Easy bitter orange pains au chocolat

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England and France unite in this English breakfast variation on pains au chocolat, with the addition of a bitter orange kick from a little marmalade inside the pastries, as well as being used to glaze them.

These are quite easy to make (thanks to a short-cut croissant dough, which lends itself very well here) and are wonderful served warm with a cup of fresh coffee: think posh toast and marmalade!. To be honest, though, they are great or at any time of the day when you want a pastry fix!

Croissant dough

You need a batch of croissant dough – the short-cut dough, which I used here, or the full version. Once it has been made it needs to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight before using in the recipe below.

The recipe for the quicker croissant dough is here. I added the finely grated zest of 1 large orange to the flour and 1 teaspoon orange oil at the start to give a subtle orange flavour coming through.

The recipe for a more traditional croissant dough (less speedy), with my full tips on perfecting croissant dough, is here.

Top tips

Top tip #1: freeze some of the shaped dough before it has risen for baking at a later time – you then simply remove what you want from the freezer, pop them on a lined baking sheet, place inside a large plastic bag to defrost and prove overnight: then just bake them in time for breakfast!

Top tip #2: the dough must feel cold to the touch at all times, otherwise the butter will soften too much and result in doughy pastries rather than light, airy and flaky. Chill the dough if it feels even a little warm – refrigerate or even freeze for about 20 minutes before continuing to roll out: just fold it up loosely, wrap it in clingfilm/pop in a plastic bag before putting in the freezer

A simple puff pastry variation

You could also make a very quick version using commercial all-butter puff pastry: you don’t get quite the lightness and substance that you get with croissant dough, but you do get very delicious pastries in their own right.

Recipe: bitter orange pains au chocolat – makes 20

  • 1 batch of short-cut croissant dough: if you want more orange flavour, the finely grated zest of one large orange can be added to the flour at the start, along with 1 teaspoon of orange oil
  • best quality dark chocolate (or milk chocolate if you prefer): batons, chips or roughly chopped from a bar……..
  • 20 teaspoons of best quality marmalade: no need to strain; the bits of peel are wonderful when mingled with the melted chocolate
  • a beaten egg

To glaze and finish:

  • a little marmalade: strained this time if you want a smooth glaze
  • a generous splash of whisky or orange juice
  • pearl sugar, optional

(1) Roll out the rested pastry to a long, thin rectangle (about 80cm x 20cm and trim the edges). Cut the dough in half lengthways to give two long, thin strips of dough.

(2) Cut each strip into ten small rectangles (each about 8cm x 10cm), giving 20 rectangles in total. You can cut into smaller or larger rectangles, with or without measuring, and you can elongate the rectangles gently with your fingers if you need to.

(3) Place a chocolate baton or a strip of chocolate chips width-ways about 1cm from the bottom of each rectangle and place a teaspoon of marmalade over the centre of this chocolate. Roll the dough up over it. Place another chocolate baton at the “join” and roll all the way to the end. Place on baking trays lined with a double sheet of greaseproof with the seam face down and gently pat down each one.

NB: the picture gallery below is from my earlier post on croissants and pains au chocolat, showing how to do this – just remember to put the marmalade at step 2 of the picture sequence:

Alternatively, place the chocolate lengthways along each small rectangle of dough, spoon a little marmalade along the centre of the chocolate and roll up like sausage roll, giving longer pains au chocolat.

(4) Brush the surface all over with the egg and leave to prove at room temperature until well risen and slightly wobbly (you can also judge it by the aroma: you should get a heady smell of the yeast). This takes about an hour or two, depending on the temperature. You don’t need to cover these as the egg will keep them moist.

(5) Brush with a little more egg and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200C(fan) for 10 minutes, before turning down the oven to 175C(fan) for a further 10-15 minutes: they should be well risen, deep golden and feel light when you (carefully) lift one. I like to give one a gentle squeeze: you can feel and hear the crispness. Seriously, this is such an exciting moment!

(6) While they are baking, heat the marmalade in a small pan, with the orange juice or whisky, if using. Brush over the hot pastries and sprinkle over some pearl sugar, if using. Cool on wire racks.

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