Making Crotins au Chocolat

These unusual yeast-raised sweet muffins are unlike any other chocolate cake or bread you’ve ever eaten. Vaguely fluffy when warm, they settle down as they cool to become a bit denser and more decadent-feeling. Though not nearly as decadent as a flourless cake they’re definitely a chocolate kick-in-the-pants, as Mrs. Pastry likes to say, with little bombs of melty goodness throughout. Start by assembling your ingredients and preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Begin with the sponge. Whisk together the flour, sugar and yeast in a medium bowl.

Add the water.

Whisk it together until it resembles a pancake batter, then let it sit for about half an hour…

…until it looks like this:

While you’re waiting sift together the sugar, remaining flour, cocoa powder and salt.

Give it a whisk to make sure it’s all incorporated evenly.

When the sponge is ready, make well in the center of the mixture, then add the melted and cooled butter.

Also the eggs.

Also the sponge.

Whisk it in the middle, steadily bringing in more of the dry ingredients from the perimeter.

When it’s a fairly uniform mixture add in the chopped chocolate. Yes, there are some bigger pieces in there. I like for people to be surprised. Also I don’t want the finished crotins to be uniform in texture, I want crumb and pockets of chocolate.

This is Ghiradelli, Mrs. Pastry says she would have preferred a fruitier El Rey or Scharffer-Berger for more contrast. Everyone’s a critic!

Spoon or pipe this goopy batter into a muffin tin, filling the cups up almost to the very top. This batter won’t expand all that much, which makes it great for other types of molds like those little cork-like “bouchon” molds that you saw everywhere a few years ago. Get creative if you wish…but reduce the baking time as necessary to keep them from drying out.

But they will crack a bit. See? It’s all part of the aesthetic.

Dust on more cocoa powder while they’re still hot. Mrs. Pastry…who got really involved in these for some reason…suggested an alternative of a few grains of a high-end salt. That might be cool as well…though let them cool down some first so the grains don’t melt.

Allow them to sit for at least fifteen minutes or so before serving. They’re great hot or cold. One is enough for anyone, but don’t expect your guests to stop there.

43 thoughts on “Making Crotins au Chocolat”

  1. Those look amazing. That bubbling sponge is a beautiful thing. I want to leave work and go home to make these right now.

    Does it matter what type of cocoa is used? Would the leavening in Dutch process mess it up?

    1. Hey Chana!

      Either Dutched or un-Dutched is fine with these since there are no chemical leaveners. Dutched will give you a smoother chocolate effect, un-Dutched a sharper chocolate flavor. The nice thing about these is that true chocoholics can tweak them however they want…the cocoa one way, the bar chocolate the other, the top dusting still another. Believe me, Mrs. Pastry could go nuts here!

      – Joe

      1. Mmmmm… nuts…. (just thinking aloud here)

        [Not that most of the family would approve, but for me that’d be a nice addition]

        Just butter the tin? No cupcake papers involved? Just trying to think what would work best for me…

  2. So one could also replace the chocolate chunks with caramel chunks and put a few grains of high end salt on top, or add a bit of instant espresso powder or maybe a bit of chili powder?

      1. Oh my.

        I have one of those muffin-top pans (low depth) that would probably be marvelous with this idea.

        Guess I need to pick up some cocoa powder tomorrow, as I already have some homemade caramel in the fridge…

  3. I haven’t read it yet…you got my attention with the first photo!! Love the look. Bet they taste great too. Gotta try this one for somebody!!

  4. I just made these. Oh my, but they are wicked good, that is some very intense chocolate flavor. I made some in the “Bouchon” silicone mold I bought years ago and hardly use, I thought they’d be nice in that shape because they’re quite dense, and it worked well. I also made some regular muffins. Mine are very dark, perhaps because I used Dutch process cocoa, it’s what I had (and it’s Valrhona, what could be bad? Also the chocolate was 72%, and I added an extra tablespoon of sugar). The texture is lovely, but interestingly enough it isn’t really “yeasty.” Definitely more substantial than a regular muffin, but not really like a yeast cake. This is really good stuff. Thank you! (I hope they freeze well, because that’s where I’m about to put them.)

    1. The bouchon molds are a fabulous idea, Chana. Let me know how they go over!

      – Joe

    2. I did Valhrona cocoa and 72% chocolate too (rather big chunks). YUM!!!!!

      These things are the truffles of baked goods.

  5. Any photos of the insides, Joe? I’m just curious about how cakey vs. bready vs. gooey the texture is. Thanks!

    1. Why didn’t I do that? I dunno, sometimes I just don’t think, and now they’ve all been eaten. What I can say is that the crumb is quite tight and even…lots of very small holes…punctuated by pockets of semi-molten chocolate. It really has to be tried because you truly never have tasted anything like these.

      Thanks and I’ll do better next time!

      – Joe

    2. As Joe said they have sort of a split personality. At first they’re quite light and cakey but as they cool they get more dense and fudgy. They are not the least bit bready or gooey. No evidence of glutenous structure. When you taste them you’ll be amazed to think there was any yeast involved. Think yeast-raised doughnut. …only not.

      Do whip up a batch. It’s the only way you’re going to know. They are simplicity itself to make and decadence itself to taste. My family quartered the muffins because they were so rich.

      I’m making my next batch in madeleine pans — as soon as the pair I ordered arrives. (PS to Joe: I got the beautiful pans; these crotins are well worth it and I expect to be making them from now on)

      1. Thanks! Once the temperature drops in my non-air-conditioned kitchen, I’ll give them a try!

  6. I will be trying these out soon! Some girlfriends and I get together during the week so I think I will save these for our next get together so that I can share! Thanks Joe!

  7. I am making these next week and taking them to work. My co-workers will love me. A couple of weeks ago I took some almond bostock in and they all went into spasms of delight. I tried out the Cooks Illustrated no-knead brioche recipe for the bread and it worked great.

    1. Ellen, you’re going to be a hero!

      Give me some credit though, OK? 😉

      – Joe

  8. Hi Joe – sorry to intrude with a different subject, but it is related (another yeasted muffin) and my email regarding it did not seem to get through to you. I’m having trouble with your English Muffin recipe. Shall I send my question to that thread even though that post was in 2008? thanks – linda

  9. I made them at the moment recipe appeared in your site, and they were simply fabuluous! Never thought that it is possible to make something from yeast dough so quickly and effectively. Thanks for recipe!

    1. Amazing, aren’t they? The whole deal comes together in about an hour and a half.

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

  10. Crotins! I immediately took to Google Translate for the literal French –> English translation of “crotin” which I found suprising and very amusing. So thanks for the smile, I know these will taste more amazing than the literal translation. Just curious, thoughts on what might happen if I stirred in a few fresh raspberries?

    1. Ha! Yeah, “crottins” are less than appetizing in the real world, that’s for sure. As for the raspberries, they’ll give up a lot of moisture in the oven. If there are quite a few of them they’ll make the crumb soggy. I’d serve them on the side or perhaps look for a dried fruit to add to the batter if you’re committed to the fruit idea (which is excellent I should add).

      Let me know how they turn out!

      – Joe

  11. Thanks so much, Joe. Appreciate the input.

    One more question! I want to convert this pretzel dough into a chocolate pretzel dough. The total recipes calls for 2 1/2 cups AP flour how much of that AP flour can I substitute with Dutch Cocoa and would the rising power of the yeast suffice or would an additional leavener need to be added?

    Can’t wait to hear you reply. I’ve been thinking about this for months!

    ~ Christine

    1. Hey Christine!

      Oops, I forgot this! Cool idea for a project! What I can say is that it’s going to be a bit of a challenge getting a strong chocolate flavor since pretzels are so lean and cocoa powder by itself has a hard time breaking through in a starchy, bready medium like this. Still it’s well worth a shot. I’d start by swapping out about 1/3 cup of the flour. In terms of the process I suggest boiling the water and combining it with the cocoa as a first step, since hot water steeping essentially doubles the flavor you normally get from cocoa. Let it cool a bit then proceed with the recipe as written.

      Let me know how it goes since I’ll be curious!

      – Joe

      1. Christine — I teach baking to middle school kids and we make a quick soft yeasted pretzel and they always want chocolate. What I usually have them do is knead in mini chocolate chips (or small chocolate chunks) just after stirring in the very warm water and kneading for several minutes. Makes the pretzels chocolate-y and to make even sweeter we sprinkle turbinado sugar rather than salt over the tops.

        1. Tonia, thank you! Great idea with the sugar. I’m leaning towards a sweet salty so I like your idea of turbinado sugar. I think it would be great with the maldon salt I’ve envisioned on top!

      2. Joe, thank you! I will revert with my findings. This will be an edible journey for all.

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  13. Hi Joe,

    Just wondering, If I want to make not crack version will it possible to do? If the answer is yes may I know what’s the recipe from above should I add more or reduce?

    Thank youuuu 😀

    1. Hi Pus!

      So far I haven’t succeeded in making any that don’t crack. However you might try baking them at a slightly lower temperature. That might prevent them from expanding so rapidly. Best of luck!

      – Joe

  14. These look delicious and thanks for introducing them to me. I’m curious as to why they don’t rise much in the oven given that there’s yeast in them. Do you know? Thanks.

    1. Hey Donna!

      Good question. The reason is: they have very little structure. By which I mean a bubble-holding mesh that you normally get from flour the protein (gluten) that’s in it. If you don’t have much flour you can add all the leavening as you want, but all the CO2 will simply escape out the sides and top of the cake. That’s what’s happening here. We only have about 3.5 ounces of flour compared to a much greater volume of sugar, cocoa, chocolate and whatnot. None of that adds structure, and indeed inhibits it, which is why we only get a little upward push.

      But the overall effect is excellent, is it not? Thanks for the excellent comment!

      – Joe

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