At their best warm from the oven, these classic French pastries are based on the same pastry as a croissant, known as a yeast-leavened laminated dough (basically a puff pastry with yeast). These pain au chocolat use a cheat’s pastry of sorts (similar to one I also use in a Danish pastry of mine) and gives a similar result as a traditionally made pastry of this kind, without the hassle of having to interleave the butter with the pastry dough as you fold it. The light sprinkling of sea salt flakes adds a surprising yet pleasant contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate centre.
- 125 ml (½ cup) lukewarm milk
- 7 g (1 sachet) dried yeast
- 250 g (1⅔ cups) bread flour (see Baker's tips), plus extra to dust
- 185 g chilled butter, cut into 2 cm cubes
- 1 egg, at room temperature, lightly whisked,
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 125 g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 extra egg, lightly whisked with 2 tbsp milk, to glaze
- sea salt flakes (optional), to sprinkle
- icing sugar (optional), to dust
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Proving time overnight, plus 15 minutes
Chilling time 30 minutes
Put the milk in a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir with a fork. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Put the flour and butter into the bowl of a food processor and use the pulse button to process until the butter is cut into rough 1 cm pieces (make sure you don’t process any further). Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the egg and sugar to the milk mixture and stir to combine. Add to the flour and butter mixture and use a wooden spoon and then your hands to mix until it is just combined and a soft dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring together with your hands. Knead briefly or until just smooth but the butter pieces are still visible. Shape into a rectangle and then use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out until about 40 cm x 25 cm, keeping the edges as straight as possible. With a long side nearest to you, fold the right third of the dough in to cover the centre third and then fold the left side in also. Turn the dough clockwise a quarter turn. Fold the dough into thirds as before to make a small rectangle.
Flip the dough over on the bench so that the open edge is now underneath and repeat the rolling and folding process again as in step 4. You will finish with a small rectangle. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
Roll out the pastry with a lightly floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a square 30 cm x 30cm and about 5 mm thick. Cut in half to make two 15 cm x 30 cm rectangles, and then cut each into quarters so you end up with eight 7.5 cm x 15 cm rectangles. Divide the chocolate evenly between the rectangles, placing it across the shorter end of each. Starting from the short end with the chocolate, roll the dough around the chocolate to form a roll. Place on the lined tray, seam-side down, and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Cover loosely with a slightly damp tea towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes or until the pastry has risen slightly and is ‘puffy’.
Brush the pastries with the egg and milk glaze and sprinkle with a little sea salt flakes, if desired. Bake in preheated oven for 20–25 minutes or until the pastry is golden, crisp and cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature sprinkled with icing sugar, if desired.
• Bread flour (also know as pizza flour) has a higher gluten content than regular plain flour and is perfect to use in this type of pastry. You will find it at large supermarkets, delicatessens and specialty food stores.
• These pain au chocolat are best eaten the day they're baked, but will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat in an oven preheated to 160°C on a lined oven tray for 10–15 minutes or until crisp and warmed through.
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. Read our interview with her or for hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Kristine Duran-Thiessen. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
For more recipes, view our online column, Bakeproof: baking like a French housewife.