Sweet Dough Series No. 4 – Pain au Chocolat
After my success with blueberry brioche buns I was feeling confident. Confident enough to give laminated enriched dough another go. I’d tried it before when I made (or tried to make) pain au raisin. The results were disastrous. This time though, I had my bread book, The Larousse Book of Bread and I’d been pointed in the direction of a recipe by Anna Olson and given a whole lot of encouragement by fellow blogger and Bake Off fan at Musings On Dinner. What could possibly go wrong?
Here’s what I ended up with.
They certainly weren’t perfect, and I’ll be the first to admit that they don’t look particularly appetising, but here’s a picture of one I bought from Tesco.
Apart from the two strips of chocolate in the supermarket version, I don’t think they look that dissimilar. The taste wasn’t too far off either, but more of that later.
Here’s how I made the dough.
I put plain flour, some liquid starter (it’s still the same one, refreshed with flour and water), easy bake yeast, salt, sugar and an egg into the bowl of the Kitchen Aid and started to mix. Then I added some chilled water, (the Larousse recipe says that it should be at 10°C). When the dough had come together, I kneaded it for five minutes on the slowest KitchenAid speed. I cranked it up and, after two minutes, added softened butter. I kept the KitchenAid on high for another three minutes. At the end of the kneading time I had a smooth and elastic dough which, the recipe says, I should shape into a ball.
There is a picture in the book of a baker shaping the dough into a ball. It looks very firm. My dough was too sloppy to shape, so I left it in the bowl covered loosely with clingfilm. The recipe says that you should chill the dough for an hour. Anna Olson says that anywhere up to eight hours is fine (although she does recommend that you don’t leave the dough in a bowl, but put it onto a baking tray).
I wasn’t planning on doing any laminating until the following day, so my dough had the full eight hours and then some more.
The first step in laminating the dough was to roll out the butter. I remember when I made the pain au raisin that I just bashed a block of butter about a bit with a rolling-pin. This time, I carefully placed my butter between two sheets of baking parchment and gently rolled it into this fine rectangle.
I put it into the fridge while I rolled out the dough.
I was worried that the dough may be too sloppy to roll but, with a good dusting of flour on the worktop, it was fine. When the dough was around 3mm thick and I had a decent sized rectangle, I shaped the butter to fit a half of it, put the butter onto one half of the dough and folded the other half over the top. I turned the dough around so that the sealed ends of the rectangle were on my right and rolled again. Something I remember from the pain au raisin was that, at this stage, the butter started to escape from the dough. This time, I was really careful and made sure that I didn’t put too much pressure on the rolling-pin.
I was aiming for a rectangle that covered the board I was working on (roughly 40cm x 30cm). When the dough reached the top of the board, I folded it into thirds like a business letter. I wrapped it in clingfilm and put it into the fridge for an hour. I did this three times and then put the dough into the fridge for the night.
To make the pain au chocolat, I got up really early (my plan was to have them for breakfast and they needed two hours proofing time before baking) and rolled out my dough into the usual 40×30 rectangle. I cut it in half lengthways.
Next, I broke a bar of dark chocolate very roughly into strips, and put them onto the edge of the dough. I cut the dough into rectangles based on the length of the chocolate and rolled the chocolate into the dough. I put the rolls onto a lined baking tray and went back to bed for a couple of hours.
Here’s a before and after shot. I don’t think there was very much rising going on during that time…
I put an empty baking tray into the oven while it was heating to 160°C. The baking temperature in the Larousse Book of Bread is 170° but it’s not for a fan oven so I lowered it. I brushed the pain au chocolat with beaten egg. Just before I put them into the oven, I poured some water into the empty baking tray. I put the pastries into the oven and baked them for about twenty minutes. Here’s how they came out.
Was it worth it?
Well, I did have a few layers in the dough, but not really that many. The pain au chocolat tasted doughy and they weren’t that flaky in texture. My husband said he thought they could have done with a few more minutes in the oven. I wasn’t particularly impressed, and my son left his (although his excuse was that he didn’t like the chocolate). Not a very successful bake.
I did try to do a taste comparison with a Cafe Nero chocolate twist (they didn’t have any of the traditional pain au chocolat), but just as I ordered my coffee, the lady in front of me had the last one. I bought a couple of the bakery at Tesco instead.
I initially thought that my attempt hadn’t been very good. I changed my mind after going to Tesco. Although there were a few more layers in the Tesco version, it actually didn’t taste that much different to mine. I took heart. Maybe it’s just that pain au chocolate aren’t particularly nice.
I don’t really think that’s the case. What I need to do is to pay more attention to the proofing process (in the Anna Olson video, her dough seems to rise and rise every time she leaves it to rest). I also need to sort out my oven temperatures. I baked the pain au chocolat at 160° and I’m not quite sure why. I’ve had a look at some other recipes for pastries and the fan oven temperature is, usually, given as 180°.
Before I tasted the Tesco pain au chocolat, I was tempted to say that I’d had it with this kind of dough. I do think I’ll give it one more try though. Just to see if I can get those layers going. Croissants anyone?