Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pain au Chocolat

My friend Don passed away recently.  He was a bike friend but he was much more to many people, as evidenced by the big crowd that will gather later today for his rememberance.  There will be a life celeration in Seattle; string band, dancing, probably some sort of program, and of course food.  Don was big on pastries, known for his love of a doughnut on a ride, or a slice of pie.  He was aslo known for his pie baking and preserve 'preserving'.

I'm baking for the event, could it be any other way?  I decided to go out on a limb and try my hand at Pain au Chocolat once agian; a great French staple I 'discovered' when I first rode Paris Brest Paris in 2003.

This litle French treat starts early in the morning, .... the day before!  Only the French could turn pie dough into a two day, gourment affair.  I must admit, I am so glad they did!

I could have made these with that commercial puff pastry you get in the freezer case and cut out a wole day, but then again I could have stopped for a box of Little Debbies on the way to the event.  These will be with 'from scratch' puff pastry.  As with so many things that are 'hand crafted' pain au chocolat is as much about technique as ingredients:

You get the little 'layers of pastry' effect by spreading a layer of  butter (creamed with flour) onto your rolled out dough, then the 'technique' kicks in: 

You roll out the chilled dough

spread the butter

then fold into thirds.

This then goes into the refrigerator to chill for half an hour. 
In this weather it's actually more like an hour.  It is important that your dough get cold and stiff before you bring it out to once again:


and fold.

This 'technique' is repeated a total of 4 times.  Don't get impatient, if you work the dough when it is warm several (bad) things happen:

The dough tears and sticks, and you loose your 'layer' effdect.  Also as it warms, the dough will begin to rise and you really don't want much of that until you proof it for the last hour or two befor it goes in the oven, .... tomorrow (actually oh-dark-thirty this morning in this case).

Which chocolate to use? 

I've got friends who are chocolate snobs, the baking world is rife with opinions.  My peasent genes and Scotch upbringing won't allow me to 'financce' imported French of German chocolate, however Ghirardelli gets the job done.  I bought both bitter-sweet and semi-sweet.  If it was just me it would be the bitter sweet, I don't have much of a sweet tooth.  I went with the semi, but in the end it didn't matter, I needed to use it all.

After the four rounds of rolling and folding the dough goes into the refrigerator for a minimum of 5 hours.  This dough was refrigerated over night, which was better, but made for a very early morning to assemble the pastries,

final proof them (another two hours),

A quick egg wash

(Getting light outside, but can't hurry this!)

and then bake for the big event. They came out OK. 

Not exactly Mademe Chloe's standard fare, but I doubt we will have to cart them all back home.

For you Don.

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