One of the true joys of a French holiday are morning trips to the boulangerie to buy fresh crusty baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast. Every morning, little S would come and buy the fresh bread and pastries first thing and then look enviously at our pain au chocolat on the breakfast table. So I made a promise to make a batch on return.
Since last summer’s wonderful holiday in Corsica, I’ve got in the habit of regularly making friendly pain au chocolat for the girls. It’s been a mixed blessing, they’ve got rather used to freshly made viennoiserie for breakfast, so I end up making them often which takes time, but my croissant dough skiIlls have improved dramatically.
This new improved recipe has been gradually tweaked over the last year and I think we’ve finally got a jolly authentic, flaky and ‘buttery’ dough. The lamination has proved the tricky part of the recipe. Besides being the most time consuming aspect, I suffered for months with the layers simply disappearing which is really demoralising when you’ve spent hours putting them there in the first place! After some in-depth research it seems the crucial detail for lamination is that the fat content of the ‘butter replacement’ has to be around 82%. It’s that precise. In the UK our dairy-free margarines are predominantly water-based with fat coming way down the list of ingredients. If you use such a margarine the water just makes steam and you get a bready dough rather than buttery flaky layers. Makes total sense doesn’t it.
After much experimentation I’ve found that it works best to combine a mixture of dairy-free margarine such as Pure with a baking spread such as Stork (in the foil wrapper) and a touch of flour. This combination makes a great fat-rich butter substitute which also provides the right ‘buttery’ flavour.
Surely a good flaky Pain au Chocolat is possibly the most perfect breakfast item ever 🙂
Dairy-free Homemade Pain au Chocolat
(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)
500g strong bread flour
90g caster sugar
10g instant yeast
100ml dairy-free milk (I used Oatly)
250ml cold water
150g dairy-free margarine
150g baking fat
1 tbsp flour
160g dark dairy-free chocolate chopped into batons
a sprinkle of caster sugar
melted dairy-free margarine for brushing
- Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and yeast.
- Pour in the dairy-free milk and water and stir. Once come together, knead well to form a soft and springy dough (about 5-10 minutes).
- Cover and leave to rise for a couple of hours
- Meanwhile, put the dairy-free margarine on to some cling film, sprinkle with the flour and then top with the baking fat (making a kind of sandwich affair) and loosely wrap. Roll out to a square shape, and place in the fridge or freezer to harden.
- Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough. Cut a cross on top of the dough ball and roll out the leaves (see photo below)
- Place the cooled ‘butter’ in the middle and fold the four flaps over the ‘butter’ making sure it is entirely encased with dough.
- Roll out and fold into thirds twice
- Place back in the fridge for thirty minutes or so, then roll out and fold back into thirds twice more. Repeat two or three times.
- Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes more.
- Roll out to form a large rectangle. Cut into four long strips, halve each.
- Place a line of chocolate at one narrow end and roll over to cover. Add another chocolate baton and continue rolling up.
- Loosely cover with cling film and let rise on the baking tray for 30 minutes.
- Brush with the melted margarine and sprinkle with caster sugar
- Bake at 200 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes