Pain au Chocolat Lesson with Chef D’Arcy Ladret

left: chocolate right:pain au chocolate Photos by Deanna Ladret

There’s something especially satisfying about pain au chocolat. Besides sounding French, and therefore embodying all things sophisticated and chic, these pastries cover all the important indulgent-food bases. Carbs? Check. Butter? Double-check. Sugar? Salt? Yup. Oh, and if that’s not enough, it’s rich (literally) with softened dark chocolate, ever so slightly bitter. Pain au chocolat and coffee are made for each other in my opinion, although there’s no rule that it can’t be enjoyed with a nice red wine or a cup of tea. Besides the calorie count, the only thing that keeps me from indulging on a daily basis is the good pain au chocolat are not cheap. I now know why.


I suppose it was naive to expect that such a magical, buttery and airy texture comes about easily. If you want to learn to make your own pain au chocolat or croissants from scratch, make sure you anticipate your craving at least two days in advance so you can adequately prepare. Chef D’Arcy Ladret has been kind enough to demonstrate the delicate and time-consuming process step-by-step to accompany the attached recipe for Classic Croissants (easily modified to create pain au chocolate). Currently the Executive Chef at Royal Roads University, Ladret (also known as “Sugarboy”) completed his pastry chef apprenticeship at Sooke Harbour House in the 1990’s, alongside culinary heavy-hitters like Edward Tuson, David Feys, Peter Zambri and James Walt. He later worked as Pastry Chef at The Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler and several reputable Los Angeles restaurants before returning to Victoria. Nowadays, Sugarboy doesn’t make a lot of pain au chocolat from scratch (not even for his wife, except when it’s going to be in a magazine), but he hasn’t lost his touch.


Pain Au Chocolat/Croissants

Makes 16



4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup cold 2% milk

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 T soft unsalted butter

1 T instant yeast

1 t salt


Butter Layer

1 1/4 cups cold unsalted butter


Egg Wash

1 large free-range egg



200 grams fine dark chocolate



-Stir all dough ingredients into stand mixer bowl with dough hook attachment. Mix 3 minutes on Low. Mix 3 minutes on Medium, scraping sides if necessary. Remove dough from the mixing bowl and put it on a large plate in one lump. Sprinkle with some extra flour, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.


Shaping butter "slab" into square


-The following day, make the butter layer. Cut butter lengthwise into pieces about 1/2″ thick, and arrange on a piece of parchment to form one large square (about 6 inches, see photo). Place another piece of parchment on top, then use a rolling pin to pound the butter square until it expands to be about 7 inches square, then trim off the uneven sides.




Rolled butter with edges cut straight

Take the trimmed sides and place them on top of the butter, cover again with parchment and smooth it into the surface with the rolling pin. Refrigerate.





First fold, in envelope shape

-Unwrap the overnight-refrigerated dough and place it on a lightly floured counter or pastry mat. Roll into a 10.5-inch square. Once the refrigerated butter slab is chilled but still pliable, unwrap it and lay it in the centre of the dough square. Approaching it like a diamond, lift each corner of the dough and fold it into the centre, as if making an envelope or wrapping a present. Make sure that when all corners have been folded inward that you seal the dough on all seams so the butter doesn’t come through.



Second and subsequent "book fold"

-Take this “packet”, flour both sides, then roll the dough to create a rectangle. Try to get it as wide as you can (8 x 24 inches is a benchmark). If the dough rounds out at the ends, try to shape them by hand so the sides remain straight. You are going to fold it like a letter now. Take one end and fold it over so that 1/3 of the dough remains out of the fold. Then, take the remaining side and fold it over top.  Wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.

-Repeat the last step again, only this time roll the dough out in the opposite direction (the two open ends). Fold it in the same pattern as above. Wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.

-Repeat the step one more time. Afterwards, put the dough on a baking sheet and wrap tightly so no air gets in. Refrigerate overnight.


Piping chocolate strips


-Melt chocolate in a double boiler on low heat. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a saucepan with a couple of inches of water, topped with a stainless steel boil in which you’ll place the chocolate. While chocolate is melting, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

-Once the chocolate is runny, pour into a piping bag, or make a piping bag out of a piece of parchment paper rolled into a cone with a smallish hole in the end. Pipe 16 3-4 inch long strips of chocolate onto parchment covered baking sheet. Freeze for about 20 minutes.


Rolled out dough in a large rectangle

-Unwrap the croissant dough and flour it lightly. Slowly roll the dough out into a big rectangle that’s at least 2 feet wide (see photo). If the dough shrinks back and doesn’t seem like it will reach this length, fold over both sides gently and refrigerate for a few minutes. Then, take it out, unfold it, and keep rolling. Trim all sides so they are straight.





Triangles cut

-Use a knife to delineate 8 rectangles (see photo). After that, cut 5 long diagonal lines which will create 16 triangles.






Chocolate strip in place, ready to roll

-Remove chocolate from freezer; it should be hardened but not frozen. Then, take each dough triangle by its big end and hold it up, so that the dough stretches out a bit. Lay it back down on the counter, and place a strip of chocolate across the big end. Begin rolling away from you, giving a little extra hand-roll-action to the sides so they are longer. If you are just making regular croissants without the chocolate, you may wish to gently shape the roll into a crescent.




Rolled before proofing

Repeat this until all are assembled, then place evenly apart on 2 baking sheets.


-In a bowl, whisk an egg until smooth, and brush over each roll. Set remaining egg wash aside. Then put the trays in a warm area (such as an oven if you have a bread proof setting) to proof. Make sure it’s not too warm, because you don’t want butter melting out of the rolls. Let proof for 2 hours. The croissants will be puffy looking and bigger than before.



Egg wash

-Heat oven to 400 convection (or 425 conventional) with one rack higher up and one closer to the bottom. Brush croissants one final time with egg wash, then bake for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, swap the sheets’ positions so they cook evenly. Continue to bake until bottoms are lightly browned, tops are nice and brown, and the rest looks fluffy and golden.




Ready to serve

-Remove from oven, cool on racks. Serve fresh!





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