At their best warm from the oven, these classic French pastries are based on the same pastry as a croissant, known as a yeast-leavened laminated dough (basically a puff pastry with yeast). These pain au chocolat use a cheat’s pastry of sorts (similar to one I also use in a Danish pastry of mine) and gives a similar result as a traditionally made pastry of this kind, without the hassle of having to interleave the butter with the pastry dough as you fold it. The light sprinkling of sea salt flakes adds a surprising yet pleasant contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate centre.
125ml (½ cup) lukewarm milk
7g (1 sachet) dried yeast
250g (1⅔ cups) bread flour (see Baker's Tips), plus extra to dust
185g chilled butter, cut into 2cm cubes
1 egg, at room temperature, lightly whisked,
2 tablespoons caster sugar
125g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 extra egg, lightly whisked with 2 tablespoons milk, to glaze
Sea salt flakes (optional), to sprinkle
Icing sugar (optional), to dust
Put the milk in a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir with a fork. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Put the flour and butter into the bowl of a food processor and use the pulse button to process until the butter is cut into rough 1cm pieces (make sure you don’t process any further). Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the egg and sugar to the milk mixture and stir to combine. Add to the flour and butter mixture and use a wooden spoon and then your hands to mix until it is just combined and a soft dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring together with your hands. Knead briefly or until just smooth but the butter pieces are still visible. Shape into a rectangle and then use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out until about 40 cm x 25 cm, keeping the edges as straight as possible. With a long side nearest to you, fold the right third of the dough in to cover the centre third and then fold the left side in also. Turn the dough clockwise a quarter turn. Fold the dough into thirds as before to make a small rectangle.
Flip the dough over on the bench so that the open edge is now underneath and repeat the rolling and folding process again as in step 4. You will finish with a small rectangle. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
Roll out the pastry with a lightly floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a square 30cm x 30cm and about 5mm thick. Cut in half to make two 15cm x 30cm rectangles, and then cut each into quarters so you end up with eight 7.5cm x 15cm rectangles. Divide the chocolate evenly between the rectangles, placing it across the shorter end of each. Starting from the short end with the chocolate, roll the dough around the chocolate to form a roll. Place on the lined tray, seam-side down, and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Cover loosely with a slightly damp tea towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes or until the pastry has risen slightly and is ‘puffy’.
Brush the pastries with the egg and milk glaze and sprinkle with a little sea salt flakes, if desired. Bake in preheated oven for 20–25 minutes or until the pastry is golden, crisp and cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature sprinkled with icing sugar, if desired.
Traditionally made with apples, this classic upside-down French tart was created by the Tatin sisters who ran a hotel in France in the early 1900s. If you don't have an ovenproof frying pan, transfer the cooled caramel and pears to a base-lined 22cm round cake tin before covering them with the pastry and baking.
1 quantity Shortcrust Pastry
80g butter, cubed
110g (½ cup) caster sugar
1.1kg small (about 7) pears (such as Josephine), peeled, halved and cored
Ground cinnamon, to sprinkle
Vanilla ice-cream, cream or crème fraiche, to serve
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 20–22cm (base measurement) heavy-based frypan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with the sugar and then arrange the pears, cut-side up, in the pan, cutting some of the halves into quarters to fill the gaps. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the liquid becomes a dark caramel and the pears are almost tender and golden underneath. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 1 hour 15 minutes or until cooled completely.
Preheat oven to 190°C (170°C fan-forced).
Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll the pastry out on a lightly floured benchtop to about 5mm thick and then cut into a circle about 26cm in diameter. Place the pastry over the cooled pears in the pan and carefully tuck the pastry edge around the fruit and down the side of the pan. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden and cooked through and the pear juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Place a serving plate with a lip over the top of the tart and invert. Serve immediately cut into wedges and accompanied by ice-cream, cream or crème fraiche.