Chocolate Pan de Cristal

Chocolate Pan de Cristal

Chocolate Pan de Cristal

Pan de Cristal, a rustic, chewy bread marked by its beautifully holey interior, is a wildly popular recipe on our site. This riff on the original adds triple-blended cocoa powder for a hint of dark chocolate, and chopped chocolate (or chips) for richness and even more flavor. Note: For help fitting this bread into your schedule, see the table in “tips,” below, for a typical timeline.

Prep
40 mins
Bake
18 to 20 mins
Total
6 hrs 42 mins
Yield
8 large (4” x 6”) rolls
Chocolate Pan de Cristal - select to zoom
Chocolate Pan de Cristal - select to zoom
Chocolate Pan de Cristal - select to zoom
Chocolate Pan de Cristal - select to zoom

Instructions

  1. To make the dough: Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.  

  2. In a medium bowl, mix the dough ingredients until thoroughly combined and homogenous. Note: The dough starts off very slack and wet. That’s OK; it will transform itself through time and folds.  

  3. Oil a two-quart rectangular baking dish (10” x 7”) with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. If you don’t have a 2-quart dish, an 8” or 9” square pan will work. Don’t worry about any pan you use being oven-safe; you won’t be baking the bread in it. 

  4. Pour the dough into the pan. Check the dough’s temperature by inserting a digital thermometer into the center. If it's less than 72°F, move the pan to a warmer spot, e.g., your oven with the light turned on.  

  5. Cover the pan and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.  

  6. To do a bowl fold: Use your wet hands to grab a section of dough from one side, lift it up, then press it down into the middle. Repeat this eight to 12 times. (See step 6 on the original Pan de Cristal recipe to see a video demonstrating a bowl fold.)

  7. Cover the dish and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. 

  8. To do a coil fold: With wet hands, reach under the dough and stretch the middle upward until the dough releases from the dish. Roll it forward off your hands, allowing it to fold over (or “coil”) on itself. Rotate the dish 90 degrees (a quarter turn) and repeat. Continue performing this folding action until the dough feels like it won’t stretch and elongate easily, usually four to five times. (See step 8 of the original Pan de Cristal recipe for a demonstration of a coil fold.)  

  9. Cover the pan and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. 

  10. Repeat the coil fold. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Note: The dough should be gaining strength and becoming easier to handle with each fold. 

  11. Repeat the coil fold one last time. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. The dough should have gained quite a bit of strength while also feeling light and airy. 

  12. To add the chocolate: As gently as possible, turn the dough out onto a work surface spritzed with water. Gently coax the dough into a rectangle about 14” x 10” with the long side facing you.  

  13. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the chocolate. Fold one of the short sides into the center, then fold the opposite third over the first, like you were folding a business letter. (This is called a letter fold.)

  14. Fold the dough a second time by bringing the top third of the dough down towards the center, then bringing the bottom third up to cover the top portion (another letter fold). Return the dough to the oiled pan to rise for about 80 minutes, until puffy. 

  15. To divide the dough: Gently turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on top of the dough and roll the cut sides of the dough on the floured surface so no sticky spots are exposed. Tuck any visible pieces of chocolate into the dough to prevent them from burning. 

  16. Working as gently as possible, use a bench knife or other sharp knife to divide it into eight pieces. Place four pieces on a sheet of parchment, leaving space between them. Repeat with the remaining four pieces of dough, placing them on another sheet of parchment.

  17. Let the rolls rest at room temperature for 2 hours, uncovered. While they're resting, preheat the oven to 475°F with a baking stone or steel on a lower rack. Allow the oven to preheat for 1 hour to ensure it’s thoroughly heated. 

  18. To bake the rolls: Carefully slide the four rolls (still resting on the parchment) into the oven onto the preheated stone or steel. (A baker’s peel or a rimless cookie sheet is a helpful tool here.) If space is tight and the full sheet of parchment won’t fit on the stone or steel, cut the parchment between the four rolls and arrange them as best you can. Allow the other rolls to continue to rest. 

  19. Bake the rolls for 10 to 12 minutes, then transfer them to a rack in the upper third of the oven for an additional 8 minutes. Moving them allows the baking stone or steel to become hot again in preparation for the next four rolls. After a total of 18 to 20 minutes of baking, remove the rolls from the oven and allow them to cool on a rack.  

  20. Repeat the process with the remaining rolls. For maximum crispiness, cut and enjoy while still slightly warm. Rewarm briefly to restore the crispiness, if desired. 

  21. Storage information: Wrap the rolls loosely and store them at room temperature for up to several days; freeze for longer storage. 

Tips from our Bakers

  • In warmer months (or when your indoor temperature is 70°F to 75°F), the water used should be 80°F to 85°F. In cooler months (when your indoor temperature is around 65°F), use 100°F to 105°F water. The DDT (desired dough temperature) at the end of mixing is 74°F to 76°F.  

  • Substitute 2 tablespoons (10g) each of natural cocoa and black cocoa for the Triple Cocoa Blend, if desired. 

  • If you don't have a baking stone/steel: For best results, the dough should receive an immediate blast of heat as soon as it goes into the oven. A baking stone or steel is ideal for transferring heat, but if you don't have one, you can use a cast iron pan or another oven-safe skillet. Allow the pan(s) to preheat with the oven (step 17). A preheated baking sheet may also work, but results may vary and some baking sheets may warp in the oven when heated alone. 

  • Sample timeline:  
    9:00 a.m. Mix the dough 
    9:20 a.m. Bowl fold 
    9:40 a.m. Coil fold #1 
    10:00 a.m. Coil fold #2 
    10:20 a.m. Coil fold #3 
    10:40 a.m. Add chocolate 
    12:00 p.m. Divide 
    2:00 p.m. Bake 

  • The maximum temperature rating for parchment paper is below 500°F, and at temperatures between 450°F and 500°F parchment’s exposed edges begin to char. To be safe, keep a close eye on anything being cooked at temperatures above 450°F (especially anything on an upper rack). Burned edges can also be minimized by trimming away excess parchment before baking.