Petits Pains au Chocolat

October 16, 2009


I was 16 when I tasted my first pain au chocolat.  I had the good fortune to go to a private high school where foreign travel was considered part of the curriculum.  For the French speakers, there was a choice of either a homestay in one city, or the around-the-country bike tour known as SeaCliste (a play on Seattle and bicycliste).  Because I wanted to see as much of the country as I could, I opted for the bike tour.

We got full credit for our three months there which coincided with spring trimester.  We only had to keep a journal in French, speak French the whole time, do the job assigned to us (like be a medic or a mechanic), and complete the trip which, on certain days, was easier said than done.  I will never forget riding my touring bike in the Île de France (the region right around Paris) with a side wind so profound that I was literally blown off my bike several times.  Or spending almost an entire day riding up a snowy mountain road in the Alps only to find that, once we reached the top, someone had made a wrong turn and we had to go right back down again.  Or sleeping in a tent in a supermarket parking lot and being thrilled with the choice because we were under cover from the driving rain.

Of course, I will also never forget feeling the sun on my face for two weeks straight in Corsica.  Or how beautiful it is to take a paddle boat out on Lake Annecy.  Or the kindness of the French people who, all over that amazing country, took pity on the crazy American teenagers in their bike helmets and allowed us to take over their restaurants, homes, and – yes – supermarket parking lots.  And I’ll never forget that first pain au chocolat.


Our starting point for the trip was the medium-sized city of Nantes which is at the easternmost edge of Brittany.  We had a three day homestay with French families but we all met in the town center after getting settled.  One of our group had a French step-father and, since she had spent a fair amount of time in the country, she volunteered to go to the boulangerie to get us some treats.  Always a chocolate lover, I made an immediate dive for the pain au chocolat.  I didn’t know what I was in for, I just could see the chocolate and that was all I needed.

And this is where writing fails me.  How do you describe something so perfect?  The shatter of the pastry and the warmth of the chocolate (because, these many many years later, I still remember the chocolate in that first one was warm), the perfection of the combo…it was an emotional moment for me.  I spent the rest of the trip trying to re-create that initial first bite.  Oh yes, and sampling everything else on offer in each boulangerie that we stopped in which is why I gained 15 pounds, in spite of putting 1500 miles on my bike.

This pain au chocolat is not the one I ate in Nantes.  It is not any of the many I ate throughout France.  But I made it myself and it took about 25 minutes total.  I impressed my children and my husband with this pain au chocolat.  And for now, that’s pretty good.


One Year Ago:  Apple Tartlets with Cinnamon Balsamic Syrup and Butter-Toffee Ice Cream

Petits Pain au Chocolat
Bon Appétit
Makes 24

I couldn’t trust myself with 24 of these things lying around so I halved the recipe and only used one sheet of puff pastry.  I also used one 4 ounce bar of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate.  I cut each square in half and it seemed to be the perfect size for the pastry square.

2 sheets frozen puff pastry (one 17.3-ounce package, thawed), each sheet cut into 12 squares
1 large egg beaten to blend with 1 tablespoon water (for glaze)
4 3.5-ounce bars imported bittersweet or milk chocolate, each cut into six 2×3/4-inch pieces

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Brush the top of each puff pastry square with egg glaze.  Place 1 chocolate piece on edge of 1 pastry square.  Roll up dough tightly, enclosing chocolate.  Repeat with remaining pastry and chocolate.  Place pastry rolls on baking sheet, seam side down.  (Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover pastries with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Cover and refrigerate remaining glaze.)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Brush tops of pastry rolls with remaining egg glaze.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Bake until pastries are golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. I love this easy pain au chocolat recipe and I love that you halved the recipe (I’d do the same if I wasn’t having company). So jealous of your trip to France, sounds ideal.

    Comment by kickpleat — October 16, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

  2. What sweet memories to have! If you still remember them, it was totally worth the weight gain! Love how easy this is ~

    Comment by Sprouted Kitchen — October 16, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  3. How wonderful! I really like the pain au chocolat a l’ancienne at Cafe Presse in Capitol Hill, and have even taken to making it myself: baguette, chocolate, oven. With a glass of red wine, it’s delightful!

    Comment by D. @ Outside Oslo — October 16, 2009 @ 7:32 pm

  4. Such beautiful memories! I do not think I’ve ever had a Petits Pain au Chocolat, but since they look so simple to make I will have to do that soon!

    Comment by Katie @ goodLife {eats} — October 16, 2009 @ 8:02 pm

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  6. Man, you had it good. My private high school considered camping part of the curriculum. Isn’t Lake Annecy amazingly gorgeous?

    Comment by Kate @ Savour Fare — October 16, 2009 @ 10:41 pm

  7. I have these occaionally as a treat. They are utterly divine while they are still warm. I don’t know why I don’t make my own, now I see how easy they are.

    Comment by Jacqueline — October 16, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  8. i went to boarding school too and travel was a huge part of it. i’ve had croissants (from scratch) on my to-do list for some time. i want to try ‘tartine’s’ way, but might give this one a go first to get used to working w/ dough.
    these came out nicely.

    Comment by dawn — October 16, 2009 @ 11:28 pm

  9. Oh, and I just happen to have all the ingredients in the kitchen.
    Off to make these now. Thanks for the great idea!

    Comment by Christiane — October 16, 2009 @ 11:46 pm

  10. I happened to have frozen puff pastry in the freezer. I am craving Pain au Chocolat now. I’ll have to make some soon.

    Comment by Hélène — October 17, 2009 @ 1:03 am

  11. I was an exchange student at 16 in Nantes, France. I fell in love with Pain au Chocolat there too. I will try this recipe tomorrow for a party. Thank you!

    Comment by Jennifer Trask — October 17, 2009 @ 1:17 am

  12. I lived in Nantes for five months during my Junior year of college! It was a great city to live and study in because so few people spoke much English (unlike Paris- where most of the French majors from my school opted to study!). I was also too fond of the pastries available at every turn- but luckily I walked so many miles every day that I ended up losing about 10 pounds in spite of all the buttery treats!

    Comment by Emily Rose — October 17, 2009 @ 3:01 am

  13. I gained 20 pounds in France the exact same way! Perhaps I’ll get up the nerve to try this one myself…

    Comment by Sage — October 17, 2009 @ 5:03 am

  14. I can’t believe the easiness of this recipe. Looks so delicious, and I love even more the stories of your trip. I have never been to France and it is one of those places I have always dreamed about.

    Comment by Eralda — October 17, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  15. Funny, I was about the same age when I spent a summer in Normandy, and I remember many of the same feelings. You say you struggle with how to describe the first bite of pain au chocolate (“How do you describe something so perfect?”) but then you go on and do it perfectly.

    I’ve never been to Corsica :(

    Comment by Cheryl — October 17, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

  16. They look adorable and delectable! Love little bundles of sweetness!

    Comment by veron — October 17, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

  17. I just found your blog after reading about your meeting with Stacey of Stacey Snacks, another one of my favorites. From the looks of yours, I’ll be coming back to visit often. Great commentary and photos along with delicious and easy recipe.

    Comment by Ciaochowlinda — October 18, 2009 @ 1:48 am

  18. I love pan chocolat – beautiful!

    Comment by El — October 18, 2009 @ 1:53 am

  19. Great post, Dana. And timely, because I’ve just come back from Paris! You chose right with the bike tour – I didn’t particularly enjoy my French school exchange (just three weeks, luckily) because my exchange partner developed a mad, unrequited crush on a classmate of mine and was given to histrionics at any given moment. That’s fun to live with.

    I too am impressed with these pains au chocolat!

    Comment by Hilary — October 18, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  20. Even if you made the pain au chocolat from scratch, it still wouldn’t taste the same as the ones you remember. Something about where you eat is just as important as what you eat. Lovely post about a very special food memory. I felt like I was right there with you.

    Comment by Chef Gwen — October 19, 2009 @ 6:43 am

  21. Maybe I can even get Robert to cook with me if this is the reward! Thanks for the recipe.

    Comment by Katie — October 19, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

  22. Wow sounds like you had a great high school experience. =) I love pains au chocolat. I like when the chocolate is firm though. These look delicious! I definitely wouldn’t trust myself with them either.

    Comment by Ashley — October 21, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

  23. My kids adore pain au chocolat too! But I either have to make it myself or they have to wait to get it in France, our local French bakeries sell a mediocre one. After reading this post, you are encouraging me to try it at home! (the puff pastry must be good though)
    Lovely writing on your experience in France. I used to live in Seine et Marne.

    Comment by tasteofbeirut — November 4, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  24. These are so simple and elegant. I’ve had my eye on them for some time here at your blog and was delighted to try them today at a friend’s house where she had a few of us over for tea. These delectable pain au chocolate were absolutely delicious. Another home run, Dana.

    Comment by Penny — February 24, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

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