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Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)

Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat on a hte table, two of them cut in half.
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You can make the best Pain Au Chocolat using your sourdough starter! Yes, these flaky buttery French pastries (that also go by the name of Chocolate Croissant) filled with rich dark chocolate are one of the most delicious breakfast treats enjoyed across the globe! Making the naturally leavened laminated pastry is a long, but extremely satisfying process, and it will be all worth it once you bite into one of the freshly baked Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat!

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What Is Pain Au Chocolat?

Pain Au Chocolat is a classic French pastry, not only sold in viennoiseries across France but also widely popular across the world. We have not yet stayed at a hotel that didn’t have these flaky buttery pastries as an option at a breakfast buffet. Pain au Chocolat is also known as Chocolatine in some parts of Europe, or simply as Chocolate Croissant. The latter, however, is up for debate. Croissant indicates the crescent shape of the pastry, and Pain Au Chocolate is typically shaped like a rolled rectangle. Whatever you’d like to call it, we invite you to try our dark chocolate filled pastries made with a sourdough starter! They are absolutely scrumptious!

Sourdough Chocolate Croissants on a white wooden table with red checked tea towel, chopping board, butter dish and dark chocolate pieces scattered on it.

Note on the Choice of Ingredients

  • strong bread flour: strong bread flour has a higher gluten content, which translates into a better rise, and higher water absorption, making the dough easier to roll and better moisture retention, making the inside of Pain au Chocolat flaky but not dry.
  • sugar: we prefer using caster sugar over granulated sugar because caster sugar is finer and dissolves in the dough quicker.
  • butter: use unsalted European-style butter, as it has higher fat content compared to American butter.
  • chocolate: whilst it is convenient to use chocolate buttons for pain au chocolat, they are not always easy to find in supermarkets. We, therefore, opted for a 150g bar of dark chocolate. We particularly recommend baking chocolate that crumbles less when cutting and doesn’t fully solidify inside the pain au chocolat after baking and cooling. The one we used was 45% cocoa dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is roughly chopped for pain au chocolat.

Step 1: Before You Start: Tips for Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Pain au Chocolat are naturally leavened and doesn’t rely on commercial yeast for the rise of the pastry. As a result, it is critical that you use a strong active sourdough starter. Here are a few tips:

A sourdough starter that is low in acid will work best. That simply means that your starter needs to be frequently refreshed prior to using it to make the laminated pastry. Detempre (the dough) for pain au chocolat is enriched with milk, butter and sugar and will require that little extra might of the natural yeast to rise the dough. We recommend you feed a little bit of your starter for 2-3 days in a row before using it for Sourdough Pain au Chocolat. Regular feeds will ensure both low acidity and strong yeast. More on maintaining sourdough starter here.

Another important thing to remember is that sourdough starter is best when used at its peak (and never once it starts to deflate unless the recipe specifies ‘sourdough discard’). Once you fed your starter one last time before making pain au chocolat, leave it in a warm spot for 4-5 hours. It should double (maybe even triple in volume) in that time and you’re fine to use it then. If you leave it for longer, your starter may reach its peak and then start deflating. If your starter hasn’t doubled in 4-5 hours at 20-24°C, you may need to keep feeding it for a couple more days before it’s fit for purpose (and there’s only one purpose – to get our teeth on those great Sourdough Pain au Chocolat, right?).

Step 2: Making Detempre

Once your starter is at its peak, make the detempre (the enriched dough that is one of the 3 main elements of pain au chocolate – detempre, butter lamination and chocolate filling).

In a bowl of your stand mixer (we absolutely love our Kenwood), fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix the strong flour, salt and sugar. Pour in the water, milk and active sourdough starter. Turn the stand mixer on and knead for 5 minutes at medium speed. The dough will come together into a rather stiff ball (don’t expect it to look smooth or elastic at this stage, it may even look a bit dry). Leave the dough to relax for 15 minutes.

Run the stand mixer again on medium speed, and start adding 50g of room temperature butter a little bit at a time. Make sure your butter is soft (hard butter will have trouble combining with the dough). Keep the mixer running for around 8-10 minutes until the butter is fully incorporated and you have a smooth dough. It shouldn’t be sticky.

Shape a tight ball, and slash the dough with a sharp knife (a razor or a dough scorer) in a cross on top of the dough (see photo below). This will help you roll the dough out into a square/ rectangle rather than a circle. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and leave in a warm spot to bulk prove for approx. 4 hours. Ideally, you need a temperature of 21-23° C. If it is warmer, adjust the timing: your dough should rise x1.5 times. Place the dough in the fridge for another 3-4 hours to finish proving and double in size. Finishing with a cold-proof helps roll the dough out later as it will be nice and firm.

A cross is slashed on the detempre in a metal bowl.

Step 3: Laminating

Laminated pastry creates that flaky effect that good croissants and pain au chocolate are known for. This is achieved by creating thin layers of detempre and butter. The butter is encased in the dough and then rolled out, folded and rolled out twice more.

Prepare the Butter

Take the butter out of the fridge in advance so it is soft enough to be rolled. Place it on a large sheet of baking parchment (we highly recommend Bacofoil Baking Parchment – it is strong and lasts forever), place another sheet of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, gently bash to flatter the butter. Then fold the baking parchment under into a neat 18x18cm (7×7 in) square and roll the butter inside the parchment parcel into all four edges, aiming for the same thickness across (for process photos see below). Enclosing the butter into the baking parchment square will help you get an even butter square with sharp edges. Still wrapped in the baking parchment, place the butter in the fridge to firm up.

Butter Temperature for Laminating Process

An important element of making the flakiest of pain au chocolat is ensuring the butter doesn’t melt into the detempre dough in the lamination process. In order to achieve this, you need your butter and dough of similar temperatures (or the dough slightly colder). What is more, you don’t want the butter too cold either, otherwise, it will brittle instead of creating even layers when you try to roll the pastry. Judging the temperature of the dough and the butter will come with practice, but if the butter is too hard, just leave it out to soften.

The pastry should also be chilled in the fridge between folds to ensure the butter stays cold and doesn’t melt into the dough.

Lamination

Take the dough out of the fridge and place it onto a floured worktop. Knock the air out with the bottom of your palm and roll it into a square around 28x28cm (11x11in). Try to make it even.

Unwrap the butter (keep the baking parchment). Place the butter in the middle of the dough on the diagonal (see the photos below).

butter being encased in the dough.

Taking one side at a time, fold the edges of the dough into the middle creating a square envelope. Once you fold all four sides into the middle, pinch the edges together. You should now have a 20x20cm (8x8in) butter parcel. Wrap it in baking parchment and freeze on a flat surface for 10 minutes.

First Fold

Take the parcel out of the freezer, unwrap and roll the parcel out into a rectangle that’s around 50x20cm (20x8in). Make sure your dough isn’t sticking to the worktop as you roll: you want the butter encased and the dough may tear if it sticks. Dust with flour if needed. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut off any untidy short edges that don’t have any butter in them.

Fold the rolled-out dough like a letter: from the short edge, hold 1/3 of the sheet into the middle, then take the opposite short edge and fold it over the first one. Wrap the dough in the baking parchment you kept the butter in, or cling film, and place in the freezer for 15 minutes, then transfer to the fridge for 1 hour.

Sourdough Pastry after the fold (folded likea  pamphlet).

Second Fold

Take the dough out of the fridge and place it short edge in front of you. Roll the dough out to 50x20cm (20x8in) again. Fold the top third towards the centre and then the bottom third over (just like before). Wrap and place the pastry in the freezer for 15 minutes, then fridge for 1 hour.

Third Fold

Just like before, roll out the dough to 50x20cm (20x8in) rectangle. Fold like a letter, wrap and place in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours (we leave it in the fridge overnight).

Step 4: Shaping Pain Au Chocolat

Take the pastry out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for 5 minutes at room temperature. Unwrap and, on a lightly floured worktop, roll the pastry out into a 60x40cm (24×16 in) rectangle, gently getting all the air out of the pastry. You don’t want pockets of air to burst abruptly though, exposing the butter.

Trim the pastry from all four sides to create even edges. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the pastry sheet in half lengthways. Then each long strip into 6 rectangles measuring 20x10cm (8x4in). You should have 12 even rectangles (see photos below).

Boil a kettle of water. Pour the water into an ovenproof dish and place it in the bottom of your cold oven. Close the oven door and let the water steam inside.

Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment.

Taking one rectangle at a time, place a line of chocolate along the short side, about 2-3cm away from the edge. Fold the pastry over the chocolate. Then add another line of chocolate next to the fold. Continue to roll until you have a neat spiral. Repeat with the rest of the rectangles. Place the sourdough pain au chocolat seam side down on the prepared baking sheets spaced out, leaving enough space for them to rise.

Step 5: Proving Shaped Pastries

Importance of Temperature and Humidity

Your oven should be warm and humid by now. The optimal temperature should be around 23-24 C (any higher and your butter will start melting into the pastry). The humid environment will ensure that the pain au chocolat won’t form a crust on top, preventing the pastries from rising. I like to cover them with a large sheet of lightly oiled clingfilm too.

Place the sheets with sourdough pain au chocolat in the turned-off oven for 3-4 hours to prove. The pastries should puff up significantly and the layers should be clearly visible.

chocolate croissants on a baking tray covered with cling film.

STEP 5: Egg Wash

Once your pains au chocolat have proved, we like to place them in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. the pastries will firm up and won’t be as fragile when you are brushing them with egg wash. Furthermore, the butter in them will have time to solidify a bit again to help create perfect flaky layers.

Whilst the sourdough pain au chocolat are chilling, take the ovenproof dish with water out of the oven and then preheat it to 190°C Fan.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and cream (or milk). Using a pastry brush, very gently brush the pastries with the mixture.

Egg wash being brushed on the pastries using a blue pastry brush.

STEP 6: Baking Pain Au Chocolat

Bake the pastries for around 20-25 minutes. Leave the sourdough pain au chocolat to cool for 30 minutes. They are best served within 2 hours from baking! We enjoy them most when they are still warm and the chocolate is oozing out!

Recipe FAQs

How to Store Pain Au Chocolat?

Whilst these French pastries are best served on the day of baking (within 2 hours preferably), they can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for 3 days.

Can Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat Be Reheated?

Yes! Preheat the oven to 180 C and place the pastries on the middle shelf for 4-5 minutes.

Can I Freeze Pain Au Chocolat?

The best way to freeze Pain Au Chocolat is before they are baked. Once the pastries are shaped and proved (but before egg washing) place them in the freezer (still on a baking tray) for 1-2 hours. Once they are frozen, transfer them into a ziplock bag and keep them in the freezer. You can then cook them from frozen for about 25-30 minutes.

Baked Sourdough Pastries on a wire rack.

More Delicious Sourdough Pastries

Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat on a hte table, two of them cut in half.

Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat

You can make the best Pain Au Chocolat using your sourdough starter! Yes, these flaky buttery French pastries (that also go by the name of Chocolate Croissant) filled with rich dark chocolate are one of the most delicious breakfast treats enjoyed across the globe! Making the naturally leavened laminated pastry is a long, but extremely satisfying process, and it will be all worth it once you bite into one of the freshly baked Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat!
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 4 hrs
Cook Time 30 mins
Fermenting, Proofing, Chilling: 1 d
Total Time 1 d 4 hrs 30 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine French
Servings 12 pastries
Calories 392 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

For Detempre:

  • 450 g strong bread flour
  • 150 g active sourdough starter 100% hydration
  • 40 g caster sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 90 ml milk
  • 130 ml water lukewarm
  • 50 g butter room temperature

For Laminating:

  • 250 g butter

Filling and Egg Wash:

  • 150 g dark chocolate cut into batons, or small pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp double/ heavy cream or milk

Instructions
 

DAY 1:

  • When your sourdough starte is at it's peak, make the main dough for pain au chocolate. In a bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix the strong flour, salt and sugar. Pour in the water, milk and active sourdough starter. Turn the stand mixer on and knead for 5 minutes at medium speed. Leave the dough to relax for 15 minutes.
  • Run the stand mixer again on medium speed, and start adding 50g of room temperature butter a little bit at a time. Keep the mixer running for around 8-10 minutes until the butter is fully incorporated and you have an elastic cohesive dough. It shouldn’t be sticky at this stage.
  • Shape a tight ball, slash the dough with a sharp knife (a razor or a dough scorer) in a cross on top of the dough (see photos above). Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and leave in a warm spot to bulk prove for approx. 4 hours: your dough should rise x1.5 times. Place the dough in the fridge for another 3-4 hours to finish proving and double in size.
  • In the meantime, take the butter out of the fridge in advance so it is soft enough to be rolled. Place it on a large sheet of baking parchment, place another sheet of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, gently bash to flatter the butter. Then fold the baking parchment under into a neat 18x18cm (7×7 in) square and roll the butter inside the parchment parcel into all four edges, aiming for the same thickness across (for process photos see text above). Enclosing the butter into the baking parchment square will help you get an even butter square with sharp edges. Still wrapped in the baking parchment, place the butter in the fridge to firm up.
  • Take the dough out of the fridge and place it onto a floured worktop. Knock the air out with the bottom of your palm and roll it into a square around 28x28cm (11x11in). Try to make it even.
  • Unwrap the butter (keep the baking parchment). Place the butter in the middle of the dough on the diagonal (see the photos above).
  • Taking one side at a time, fold the edges of the dough into the middle creating a square envelope. Once you fold all four sides into the middle, pinch the edges together. You should now have a 20x20cm (8x8in) butter parcel. Wrap it in baking parchment and freeze on a flat surface for 10 minutes.
  • First Fold: Take the parcel out of the freezer, unwrap and roll the parcel out into a rectangle that’s around 50x20cm (20x8in). Make sure your dough isn’t sticking to the worktop as you roll: you want the butter encased and the dough may tear if it sticks. Dust with flour if needed. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut off any untidy short edges that don’t have any butter in them.
  • Fold the rolled-out dough like a letter: from the short edge, hold 1/3 of the sheet into the middle, then take the opposite short edge and fold it over the first one. Wrap the dough in the baking parchment you kept the butter in, or cling film, and place in the freezer for 15 minutes, then transfer to the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Second Fold: Take the dough out of the fridge and place it short edge in front of you. Roll the dough out to 50x20cm (20x8in) again. Fold the top third towards the centre and then the bottom third over (just like before). Wrap and place the pastry in the freezer for 15 minutes, then fridge for 1 hour.
  • Third Fold: Just like before, roll out the dough to 50x20cm (20x8in) rectangle. Fold like a letter, wrap and place in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours (we leave it in the fridge overnight).

DAY 2:

  • Take the pastry out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for 5 minutes at room temperature. Unwrap and, on a lightly floured worktop, roll the pastry out into a 60x40cm (24×16 in) rectangle, gently getting all the air out of the pastry. You don’t want pockets of air to burst abruptly though, exposing the butter.
  • Trim the pastry from all four sides to create even edges. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the pastry sheet in half lengthways. Then each long strip into 6 rectangles measuring 20x10cm (8x4in). You should have 12 even rectangles (see photos above).
  • Boil a kettle of water. Pour the water into an ovenproof dish and place it in the bottom of your cold oven. Close the oven door and let the water steam inside.
  • Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Taking one rectangle at a time, place a line of chocolate along the short side, about 2-3cm away from the edge. Fold the pastry over the chocolate. Then add another line of chocolate next to the fold. Continue to roll until you have a neat spiral. Repeat with the rest of the rectangles. Place the sourdough pain au chocolat seam side down on the prepared baking sheets spaced out, leaving enough space for them to rise.
  • Your oven should be warm and humid by now. Cover the pastries with a large sheet of lightly oiled clingfilm.
  • Place the sheets with sourdough pain au chocolat in the turned-off oven for 3-4 hours to prove. The pastries should puff up significantly and the layers should be clearly visible.
  • Once your pains au chocolat have proved, place them in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
  • Whilst the sourdough pain au chocolat are chilling, take the ovenproof dish with water out of the oven and then preheat it to 190°C Fan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and cream (or milk). Using a pastry brush, very gently brush the pastries with the mixture.
  • Bake the pastries for around 25-30 minutes. Leave the sourdough pain au chocolat to cool for 30 minutes. They are best served within 2 hours from baking! We enjoy them most when they are still warm and the chocolate is oozing out!

Notes

You can change up the timeline of making the pain au chocolat, if it works better for you. 
  1. Make detempre in the afternoon of Day 1, then leave it in the fridge to finish proofing overnight.
  2. On the morning of Day 2, laminate the pastry (all three folds), then chill it in the fridge till late in the afternoon. 
  3. Shape and bake sourdough pain au chocolate on the evening of Day 2. 

Nutrition

Calories: 392kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 6gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 288mgPotassium: 144mgFiber: 2gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 556IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 31mgIron: 2mg
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6 Replies to “Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)”

  1. 5 stars
    Your photos make this process look so simple! Guess it’s finally time for me to try my hand at the laminating process. These just look so perfect, well done!

    1. Thanks, Jill! Give them a go, I’m sure you’ll love both the process and the result! 🙂

  2. cambrea gordon says: Reply

    5 stars
    I think I’m in HEAVEN! I never thought to use sourdough for pain au chocolate which is literally my favorite desert ever. I can’t wait to make these!!

    1. Perfect, Cambrea! Please let me know what you think! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    I was lucky enough to taste (heavenly) Pain Au Chocolat in Paris and have always wanted to make them at home. I had no idea that I could make them with sourdough! What a treat this is going to be. Thank you for this recipe!

    1. Maike, I’d love to eat some fine viennoiseries in Paris (so jealous…), but I’m confident that sour Sourdough Pain au Chocolat with come close to that experience 🙂

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