[RECIPE] Pain au Chocolat Cinnamon Rolls

One of my favorite places to go to for a quick sweet fix in the States is La Madeleine’s. My favorite is their French Vanilla Tart with Berries. It is to die for. As it is, the French are known for their baked goods and pastries. One day, I was browsing and found a recipe that had combined the French Pain au Chocolat with the American Cinnamon Roll. It thought it an excellent idea so I immediately bookmarked it for future perusal.

I finally decided to try it today, in lieu of my job interview and as a form of stress relief because of aforementioned job interview. This later also became a celebratory baking event because I ended up getting the job, with an initial training-and-trial period, of course. It made it all the more special, since I usually don’t make things as decadent as this. However, before I get to the recipe itself, I must do a little bit of additional reading–

Pain au Chocolat, or the chocolatine in Southern France and French Canada as well as the chocolate croissant in North America, is a sweet roll made of yeast-leavened laminated dough with pieces of chocolate in the middle. An interesting note, as wikipedia states, the pain au chocolat is a viennoiserie (literally translated into “Viennese thingy”) sweet roll, of which croissants, danish pastries, and brioche also fall under, so it may be safe to say that they’re of Viennese origin. However, there are no stories, legends, tales, or any such things that may even hint at the exact beginnings of this treat.

Now, let’s cross that with the American and European heart-stopping favorite, the Cinnamon Roll (or Bun). This sweet bun had a long history and ends with many variations, beginning with the spice trade that brought cinnamon over but there’s no single set origin, though it’s said to have influences from Northern Europe, namely Germany (franzbrötchen), Denmark, and Sweden (kanelbulle) – not to mention the large Finnish version by the name of korvapuusti and the Norwegian skillingsbolle. Now, there’s also the fried honey bun to add to the list. Now, which one’s better? The European custom of sprinkling sugar over it or the drizzle (or smothering) of icing? Either way, this [usually] baked sweet must be important, if the Swedes dedicated a day to it on October 4th. It amuses me how the true origin of both of these sweet rolls are still a mystery. They must be a match made in heaven.


Pain au Chocolat Cinnamon Rolls

[original recipe here with awesome pictures of baked goodness]
Makes 12 Rolls

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup of Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 sheets of Frozen Puff Pastry, refrigerator temperature
  • 2 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup of high-quality Dark Chocolate, melted
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons of your Nut of Choice, coarsely chopped (optional)

THE HOW-TO
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or 200 degrees Celsius. Butter or spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

Gently unroll the pastry sheets and brush with melted butter and let set for a minute or two.  Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the microwave, first for 30 seconds then in 10-second intervals and stirring in between until melted and smooth. Now brush the melted chocolate over the buttered pastry squares. If using nuts, evenly scatter them across the chocolaty, buttery pastry sheets.

Carefully roll the squares into a log. Using a serrated knife, trim just the edges of the logs and cut each remaining log into six, equal pieces, with a total of twelve.

Place one pain au chocolat cinnamon roll into each muffin cup, with the swirl facing up. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they puff up and turned golden brown. Be careful not to overbake and have the golden coloring turn to brown – they’ll be too crispy.

Allow to cool briefly before enjoying.

COMMENTS AND NOTES

  • I only used 1/3 cup of sugar total rather than the original 1/2 cup, hence the mere 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, and even so, I had a little left over (I only sprinkled enough to cover the pastry sheets). Because of that, when I took my first nibble of puff pastry, it wasn’t all that sweet, but once I got to the center, the flavors started settling in and it was still sweet, but not overwhelming. I stick by my original sugar measurements. On that note, I only put nuts on one pastry sheet and left the other one for just cinnamon-sugar-chocolate lovers. The rolls with the nuts were most definitely bigger.
  • I didn’t trim the ends of my logs before cutting the rest. Perhaps that’s why the end product wasn’t all perfect. ^^; I suppose this is why I’m not a true food photographer, though how I wish I had the time, energy, expensive camera, and talent for it.
  • Next time – yes, I refuse to let it rest like this – I will probably shorten the bake time a smidge, because some of the sugar seemed to caramelise – as in on the verge of burning (or was it the chocolate that was on the edge of getting burnt?). I also suppose some of the pastry sheets were getting to the point of becoming “too crispy”. I had put them in for exactly 25 minutes, so I’ll start keeping a close eye on them at around 20 minutes.
  • I like them and I think the idea is ingenious. On top of that, it’s utterly simple. There’s the delicate pastry (and oh gosh, the layers) along with the bite of dark chocolate and the slight sweetness with the nutty flavor and texture. Utter bliss on my tongue… Now, I just wish store-bought pastry sheets weren’t so expensive!
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