The supreme joy that come from eating a warm chocolate croissant—or pain au chocolat, if we’re being proper—with a cup of coffee on the side remains unmatched for me. While most people have to leave the comfort of their couches and pajamas to partake in such a breakfast, I tend to make my own pain au chocolat on weekend mornings. Hold your eye roll, please, because I am not saying that I get up to make croissant dough on Sunday mornings. I am, however, admitting that I have on more than one occasion greeted friends or family for brunch with a warm pile of pains au chocolat. How do I do it, you ask?
OK, I’ll reveal my secret. My pain au chocolat is fake (or to keep things French, faux). I achieve this feat with essentially two ingredients: frozen puff pastry dough and chopped bittersweet chocolate.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Defrost 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator and roughly chop 1 heaping cup of bittersweet chocolate (try using salted chocolate or chocolate infused with orange peel, chile, or ginger for a more exciting, albeit less traditional pastry). Mix 1 egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water and set aside.
Place the defrosted frozen puff pastry dough on a floured work surface and roll the dough into an even 10x16-inch rectangle. Many brands of frozen puff pastry come as 10x15-inch rectangles so this shouldn’t be a big endeavor. Cut each sheet of pastry vertically from the 16-inch side into 4 4x10-inch rectangles for a total of 8 strips of dough. Some folks like petits pains au chocolat, which can fit in their palm and are quite lovely. However, I take more pleasure in ripping apart larger pastries, so that’s where we’re headed.
Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of chopped chocolate at the base of the first pastry rectangle, leaving a ¼-inch border from the edge of the dough. Gently roll the dough into a wide log by folding the pastry over itself in thirds. When you get to the last fold, brush the edge of the pastry with a bit of the egg wash. Finish the last fold, then repeat with remaining 7 pieces of dough.
Place each pain au chocolate on the prepared baking sheet, seam-side down, spaced at least 2 inches apart. Brush the top of each pastry with more egg wash. Sprinkle the pastries with a few pinches of raw sugar, then bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.