This chocolate croissant recipe is a variation of the one served for many years at my restaurant, Cellar Door Provisions, in Chicago. It is very close to my heart: I began working on croissants in earnest before the doors of the restaurant opened in 2014, and they continued to evolve until we chose to stop morning pastry production in the fall of 2020, at the height of the pandemic.
I have modified a few ratios for the home kitchen, but only slightly—switching from sourdough to commercial yeast and raising the hydration just a touch to make the dough more manageable. It is a labor of love to make laminated pastries, but not in the sense that they are terribly difficult recipes to follow. The true challenge comes in being exacting when working with the dough and butter packet. Both dough and butter need to be kept cold, and you must work quickly. But this comes with time and patience: You can’t make croissants once or twice and expect perfection. Like any good pastry, you refine your skills through repetition and practice. Don’t be daunted by the effort required in learning to make laminated dough. There are few more beautiful or rewarding sights in the kitchen than opening your oven to a beautifully risen, cleanly layered croissant.
When it comes to the chocolate, I prefer Valrhona’s 72% Dark Chocolate Feves or Wafers, though a chocolate bar will also suffice (though it will be tricky to cut evenly!). High-gluten bread flour is best for these croissants, but a standard bread flour will also work here.
A note on the butter: I choose cultured European butter at 83% to 84% fat content if available; otherwise any brand of unsalted butter should suffice. Also, 48 grams of the butter should be at room temperature, meaning very soft, like the texture of a well made mayonnaise, and the remaining 264 grams should be at cold room temperature, meaning spreadable, but still cool to the touch.
- Prep time 3 hours 40 minutes
- Cook time 25 minutes
- makes 8 croissants
whole-wheat bread flour
white bread flour, plus more for dusting
instant yeast (or 12.8 grams dry active yeast)
whole milk, at room temperature
(about 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided (see Author Notes)
Fine sea salt
(about 100 grams, 3.5 ounces) bittersweet chocolate feves
large egg yolks
Combine the whole-wheat bread flour, white bread flour, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment and mix briefly to distribute. Add 100 grams of lukewarm water, the honey, milk, whole egg, and the 48 grams of room temperature butter (see Author Notes). Mix on the first speed of your stand mixer for 1 minute, add 9 grams of salt, and mix for an additional 2 minutes, until the dough begins to look smooth and cohesive.
Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix for an additional 8 minutes to develop the elasticity of the dough. After this step, the dough should feel strong and smooth and should pull away easily from the sides of the mixing bowl. This is called full-gluten development—you can use the windowpane test by picking up a golf-ball-sized piece of dough and gently stretching it so thin that light will shine through, but the dough doesn’t tear. Using a dough scraper, remove the dough from the mixing bowl onto a clean work surface, shape it gently into a round, and allow it to rest on your counter covered with a clean towel for 20 minutes.
While the dough is relaxing, make the butter packet. Place an 18x13-inch sheet of parchment paper on your work surface, place the 264 grams cold room temperature butter (see Author Notes) on the parchment, and fold the parchment tightly over the butter on all four sides, to fully enclose it like a package or stick of gum.
Using a rolling pin, roll the butter into a rectangle that is roughly 6 inches wide, 12 inches long, and ¼ inch thick. (The width and thickness are more important than the length of the butter package. If the butter is left too thick at this point, it will be much more difficult to work with later in the process.) Place the butter packet on a sheet pan and chill it for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. Look for a texture that is slightly bendable.
- While the butter is chilling, lightly dust a work surface with white bread flour, then roll out the rested dough into a rectangle about 15 inches wide and 12 inches long. If the dough has warmed up at this stage (this can happen if your kitchen is warm), place it back onto the sheet pan in the fridge until it feels cold to the touch again, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Once both the dough and butter packet feel cold to the touch, remove the butter from the parchment, reserving the parchment for later use. Position the dough with one of the long ends closer to you, then turn out the butter packet directly onto the center of the rectangular dough. (There should be a 4½-inch overhang of dough on the east and west sides of the butter, and the center should be totally covered.)
Fold both sides of the dough over the butter, meeting in the middle. This should fully encase the butter in the dough, creating a central seam. The edges should just meet—it is fine to pinch the seam together, but avoid overly stretching the dough at this point; if the edges overlap, trim the excess dough. Be gentle with it. Leave the top and bottom edges, where you can see the butter within the dough, exposed. Check to be certain that the dough and butter feel cool at this point. If they do not, stop and place the butter encased dough in the refrigerator for 20 to 25 minutes. (This is a vital step that you do not want to rush. Keeping things cold will give you cleaner, flakier croissant layers.)
We’ll now do the first of two turns on the dough using a book fold. This is the technique that gives a well-made croissant its honeycombed interior. Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Roll out the dough to a length of about 18 inches. (Don’t be concerned with rolling it widthwise.) With the dough positioned lengthwise, fold the north and south edges to meet in the center, leaving a ¼-inch gap between the two edges in the center.
Next, bring the north and south edges of your new rectangle to touch, creating a “book” by folding over the ¼-inch gap you created.
Transfer to a sheet pan and refrigerate for 10 minutes, or just long enough to reset the butter and relax the dough.
For the second turn, we’ll use a letter fold. Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Rotate the croissant dough 90 degrees so that the closed side (the “book binding”) is facing you and the open side is facing away. Again, roll out the dough to 18 inches in length. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter: Fold the north portion of the dough down two-thirds of the way. Fold the south portion of the dough up one-third of the way.
Wrap the dough in the reserved parchment and place it in the fridge for at least one hour before proceeding. If you plan on baking the croissants the following day (a good option for a croissant with the fullest flavor), freeze the dough for 1 hour, then allow it to rest for 8 to 12 hours (or up to 2 days) in the fridge. (The dough can also be frozen at this stage, wrapped tightly in plastic, for up to 1 month.)
To shape and bake the chocolate croissants, remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to sit on your work surface for 10 minutes to make rolling a bit easier. Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Seam side up, with the closed side of the dough facing to your right, roll out the dough to 20 inches in length and 10 inches in width. Use a pastry brush to dust off any excess flour. If the dough begins to retract on you while rolling, stop, flour your hands lightly, lift from beneath the dough with both hands, and gently jiggle the dough down its entire length. This will relax the dough, making it easier to roll.
Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Use a sharp knife or a pizza wheel and trim all of the rectangle edges just slightly so that they are straight. Use a ruler to mark down the length of the dough at 2½-inch intervals. Next, lay the ruler widthwise across the dough to achieve 8 rectangles 2½ inches in length and 10 inches in width.
- Place 2 chocolate feves or pieces at the short edge of each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border, and roll the dough over the chocolate, just encasing it. Place another 2 chocolate feves directly in front of the folded edge. Again, roll the dough over the chocolate, then continue rolling it into a tight spiral. Place the croissant, seam side down, on one of the prepared sheet pans. Repeat with the remaining 7 rectangles, dividing the croissants evenly between the two sheet pans.
Place the croissants in a warm spot (75°F to 82°F is preferable, and above 85°F is too hot) to proof for 1½ to 2 hours, until the dough layers have begun to open around the edges of the pastry and the croissants look light and aerated. They should have a slight jiggle when you gently shake the sheet pan. If the dough begins to dry out while proofing, spray it gently with water from an atomizer or spray bottle.
Approximately 40 minutes before the croissants are finished proofing, heat the oven to 385°F. Make the egg wash: In a small bowl, use a fork to gently beat the egg yolks, cream, and a pinch of salt. About 10 minutes before the croissants are done proofing, use a pastry brush to gently brush them with the egg wash mixture, then brush each croissant again.
- Bake the croissants for about 20 to 25 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until they're auburn in color and feel light when gently lifted off the sheet tray. Transfer the croissants to a wire rack to briefly cool, then serve while they’re still a bit warm.