Celebrate Bastille Day wherever you are

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

July 14 is Bastille Day – aka the French National holiday that commemorates the storming of the Bastille and the launch of the French Revolution on July 14, 1789.

Whether you’re in France or not this Bastille Day, enjoy a little slice of Gallic life with Lonely Planet’s recipe for pain au chocolatA buttery croissant is decadent by itself. But with a sinfully rich chocolate centre adding an irresistible layer of sweetness, a pain au chocolat is the ultimate French pastry indulgence.

What is it?
Found in virtually every French boulangerie (bakery) and pâtisserie (pastry shop), a pain au chocolat is essentially a chocolate-filled croissant, made from the same yeast-leavened dough. Yet unlike a croissant’s crab-claw shape, a pain au chocolat is rectangular. Both are among the morning-time treats collectively known as ‘viennoiseries’ (Viennese pastries).

Origin
Although as emblematic of France as berets and baguettes, croissants actually originated in Vienna, Austria. To celebrate a failed Turkish attack during the Siege of Vienna in 1683, Viennese bakers shaped pastries in the form of the crescent found on the Ottoman Turks’ flags. When Austrian Princess Marie Antoinette arrived in France to marry King  Louis XVI in 1770, Parisian bakers recreated the pastry in her honour, renaming it a ‘croissant’ for its crescent shape. It’s not definitively known when chocolate was added to create a pain au chocolat, but some believe it was as late as the early 20th century.

Tasting
A lustrous, golden pain au chocolat has airy, feathery pastry and the mellowest chocolaty centre when it’s eaten still warm from the oven. The tantalising yeasty aromas wafting out on to the streets across France from the early morning onwards are enough to entice you to pick one up, and it is best enjoyed immediately on a park bench (a shower of flaking pastry crumbs as you eat it is inevitable, but the local birdlife won’t mind). If you’re buying pains au chocolat in, make sure they’re your last purchase so you can eat them at their best. When making them yourself, only bake the amount needed – it’s easy to freeze the rest of the dough and bake a fresh batch another day. Hot, strong coffee makes the ideal accompaniment.

Finding it
Parisian patisserie Laurent Duchêne makes prize-winning viennoiseries using premium beurre Charentes-Poitou AO C (appellation d’origine contrôlée) butter. Expect to pay €1.60 (US$2).

* Variations * To make croissants using the same dough, follow the recipe to the end of step 5. Cut out triangles, each with a 10cm (4in) base, then roll each triangle snugly from the base, tucking the apex underneath. Pull the ends in slightly to form a crescent. Then continue from step 7, placing the croissants right side up on the baking tray.

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Recipe: Pains au Chocolat

Ingredients

350g (12½oz) good-quality* unsalted butter

300g (10½oz) very strong white bread flour

200g (7oz) plain flour

2½ tsp fast-action dried yeast

50g (2oz) caster sugar

2 tsp fine sea salt

1¼–1½ cups semi-skimmed milk

1 egg yolk, beaten

175g (6oz) high-grade dark chocolate batons (sticks/elongated bars; these

can be chopped from a larger block of chocolate)

* Quality butter is integral to the pastries’ success; cheaper butter often has a high water content, which can ooze during baking.

Method

1. Melt 50g (2oz) of the butter in a pan and allow it to cool.

2. Combine the dry ingredients (flours, yeast, sugar, salt) in a large bowl and mix well to combine thoroughly.

3. Add the cooled melted butter to the milk and stir to combine. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Gently work the ingredients together with your hands, adding a little more milk if necessary. Knead the dough just until it can be formed into a ball. Cover in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.

4. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 50cm x 20cm (20in x 8in). Spread the remaining butter thickly over the centre of the dough in a square, leaving about 15cm (6in) of butter-free dough at each end. Fold the butter-free edges into the centre, taking care not to form air bubbles. Pinch the sides to seal them. Wrap in cling film and cool for 1 hour.

5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Fold in half on a floured surface. Turn through 90 degrees and re-roll it to 50cm x 20cm (20in x 8in). Bring the top third and bottom third of the dough into the centre. Cover in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour. Repeat this step twice more, then refrigerate overnight.

6. Roll the dough to 100cm x 20cm (39½in x 8in). Cut out twenty 20cm x 5cm (8in x 2in) rectangles. Place one chocolate baton widthways 3cm (1¼in) from the top and another 3cm (1¼in) from the bottom of each rectangle. Roll the top and bottom strips over the batons into the centre and pat down.

7. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper and place the filled pastries upside down on top of them. Lightly brush the beaten egg over the pastries. Cover with clean dish towels.

8. Leave the pains au chocolat to prove (rise) in a warm place for up to 2 hours, until they’re puffy and almost doubled in size.

9. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).

10. Brush the pains au chocolat again with beaten egg. Bake for 15–20 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Transfer the pains au chocolat to a wire rack to cool slightly.

Makes 20–22

Extract taken from The World’s Best Brunches (£14.99)  – a new book published by Lonely Planet that brings together the most mouth watering recipes from all over the world, in one book.

9781743607466

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