole place smells like buttery, flaky croissant dough with a hint of chocolate. I’m pretty sure that’s what heaven smells like.
I enjoyed two of these fresh out of the oven, and they were delicious. You could see the layers after you bit into them. They were light and rich with just enough chocolate. I thought about eating more, but I’ve already promised a few to my neighbor, and I’m saving a few for other friends, too. I wish I could share one with my friend Julicia, who I used to share pain au chocolat with when we lived in France, but she’s in Philly. I’m virtually sending her one as I write this.
Here’s a song to get you started on your pain au chocolat journey.