Thursday, February 3, 2011

Petit Pain au Chocolat

Chocolate-filled rolls: that was my next bread endeavor. I had my own illusions for what they would be like; I had experienced similar pastries at PAUL in London and at a tiny patisserie in the boulanger's promised land itself: France. It was there that I double-fisted a croissant and a pain au chocolat and discovered the ambrosial apex of the bread and chocolate rendezvous. So when I began my petits pains, I imagined soft semi-sweet chocolate enveloped in warm, buttery croissant-like bread. But the recipe didn't call for croissant dough - rather, I was to prepare brioche dough.

We made the dough the night before because brioche dough must be chilled when you work with it. It's a beautiful, sticky rich dough, thanks to five eggs and two sticks of butter.

After all the flour is added the dough is still sticky and in no shape for kneading. So instead of the push-turn-pull, B.C. introduced us to the pull-and-throw. Grab the dough in one hand, pull a large handful of it about 14" above the bowl, then throw it back "with considerable force." At first the action seemed futile - the dough was sticky and uncooperative - but it quickly became malleable. The gluten strands became stronger and more resilient with each throw, delivering a before-the-eyes demonstration of dough's metamorphosis.

 My mom and I gave the dough hell for twenty minutes (tag-teaming at five-minute intervals - not easy work!) then gave it a well-deserved three hour rest in front of the fire before stirring it down and putting it to rest in the fridge overnight.

The next day we found our dough refreshed and raring to be rolled out. It wasn't entirely easy, though. It took a bit of patience and a lot of flour to coax the dough into the specified length, width, and thickness. Don't be fooled by the photo - it looks so agreeable, doesn't it?

And now we really have fun. Enter chocolat.

After the chocolate is nestled inside and the brioche pinched shut, an egg and milk bath sets them up for a deep golden brown finish.

No, they didn't taste like my pains au chocolat from London and Paris - they didn't even look like them. But I have to respect brioche dough and how it comes to be, and I have to respect that, alas, I'm not a French baker - yet.

Croissants to come.

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