I'm glad that the chocolate wassants won the first place for the yeasted sweet roll category. Not surprisingly, these rolls are considered unique because the variety of sweet rolls and bread loaves that you can find in the U.S. and most other Western countries is VERY, VERY small in my opinion. Though, I do think that certain European countries like Denmark and France have quite a variety of these baked goods ... Good examples will be croissants and Danish. In the U.S., it's pretty predictable when it comes to yeasted sweet rolls--it's cinnamon rolls and sticky buns most of the time.
Unlike those in the U.S., Asian bakeries offer a variety of baked goods that Westerners will think of as exotic flavors. As I grew up, I had soft and fluffy bread loaves that had cheeses and ham, and other times, meat floss rolled into for a savory twist; I've also had buttery dessicated coconut filling, and other times, chocolate layers for a sweet treat. (By the way, after living in the U.S. for a while, I do have to admit that most Asians have a palate for soft and fluffy bread as opposed to the hard and crusty bread Europeans and Americans prefer.)
The point is Asian bakeries aren't stuck to the same old things! Besides offering the classics, we're constantly experimenting with something new to give people surprises. All these make baking and cooking even more exciting! Chocolate wassants are a good example. They were once a rave in Singapore when they debuted at a local bakery there in 2007. (See how competitive Asian bakeries are! The trend keeps changing all the time!) After seeing so many fellow Asian bloggers tried their hands on these delicious rolls, I was also tempted to try them myself.
These chocolate rolls are soft and fluffy with layers of bread and chocolate one after the other. Eating them is definitely a gastronomical experience. The recipe that I used came from Florence, a blogger whom I've admired for a long time. For the bread part, it calls for tangzhong (湯種), a bread starter that has been a rave for quite a few years in the Chinese baking community for its ability to produce the soft and fluffy texture that stays for several days most Asian-style bread and buns should have. I've been using this method of making bread long before I started to blog, and am loving it!
Besides winning a blue ribbon for the chocolate wassants, I also got the first place for the chocolate bake-off at the local county fair. The rewards? Sablés korova--the deadliest cookies to munch on, a box of gourmet truffles and US$25 gift certificate for me to shop at a famous chocolatier in town! I ended up with getting an even larger box of truffles today for me to take home and be shared with my family and friends in Malaysia. After having these sablés and some salted dark chocolate truffles, I can declare myself a BIG fan of the chocolat noir et a la fleur de sel combo!
Pierre Hermé, the French pastry chef whom I'd die to meet IN PERSON at least once in my life! For the three batches I made, they were gone in less than two days. They're super rich and dark-chocolatey with hints of saltiness at the same time. One of my taste testers even commented that they were not too crunchy and not too fudgy, "very good!" Here's what some of the judges at the bake-off had to say:
"Love the fleur de sel!"
"Real good cookies!"
"Best cookies so far!"
Need I say more!? These are THE cookies to die for! Without further ado, here're the recipes:
Sablés Korova (adapted from Pierre Hermé Paris, in Dorie Greenspan's "Paris Sweets")
175g all-purpose flour
30g Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa)
1/2 tsp baking soda
150g unsalted butter, softened
120g light brown sugar
50g white granulated sugar
1/2 tsp fleur de sel or fine salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g dark chocolate, chopped into small bits
- Combine (A) together and sift once, set aside
- Cream butter till soft and creamy, then mix in (B) till well-blended; stir in flour mixture and chopped chocolate by hand and fold till just combined--DON'T OVERWORK the mixture--it should look really crumbly
- Scrape half the mixture onto a cling wrap-lined work surface and gather it till you get a dough, then form it into a log that's 4cm-in-diameter; repeat with the remaining half of the mixture
Wrap the logs up really well with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours
*The logs of dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month if wrapped well
- Using a thin-bladed knife, slice the chilled dough into 1.5cm-thick slices--squeeze them back together if they break; arrange them on parchment paper-lined baking sheets with 2.5cm spaced in between each slice
- Bake them one sheet at a time at 180C/350F for 12 minutes--the cookies will neither look done nor firm, but that's how they should be; remove the sheets of cookies from the oven and let the cookies stand on the baking sheets over the cooling racks till they're warm or at room temperature, then remove them from the sheets and pop them into your mouth or store them in an airtight container. Can you resist eating them up right away!? However, in my opinion, these cookies are best on the next day after baking.
Chocolate Wassants (adapted from Florence's)
Makes 12 rolls
For the chocolate sheet:
40g plain flour
2 egg whites
40g baking cocoa
- Whisk (A) together till smooth and set aside; in the meantime, scald the milk in a saucepan and then mix in the cocoa till blended thoroughly over low-medium heat
- Slowly whisk in the egg-white mixture to the chocolate milk as you stir the chocolate milk; stir the mixture continuously till thickened and REALLY dry
- Remove the dried chocolate mixture from heat and blend in butter till incorporated, then let it cool aside completely
- Place cooled chocolate paste into a Ziploc bag and roll it out in between the two sheets of plastic to get a 22cmx14cm rectangle; then seal it airtight and refrigerate for at least two hours upon using
250-270g bread flour
70g plain flour
20g milk powder
25g egg yolks
115g warm water, at 43C/110F
8g active dry yeast
26g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Dissolve (E) together and let sit till frothy
- Combine (C) together and make a well in the center, stir in yeast mixture and (D); mix together till the mixture pulls together and forms a dough that pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl
- Turn dough out onto a working surface--don't flour your hands and the surface because the stickier your dough is the softer your bread will be--keep kneading it until strands of gluten have developed, then knead in the butter till incorporated
Keep kneading the dough until it's achieved the windowpane stage--should be smooth and elastic; round it up and place into an oiled bowl to proof till doubled
- Deflate dough and roll it out into a 31x22cm rectangle, place the cold chocolate sheet in the middle; fold both sides towards the center to fully enclose the chocolate sheet, then seal all the edges tightly
- Turn the package 90° and roll it out into a 60x22cm rectangle, then do the tour double
- Turn the package 90° again and roll it out into a 54x22cm rectangle, then cut it into triangles with each being 9cm in base length and 22cm in height
- Tightly roll each triangle of dough from the wide ends towards the point, then arrange them on greased baking trays with the point-side down--leaving some room for expansion in between; cover and leave aside to proof till almost doubled
- Bake them at 180C/350F for 18-20 minutes or till they're golden brown; immediately transfer them onto cooling rack to let cool completely