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What Is Pain Au Chocolat?

French bakeries regularly sell pain au chocolat.
Bread is wrapped around pieces of dark chocolate to make pain au chocolat.
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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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"Pain au chocolat" is a French phrase that translates into English as "chocolate bread." A simple, popular Parisian breakfast, pain au chocolat is a roll consisting of yeast pastry dough wrapped around dark chocolate. It's also a well-loved snack that is available in bakeries in France and around the world. This French pastry can be simple, yet time consuming to prepare, with dough made up of milk, flour, yeast, and butter with a little sugar and salt. Once it's ready, rectangles of dough are wrapped around sticks or pieces of chocolate and baked. The resulting pastry is best served warm, while the chocolate inside is still soft.

The typical breakfast in Paris and many other parts of France consists of coffee, often "cafe au lait," and a sweet pastry. A popular choice is the pain au chocolat, which consists of a yeast pastry dough similar to a croissant, wrapped around dark chocolate. In some areas of southwest France and French Canada, it is referred to as "chocolatine." It usually has a slightly rounded rectangular shape with a light golden brown color, and sometimes a small amount of chocolate can be seen oozing out of the ends.

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In addition to being served for breakfast, pain au chocolat is a well loved snack in France and many other countries, including the U.S. where some people call it "chocolate croissant." Virtually all bakeries and coffee shops in France sell pain au chocolat, and it is widely available in similar establishments around the world. Methods of preparation can vary a bit from place to place, and many enthusiasts have their favorite places to purchase pain au chocolat.

Most recipes for pain au chocolat are relatively simple; the main two components are yeast pastry dough and good quality dark chocolate. Preparing the dough can be a time consuming process, however, because it needs several rest periods. The basic ingredients, including flour, yeast, milk, sugar, salt, and butter, are mixed together to form a smooth dough, and then allowed to rise. Afterward, the dough is rolled out thin, and folded in thirds, and then allowed to rest for at least two hours or overnight. Then the dough is rolled and folded again, sometimes with more butter in the middle, and allowed to rest from two hours to a few days.

Once the dough is ready to use, the rest of the preparation is simple. The dough is rolled out one last time, cut into rectangles, wrapped around the chocolate and baked. Pain au chocolat is supposed to taste best eaten warm when the chocolate inside is soft and gooey, and can be served as a breakfast, snack, or even dessert. If preparing it from scratch is too labor intensive, it can also be prepared using ready-made puff pastry dough and high quality chocolate with similar results.

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