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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Pain au Chocolat #FoodieReads

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

This was inspired by The Direction of the Wind by Mansi Shah. While I could have made Indian food or French food for this post, I opted to make these flaky, chocolate-kissed pastries similar to what Nita ate when she moved to Paris.


On the Page

from Amazon.com


At the center of the novel is Sophie Shah whose father has just died in Ahmedabad, India. In the aftermath of the funeral, Sophie's aunts are meddling have arranged a marriage for her. Also, it is revealed that Sophie's mom, Nita, did not die as Sophie has been told. Nita, instead, abandoned her family and moved to Paris, France.


Nita chose to leave India and chase her dream of being an artist. Two decades later, Sophie takes the same journey to try and find her mom. The title of the book comes from the saying: The direction of the wind cannot be changed, but we can change the direction of our sails.


This addressed some tough topics of family secrets, loss of parents, addiction, unplanned pregnancies, and child abuse. Shah keeps the story believable and readable. And the reader races along with the story, hoping that the characters choose the better path. But the book isn't all tragedy. You also get strong family bonds, hope, friendships, and a delicious mix of food and culture.


There was food in the Indian part of the book...


" Naresh brings out a tray with copper bowls of steaming channa masala and saag paneer, both adorned with vibrant green cilantro leaves, as well as some garlic naan and fluffy white rice dotted with cumin seeds and verdant green peas. He also brings out a small dish of hot mango pickle and a plate of fresh cucumber, onions, lemon wedges, and tomatoes. He arranges them on the table in front of her with a precise and practiced hand."


"While traditional Gujarati food is not on the menu, Naresh and Manoj often make it for them to eat in the back as their dinner. Sophie’s taste buds were awakened by the smell of khichdi when she arrived for her shift tonight. The simple meal of rice, lentils, and potatoes pressure-cooked with cinnamon, cloves, red chili, salt, lemon, ginger, and garlic made her feel most like she was back in Ahmedabad. It was the ultimate comfort food to her, the one her fois made her when she was sick, paired with tart homemade yogurt and mango pickle on the side so she could mix them in the proportions she desired."


But it was a French pastry that sent me to the kitchen...


"The sweets in France were a different story. She loved how the chocolate here tasted so deep and rich and luscious, a perfect complement to the buttery flakiness of the pastries. It was very different from the brightly colored mithai in India made with food coloring, milk powder, cornstarch, and oil. She pulled out a pain au chocolat, the flaky layers already falling from her fingers to the ground. The light, airy exterior surrounding the dense, rich chocolate center was much more pleasing to her palate than the wine."


Pain au Chocolat


Ingredients

makes 10 to 12, depending on the size of your triangles


  • 1 cup water, warmed slightly (so that it's comfortable to touch, but not steaming)

  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

  • 1 egg

  • 2-3/4 cup flour, divided plus more for sprinkling and rolling

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold salted butter

  • chopped dark chocolate for filling plus more for sprinkling on top

  • Also needed: parchment paper, rolling pin


Procedure

Combine the water and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes for the yeast to bloom. Whisk in egg. Add 2-1/2 cup flour, keeping 1/4 cup for later, and the salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.


Cover the mixing bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour.


Once the dough has doubled, place it in the fridge to chill for at least an hour or as long as overnight. Pound each stick of butter into rectangle. Some people use a ruler and make it very precise. I am less-precise. Wrap the pounded butter in parchment and chill with the dough.


When you're ready, sprinkle a piece of parchment paper with flour and place dough on top. Roll the dough into a rectangle roughly 12"x 20". Remember, I'm less than precise, but it was around that size.

Remove one rectangle of butter from the fridge and lay it in the middle of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough in to form an envelope.



Using the rolling pin, roll it out to 12" x 20" again. Place the second rectangle of butter on the dough and make another envelope. Then roll it out to the 12" x 20" rectangle, but this time, fold one third of the dough over the other third, like folding a letter.


Now you have to turn the dough. Turning the dough, by rolling and folding, creates very thin layers of butter and dough. This recipe needs to be turned 4 times. If the butter pushes through a layer of dough, rub it with a little flour. If the butter seems to be melting, chill the dough between each turn. Keep the parchment, the rolling pin, and the surface of the pastry well-floured.


To turn: Rotate the package of dough and butter so that the narrower, open end is facing you, like the pages of a book. Roll the dough out to a rectangle and fold the top third down and the bottom third up, again like a letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees so that the open end is again facing you. Repeat. Roll the dough out to a rectangle and fold the top third down and the bottom third up. That's 2 turns.


Repeat two more times. Place the dough in the fridge and let rest for 30 minutes.


Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to approximately 1/4 to 1/2" thick. Then cut a zigzag pattern to create ten to twelve thin triangles.



Add a few shards of chopped chocolate to the widest part of the triangle, then, starting at the base, roll all the way up and place on a baking sheet.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle the tops with chocolate pieces and let rise for 30 minutes while the oven preheats.


Place the Pain au Chocolat in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The pastries are finished when the tops are deep golden.


Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the sheet but be sure remove them after that. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Or serve them hot. No one will complain, I promise!


I am linking this post to the September round-up for #FoodieReads. Find that here.

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