Pain au chocolate, chocolate croissant, cornetti al cioccolato. However we may call them at home (mostly me and my daughter), they often pop up in our conversation. Before trying them my child used to like cinnamon rolls. But since finally finding them in a bakery in central Stockholm, chocolate croissant is all she craves. And me with her, only, my craving has last longer than her 5 years of age (read here how I managed to make a super simple brioche version of them a few years back).
In Rome, where I come from, cappuccino and cornetto (Italian croissant) are the locals’ favorite way to start the day. Here in Sweden croissant begin to be seeing around only now, but it is still difficult to find good ones, and fresh ones basically impossible. Our local bakery make our favorite version of them, pain au chocolat, only on Fridays and, honestly, they don’t taste that great. But we buy them anyway cause we love them, we are totally weak for chocolate croissant. Of course, for someone who bakes as much as I do it would be natural to make them at home rather than waiting Fridays for a so so croissant. Alas, up to two nights ago, I have been pushed back by all the stories of insuccess or awful difficulty I have read about making croissant at home. I like baking but I don’t do difficult well. Baking in my opinion should feel natural, easy and maneageable while one does it. So two nights ago I felt it was time to try my hands at croissant and do them my way. I spent no more than a couple of hours reading sources on books and the net and comparing formulas, then I wrote down mine, went to the kitchen, and prepared the ferments: the morning to come I was going to make chocolate croissant! Or pain au chocolat, to be precise.
As I wrote, I read quite a few methods/formulas, among which Jeremy’s from Stir The Pots (he is a croissant genius, check him up), Björn’s from Der BrotDoc (another croissant genius), Karin’s from Brot & Bread (a super-dooper baker as well), Nuccio’s from Blog di Max (possibly the most talented Italian home baker I know), the often cited TxFarmer, Leader’s book.
What I came up is combining a sourdough starter and a biga as ferments, using milk instead of water in the dough, adding a few egg yolks, using a good percentage of sugar and a lot of folding in butter. I wanted the taste to be similar to my homeland cornetti which, I am pretty sure of, include eggs in the dough and are sweeter than their French equivalent. I really liked the dough. It was elastic and was easy to work with. I did have problems with the butter instead. Even if I left it in the fridge for 5 hours it was still too soft when I folded it it. Next time i may place it in the freezer for the last 1/2 hour of so. Also, I did not realize that my kitchen was too hot, especially toward the end of the layering, cause I was cooking dinner (three different ones for each member of the family – oh well) and baking bread for the week to come. Next time I will religiously CHILL THE ROOM, not only the dough and the butter. The butter one can find in Sweden is also quite watery, and I do hope I will find something better for next bake. So… the result is some darn good chocolate croissant. The layering would have been much more precise had the room/butter been colder/less watery, a lesson for next time. Cause there will be a next time, and another one, and another one and another… I want to share this recipe even if it is still a work in progress cause it is, I tell you, easy. Made these babies in one day, kneading in the morning, taking the girl to the shopping mall/playground in the afternoon, playing cooking, baking and still by 9 pm we had some warm and delicious pain au chocolate to enjoy with our family movie. And what a Sunday breakfast… if you still have doubts (do you?) my super picky eater devoured not one but three of these today. And the mother? Well, let’s leave you with the illusion that I am a skinny and all fit kitchen goddess…
PAIN AU CHOCOLAT MY WAY
214 g mature white wheat sourdough starter, 100% hydration
100 g biga*
160 g cold milk
44 g egg yolks
70 g caster sugar
450 g strong white flour
10 g sea salt
40 g butter
250 g butter for the layers
200 g 70% cocoa bittersweet chocolate, cut in stripes and chilled
1 egg yolk + 2 tablespoon water for the final brushing
a mix of rice flour and extrafine white flour for dusting
*about 8-12 hours before preparing the dough, feed yor regular sourdough starter and prepare also a “biga” by adding 25 g of compressed yeast (or 1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast) to 50 g water and 100 g white wheat flour, leave covered at room temperature.
NOTE: if you don’t have a sourdough starter, use all the biga (150 g) and add 60 g of cold water to the dough at the time of mixing the ingredients.
1. Combine all ingredients for the dough except for the 40 g butter. Knead for about 3 minutes at low speed than add butter and knead for other 3 minutes
2. Chill the dough, covered, in the refrigerator for a few hours
3. Roll the butter in between parchment paper sheets or plastic foil and chill that too for a few hours. Make sure the butter is cold enough before using it
4. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it on a slightly floured surface (I use a mix of rice and wheat flour). The thickness should be 4 millimeters
5. Place the flattened and chilled butter over the dough and fold as an old-fashioned letter
6. First Layer: roll the dough again slightly and fold in three, like in the picture below, folding one side toward the center and then folding the other side over the folded piece so to form a long log
7. Place the log over a tray, cover with plastic foil and refrigerate for a hour
8. Second Layer: take the log out and roll it, having the long side in front of you. Then fold it again as in step 6
9. Place the log again over the tray, cover with plastic foil and refrigerate for a hour
10. Third layer: take the log out and roll it, having the long side in front of you Then fold it again as in steps 6 and 8
11. Place the log again over the tray, cover with plastic foil and refrigerate for a hour
12. Now you can either do one further layer or proceed to roll and shape the dough. In the latter case, roll the dough to a 7 millimeter thickness
13. Cut the dough in stripes of about 8 cm wide, I used a pizza cutter to do this
14. Cut the stripes in 13-15 cm long rectangles
15. Place 2 logs of chocolate over each rectangle (see the picture below)
16. Roll the dough on itself, closing it first over one log of chocolate and then over the other
17. Place the rolls seam side down over parchment paper
18. Proof at room temperature for 1 and 1/2 h or overnight in the fridge, covered
19. Preheat the over to 220 C/440 F degrees
20. Brush the rolls with egg wash
21. Bake for 9 minutes, turning the baking dish after the 10 minutes and baking for further 4-5 minutes