Today is Laura's birthday, and instead of cake, she wanted me to make her some Pain Au Chocolat, otherwise known as scandalously buttery brioche filled with decadent chocolate. The recipe comes from Bernard Clayton's "New Complete Book of Breads
First, you make the starter, by dissolving one packet of yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons), in 1/2 cup of warm milk.
Add 1 cup of flour and mix for 3 minutes. I don't mess around with bread and will usually do whatever the recipe says. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 hours.
Then, in a large bowl, measure 2 cups of flour and make a well to receive 4 of the 6 eggs, breaking eggs one at a time and blending into the flour.
Add 1/4 cup of warm water, 3 tbsp of sugar and 2 tsp of salt. Blend to make a thick batter.
On your counter, work the butter (3 sticks) until it becomes soft and pliable. This is really fun.
Blend the butter into the batter and add the remaining two eggs. Stir the rest of the flour (approx. 2 cups) until the dough is soft and elastic. Press dough into an oval and lather on the starter. Knead by hand until the two doughs have blended into a light yellow mass. This takes about 10 minutes. I don't have a fancy mixer with dough hook, but if you do, you could make this job a lot easier. This dough tends to be sticky because of the butter, but don't add too much flour or it will become too rough and dry.
Let rise for two hours under plastic wrap. It should double in size.
Just when you thought you could start shaping, baking and enjoying your bread, you have to transfer this beauty into the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight. It does tend to enrich in flavor, the longer you let it rise.
The following day (or after two hours), punch down the dough and start shaping it into whatever you want. I made the little chocolate bundles for Laura, using Ghiradelli 60% cocoa chips. This recipe makes a ton of dough.
Don't forget to paint them with egg wash before baking for extra sheen.
Laura insisted on taking this photo of me as I was hard at work:
I then braided the rest of the dough.
Happy birthday, Laura Jo!