Consider this the beginnings of my pain au chocolat adventure. I bought 300 chocolate batons over the weekend so I’ve got plenty of runway. I started with combining two recipes. One from King Arthur Flour and one from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
340 g of milk
50 g sugar
539 g flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
57 g unsalted butter, softened
340 g unsalted butter
32 Chocolate batons
1 large egg + 1 yolk for egg wash
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the water, sugar, 2 cups of the flour, yeast, salt, and butter. Mix until fairly evenly blended.
Add the remaining flour and stir until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out and knead it until it just starts to smooth out. You don’t want to over-knead it at this point, since it’s going to spend a considerable amount of time rising.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until puffy.
After an hour at room temperature, refrigerate the dough (in its covered bowl) for 8 to 16 hours; overnight is your best bet.
Just before the dough is ready to come out of the fridge, prepare the butter for rolling into the dough. Cut each of the three sticks in half lengthwise and place all six pieces on a floured piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Sprinkle flour on the top surface of the butter, cover with another piece of paper or plastic and gently pound it with a rolling pin until it becomes malleable. Then roll the butter out until it’s about 8″ x 8″.
To assemble the rolls: Remove the dough from the refrigerator, place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 12″ square. Place the butter in the center of the dough at a 45° angle; it’ll look like a diamond inside the square. Fold the four flaps of dough into the center to enclose the butter, pinching them together as best you can.
Roll the dough into a 10″ x 20″ rectangle. Fold one third into the center, then the opposite third over the first, like you were folding a business letter; this is called a letter fold. Turn the dough 90°, roll it into a 10″ x 20″ rectangle again, and do another letter fold.
Wrap the dough in lightly floured plastic wrap and refrigerate it again for an hour. Remove the dough from the fridge, and give it two more letter folds: rolling, folding, turning 90°, rolling, and folding. Wrap the dough in lightly floured plastic wrap and refrigerate it again for at least 8 hours (or up to 24 hours, until you’re ready to use it).
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough out into an 8×20-inch rectangle. Use your fingers if you need to. Once again, the dough is very cold, so it will take a lot of arm muscle to roll. The dough will want to be oval shaped, but keep working it with your hands and rolling pin until you have the correct size rectangle. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, slice the dough in half vertically. Each skinny rectangle will be 4 inches wide. Then cut 3 even slices horizontally, yielding 8 4×5-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half lengthwise so you have 16 2×5-inch rectangles. Work with one rectangle at a time. Using your fingers or a rolling pin, stretch it to be about 8 inches long. Do this gently as you do not want to flatten the layers. Place a few small pieces of chocolate in a single layer at one end and tightly roll the dough up around the chocolate. Make sure the end is on the bottom. Repeat with remaining dough, placing the shaped croissants on 2 lined baking sheets, 8 per sheet. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature (no warmer! I suggest just keeping on the counter) for 30 minutes, then place in the refrigerator to rest for 1 hour or up to 3 hours. I prefer the shaped croissants to be cold going into the oven. When you poke the dough with your finger, it will slowly bounce back. That means they are ready to be baked.
Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
Bake the croissants: Bake until croissants are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking. If croissants show signs of darkening too quickly, reduce the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Remove chocolate croissants from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before serving. They will slightly deflate as they cool. If desired, dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.