Friday, December 30, 2011

Something resembling a pain au chocolat

Chocolate-chip cookies were so terrible as to have to be thrown out. Croissants edible but brioche-like and thus a failure. Cannelés: convincing, if unevenly cooked. Pains au chocolat, however, a success. This, despite my record-breaking, shameless refusal to follow the recipe's directions (from this book), combined with the imprecision inherent in bringing grams and centiliters and Celsius into a NJ kitchen, not to mention having halved it. I most certainly didn't have any "farine de gruau" number 45, or "levure de boulanger." I used all-purpose flour, instant dry yeast, regular sugar not powdered, skim milk not whole, salted butter, and so on. Where the recipe called for the delicate kneading of dough, the careful, ingredient-by-ingredient additions, I tossed everything into a bowl, used the trusty hand mixer, and when the result looked far too pancake-batter-ish to be right, added flour until the consistency struck me as plausible. Dough-chilling happened in the freezer, not the refrigerator, and ended when I deemed the dough sufficiently workable, not when it was in any technical sense ready. I folded... enough. Somehow the end result was flaky (!), utterly convincing, and because I'd made them myself, no doubts about them having been pur beurre. The chocolate I used - semisweet chips from the Belgian gourmet shop - did not do it for the household Belgian, and while I agreed that this wasn't quite what a French bakery would have used, I'm thinking it was as close to that as can be found in Central NJ. The result was not Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur, but not as far off as one might expect, and unequivocally better than what the two places in town that sell this sort of thing have on offer.

The first batch were consumed too instantaneously, but looked much like the second, except half the size. This second set are (well, two are, two were) more the size of bakery chocolate croissants. If you're squeamish about realizing that your breakfast included a quarter of a stick of butter, this is not the recipe for you.