The only thing I like better than flaky, buttery, vegan croissants is flaky, buttery, vegan croissants wrapped around just the right amount of chopped dark chocolate so that it barely oozes out the sides as it's baked to perfection. In these chocolate croissants, also known as Pain au Chocolat, I used chocolate croissant dough which is made by mixing a little sugar and cocoa powder into the fat block that forms the base of the croissant dough. The result is hundreds of layers of chocolate buttery heaven; an exquisite pastry that elevates chocolate to a whole different level. Be sure to use dark chocolate that is 60% cacao to achieve optimum balance between bittersweet chocolate and the buttery notes of the croissant dough.
1 ¼ cups non-dairy milk, warm
1 Tablespoon active-dry yeast
1 ½ cups bread flour
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons (27 grams) Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated stick margarine
Vegan Butter Square
1 ¼ cups (269 g) Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated stick margarine, cut into 1 Tablespoon-size pieces and cold (do not use tub margarine)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¼ cup (54 grams) Vegan Shortening or store bought shortening (½ stick), cut into 1 Tablespoon-size pieces and cold
¼ cup sugar
¼ + ⅛ teaspoon salt
6 ounces dark chocolate (60%) cacao, chopped into ¼ pieces or smaller
1 Tablespoon soy milk
1 Tablespoon amber agave syrup
Note: for detailed pictures of making croissant dough, check out my Vegan Croissant recipe.
Prepare the dough
In a small bowl, whisk together the warm non-dairy milk and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes so the yeast activates.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the bread flour and 1 ¼ cups of the all-purpose flour, sugar and salt.
If using an electric stand mixer
Add the non-dairy milk to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the flour mixture and knead until the dough forms a sticky ball, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 Tablespoons of Vegan Butter, one Teaspoon at a time and mix the dough as you did above for another 5 minutes or until the dough forms a smooth sticky ball. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come away from the sides of the bowl, add the remaining ¼ cup of all-purpose flour in 1 Tablespoon increments until you get the desired texture.
If mixing by hand
Add the non-dairy milk to a medium mixing bowl. Add the flour mixture and knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture back to the medium mixing bowl, add the Vegan Butter in ½ Tablespoon pieces and use a mixing spoon to stir the dough in a circular motion. Switch stirring directions a couple times to thoroughly develop the gluten until the mixture forms a sticky ball, about 5 more minutes. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come away from the sides of the bowl, add the remaining ¼ cup of all-purpose flour in 1 Tablespoon increments until you get the desired texture.
Roll the dough into a ball and use a sharp knife to cut an X shape into the top, extending halfway through the dough. Place the dough in a medium mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap or place a plate on top and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Prepare the Vegan Butter square
In a medium mixing bowl add the 2 ½ sticks of Vegan Butter pieces, cocoa powder, the half stick of shortening pieces, sugar, salt and mix on low until just combined. Place the mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap and use a bench scraper to shape to a rough 7 inch square. Wrap the Vegan Butter square in the plastic wrap and shape it to a more accurate square. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, coat your rolling pin with four and roll out along the X to 11 inches square. Roll three times in each direction using long even strokes, dusting your rolling pin with flour as necessary. Remove the Vegan Butter from the plastic wrap and place it diagonally on top of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the Vegan Butter as if you're wrapping it like a gift. Pinch the dough ends together to seal.
Use a rolling pin to lightly tap the dough, starting from the center and working your way towards the edges until the square becomes bigger. This helps make the fat pliable so it can be rolled with the dough.
Carefully roll the dough out to 14 inches square. Feel free to dust the dough with flour if it begins to stick to anything. Fold the dough in three folds like a tri-fold business letter. This is known as a turn in the laminated dough world.
Now turn the dough 180 degrees and fold it in three folds again so it turns into a square. This counts as another turn. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. The refrigeration allows the fats to resolidify and the gluten in the dough to relax. This causes the dough becomes more pliable and elastic while maintaining it's strength. Now is a great time to take a break for a day or so. It's important to not let the dough sit in the refrigerator for more than 3 days because it can start to discolor.
Repeat Step 5 again so you have a total of four turns. This will give you a total of 243 layers of fat and dough.
Shape the croissants
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out onto a liberally floured surface to a 20 inch square. Using a pizza cutter and a ruler, cut the dough into 4 equal 10 inch squares. Cut each square into three pieces to make a total of 12 rectangles. Each rectangle should measure about 10 x 3 ¼ inches.
Transfer 6 croissant rectangles to one of the baking sheets and space them evenly, taking care to lay the dough on the side that was previously facing up. Flipping the dough on it's other side ensures that the best side of the dough is on the outside and the croissants look as good as possible. Transfer the 6 other croissant pieces to the other baking sheet in the same manner.
Place 1 ½ Tablespoon chopped chocolate pieces in the middle of a dough rectangle. This is the maximum amount of chocolate you can pack into a croissant without the chocolate excessively oozing out of the sides during baking. Fold the dough over the chocolate like a tri-fold business letter, ensure the sides are sealed then flip the croissant over, seam side down. Do this for the remaining dough rectangles.
Preheat your oven to 400F (204C). Loosely cover the croissants with plastic wrap and allow them to rise until barely puffy which should take about 60 minutes. They are not intended to double in size.
Prepare the dough wash
In a small mixing bowl whisk together the soy milk and agave syrup until smooth. This dough wash will give your croissants a slightly shiny, crispy exterior.
Bake to perfection
Brush the croissants and bake until they're a rich brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets on the racks and front to back halfway through the baking duration. Cool the croissants on a wire rack and serve warm. Croissants can be stored at room temperature for 2 days or 2 weeks in the freezer if thoroughly wrapped in plastic.
Makes about 12 Vegan Chocolate Croissants.