The Specialty Flour Behind LA's Most Exquisite Pain Au Chocolat

Ah, the croissant. Crispy, flaky, buttery on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside ... just thinking about it conjures images of lazy Sunday breakfasts at home or strolling through the streets of Paris on a spring morning, stopping for a café au lait and a pastry. What could be better than a fresh-baked croissant? Well, there is one thing: a croissant with rich, decadent, almost-melted chocolate in every bite. 

It's no wonder chocolate croissants are so popular, appearing on menus from cafes to diners to drive-thrus. But although they can be found with little effort these days, creating the perfect chocolate croissant from scratch is anything but simple. Because there are so few ingredients, each detail matters, from the type of butter to quality of the chocolate. 

To achieve that perfect texture, one California chef thinks the solution lies in the type of flour used to make the dough. 

It's all about the flour power

At his namesake restaurant in Pasadena, Haris Car spent nearly a year coming up with the perfect recipe for the eatery's pain au chocolate, now hailed by many as the best of its kind in the area. Speaking with Eater Los Angeles in February, Car said he didn't start out with the intention of baking from scratch — initially, the restaurant brought in fresh-baked pastry from nearby Seed Bakery. But after proofing and baking the bakery's croissants every morning, Car became "intrigued" and set out to create the chocolate croissant he would want to eat every day. 

Car tested the recipe over and over, experimenting with different mixers, various ethically-sourced chocolate, and how long to knead the dough. One discovery in particular that made a key difference in quality? Using bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. 

According to artisan grain producer Bob's Red Mill, "bread flour has a higher protein content (around 13% more), which leads to more stability, form and rise in the dough, allowing it to lift and hold shape." Bread flour also has more gluten than all-purpose flour, which "makes it ideal for airy, chewy bread" — exactly the type of cloud-like texture Car aims for when creating his masterpiece. 

From store-bought to stellar

If you want a perfect pain au chocolate but don't live near Paris or Pasadena (or have 10 months to spend perfecting a recipe), never fear. There are a few quick ways to zhuzh up store-bought croissants. 

Flattened croissant toast is a great way to crisp up the pastry, making it sturdy enough to hold whatever toppings tickle your tastebuds (chocolate croissant PB&J, anyone?). With just a few more minutes and ingredients, you can create a decadent almond & chocolate delight from leftover Costco croissants. You can even turn day-old croissants into sweet, crispy tea crackers. If you don't feel like turning the oven on at all, split the croissant in half and use it as sandwich bread. And if you really want to get creative, here are 24 foods you can stuff inside a croissant.

Whatever you choose to make, there's a key takeaway from Haris Car's journey to the perfect chocolate croissant . Don't be afraid to experiment in pursuit of your ideal treat — you never know what you might learn along the way.