Two Angels on the Head of a Pin, of Course

Pain Au Chocolate from

She is nine and a half years old this June, and her Baba’s birthday is coming up in a few days. She does not have enough money to buy a proper present, something that adults plan and execute with little thinking. As far as she can remember, Baba has made everyone’s birthday special, pouring all her creativity and love into that particular day, excited to bring joy and cause shrieks of laughter with her thoughtful and unique presents.

Besides her mother, Baba was the biggest part of her life, a constant that made her feel loved, secure, and comforted. Her middle name (Angelika) was in honor of her beloved grandmother. Baba taught her how to read in Serbian and put her to sleep singing beautiful melodies in her soft alto. She took her to the park every day, pushed her on her bike until she took off and became free for the first time, and held her little squirming body up in the pool while her splashing legs and arms sent a thousand droplets of water around them.

Since she was born, Baba was an everyday presence in her life, but when she started kindergarten, she had to learn to say good-bye to her beloved grandmother at the airport, hiding her tear-soaked face in Baba’s embrace, not embarrassed at all that everyone at the gate could hear her sobbing. She counted the months until Baba’s next arrival, and at Grandparents’ Day in school she told anyone that would listen that her Baba spoke four languages, painted wonderful watercolors, knitted beautiful sweaters, sewed, cooked the best dishes, sang in a choir, knew her way around the Internet, and had a whole wall in her room lined with book shelves.

Baba sent her beautiful handmade cards filled with lines overflowing with love for her first grandchild. She sent Baba her first awkward renditions of flowers, butterflies, and families in which the two of them were always holding hands and smiling.  Every year she eagerly awaited the last day of school knowing that only a long inter-continental flight separated her from spending her summer break in Serbia.

Nina and Baba from

Nina and Baba

Still fighting the last vestiges of jet lag, she tried to think of something she could give Baba to make her happy. When the idea came to her, she knew it would be the perfect gift. She shared her plan with her mother and aunt, enlisted their help in gathering the necessary items, and gave them the instructions to wake her up really early on the morning of June 15th.

The morning broke and she quietly climbed down the stairs, mindful of the sixth step from the bottom which squeaked, clutching her wallet in her right hand, while holding to the banister with her left. She peaked into the kitchen where her aunt was pouring three small cups of Turkish coffee, and darted outside through the central hall, hoping that Baba was too busy talking and laughing to notice her sudden movements.

She ran to the corner bakery and back, closing the wrought-iron gate slowly behind her, and stealthily walked ahead hugging the walls of the house. As was the plan, her mother and her Aunt served the coffee outside at the table underneath the eave, where the apricot tree cast shade and the view of Baba’s lovingly tended yard was unspoiled. She busied herself in the kitchen fetching everything she needed, trying not to make any noise as the back door was open and Baba could hear fish talking.


When she was ready, she carried the silver-plated serving tray gingerly down the stairs as the three women stared at her. She ceremoniously placed the tray in front of Baba, leaned down and hugged her tightly, blasting an excited “Happy Birthday!” in her ear. Words chased words as she stumbled over her prepared little speech: “You always make breakfast for everybody and I wanted to make breakfast for you. Prijatno*!” Baba’s eyes were blinking as she was fighting the onslaught of tears, but it was useless.  She clutched her oldest granddaughter’s narrow hands and sobbed silently, a habit she developed over the years as she cried herself to sleep night after night.

She did not want to make her Baba sad, and now her mother and aunt were crying, too. She started to feel weird, as if she had done something she was not supposed to do, and she shifted her weight from one foot to another, unable to understand the overflow of emotions and drama evolving in front of her. Baba finally released the grip on her hands and looked at the offerings displayed on the silver platter.

There was the ubiquitous handmade card with two female figures holding hands and smiling, oblivious to the world around them. A small crystal glass filled with milk hugged the far right corner. A soft, white damask napkin was folded into a triangle and tucked underneath a zwiebelmuster saucer barely big enough to hold a still-warm, plump, flaky chocolate croissant, dusted generously with powdered sugar, and three luscious, dangerously red June strawberries from the farmers’ market.

Nina is a student at the University of California at Berkeley now, and she will read this and look back and marvel at the beautiful little girl she once was who  stood there and wondered why we were all crying… knowing now that tears are sometimes diamonds, beautiful and powerful and sparkling with the emotions that make us who we are.

*Serbian for Bon Apetit!

Pain Au Chocolate from




  • 2 tsp instant yeast (or 1 inch cube of fresh yeast)
  • 100gr (3 oz) granulated sugar
  • 250 ml (1 cup) warm milk
  • 500 gr (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt


  • 150gr (12 Tbsp, 1 and a half stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 100 gr (3oz) good quality chocolate (I prefer at least 70% cacao, but the rest of the family likes it sweeter), cut into pieces; you can use Nutella or any other chocolate spread


Place yeast with sugar and milk in a large bowl and allow it to bloom for 10 minutes. Add most of the flour and salt, and mix to combine. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. Add the rest of the flour in small increments if necessary.

Remove to the counter dusted with flour and knead for 10 minutes until elastic. Lightly oil the dough, return to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave at a warm place to double in size, about 1 and a half to 2 hours (I left mine in the refrigerator overnight).

Divide the butter in three equal parts. Punch the dough down and shape into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick, the longer side facing you. Spread butter onto two right thirds of the rectangle, fold the left third over the buttered middle third as if you were folding a business letter, and in the end the remaining uncovered third over the other two folds. (I folded mine one more time to form a square). Place on a tray, cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for 30 minutes.

Pain au Chocolate from

Repeat the process two more time, for the total of three folds. After the final rest in the fridge (which can be overnight), shape the dough into a rectangle and cut strips 2 inches wide and 4-5 inches long. Or you can shape the dough into a circle and cut it in triangles to form croissants (first in halves, then in quarters, eights, etc., just like a big pie).

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Place a chocolate square close to the narrow end and fold into a roll. Flatten the roll just a little bit, and place seam down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (if you have a non-stick pan, you don’t have to do this).

Pain au Chocolate from

Bake the rolls for 10-15 minutes, until light brown. Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then transfer them to a cooling rack. After they cool off, sprinkle with powder sugar and serve.

Lisa Michelle from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives is hosting Bread Baking Day #47, an event started by Zorra from 1x Umrühren Bitte. She chose the theme for this month, Bread and Chocolate, and I think  my Pain Au Chocolate would love to be in the company of so many baked beauties.

Another one of my favorite events is Yeastspotting, hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast. I wish only that I can participate more often. For now, I am sending her this beautiful pastry.

16 Responses to Two Angels on the Head of a Pin, of Course

  1. Rachel says:

    What a beautiful post! I love the story you tell and how it connects to food (and not just any food, but my favorite meal of the day!)

  2. before reading this post, i was in tears as hubs is playing songs that made me remember my kids while we were all together in SD. As empty nesters you have moments like this… a lot of moments I would say. Then I came across your post and guess what… waterworks came again.
    ‘:::hugs::: to you Lana… i feel what you feel right now… here’s from one mom to a mom like you… cheers!

  3. Ilke says:

    That is one special bond between a grandmother and granddaughter. She has great memories of past and you for keeping them alive.
    Good luck to her at school:)

  4. Gordana says:

    Predivan post, Lana

  5. Lana,what a lovely touching story! I love how food and family creates precious memories in our lives! lovely Pain au Chocolat recipe!

  6. sippitysup says:

    The more I read from you, the more I feel I know Baba’s house too. In fact I am sure I’d recognize that apricot tree were I ever to wonder past. GREG

  7. I really enjoyed reading that story. Nina’s breakfast to Nana is seriously the sweetest thing ever.

    On another note, these babies look so gorgeous. To be honest, I am a bit intimidated by these but when I’m up for a challenge, I will definitely give these a try. Maybe I should make them now. The melted chocolate is just screaming out to me!

  8. These look so elegant and perfect – a must have next time I host a brunch!

  9. Those are so gorgeous. And the story is priceless.

  10. What a wonderful story Lana, and what I would do for one of your pain au chocolat alongside my morning coffee :)

  11. Lisa says:

    What a sweet story and beautiful photo of your daughter when she was a child with your Mom. It’s amazing how fast they grow, huh? That said, Thanks so much for participating in BBD #47, Lana! Your GORGEOUS Pain Au Chocolat is up in the The Round-Up. You can see it at

  12. Gloria says:

    Such a sweet story Lana! Your chocolate pasty looks equally sweet too. I can’t resist flaky pastry and chocolate. I will have to try this.

  13. susan says:

    Seems like Nina’s gift is the gift of her Baba. Lovely story!

  14. Lana says:

    @Rachel, awwww! Thanks for your kind words. I really appreciate it:)

    @Malou, I can feel your anguish, even though I am not an empty nester, yet. It’s hard when they are not with you any more:(

    @Ilke, those two are still bound at the virtual hip. My daughter Skypes with her Baba more than with me. And it’s OK:)

    @Sara, I grew up in the household that was very nurturing and the extensive family was huge and always welcome. We try to stay close as much as we can, scattered over the world:(

    @Greg, lol! That’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever told me! But the apricot tree is no more – got cut down last spring, as it was ailing:(

    @Chung-Ah, thanks:) And don’t be intimidated by those Pain Au Chocolat thingies:) They just take a lot of time resting – long process, but not too much actual work:) I hope you give them a try.

    @Maris, I used to make them from store-bought puff pastry and everyone loved them. That way breakfast is there in ten minutes, even on school days. This was a special challenge for me, as I am not big on baking:)

    @Cathy, thanks:) It makes me feel really special when my photos turn out good:)

    @Dear Mairi, thank you! I wish I could email you a few right now!

    @Lisa, thank you for your comment and your wonderful round-up of BBD recipes! It’s pure joy to browse through them!

    @Gloria, you can make this with store bough puff pastry (I usually keep some in my freezer as it makes for decadend and very easy-fast breakfast even on school days:)

    @Thanks, Susan:) Our family is very close, even though we are all over the world (but there are fast ways to get from here to there:)

  15. A_Boleyn says:

    I located your web page through one of the many blogs that I subscribe to, specifically by a referrence to borek. Something I hope to make one day though I know there are many kinds. I was born in the former Yugoslavia (Serbia now) and am Romanian. I have been living in Canada for almost 50 yrs now, so it’s a round about way of finding this dish through memories of my father mentioning eating this pastry in coffee shops when he was young.

    Your pain au chocolate, a take off of the classic croissant, looks lovely and after reading the moving story of your daughter’s wish to celebrate her baba’s birthday, and tearing up, I am inspired to give it a try. I wasn’t interested in doing a lot of traditional recipes while growing up but am now nostalgically rediscovering my cultural heritage with things like this.

  16. […] Pain Au Chocolat from Lana at Bibberche – California, USA via Serbia […]

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