baking-processes-puff-pastry

Puff pastries require precision and the devotion of a significant amount of time.

Puff Pastry

What is a Puff Pastry?

Puff pastry is a traditional French pastry dough that has distinct flaky layers. It is commonly used in making croissants, turnovers and classic French cuisine. This pastry dough is the base of both sweet and savory dishes, though the number of layers is usually less for savory, and more for sweet items. The dough owes its layers to steam making the dough expand, or puff, during the baking process. This happens because there are distinct layers of fat, usually butter, and dough that separate in the oven. It is similar to phyllo dough, but phyllo dough is traditionally stretched in the production, while puff pastry is rolled out. Claude Gelée invented puff pastry in France in 1645. He most likely adapted similar recipes that the Spanish brought back for Middle Eastern phyllo dough during the crusades. This dough then became popular in France and spread throughout the world. Today, this dough is used in the creation of many dishes, but is typically purchased already made due to the time intensive process of making puff pastry.

Method

Making puff pastry can take days depending on the number of layers desired. The basic ingredients are flour, salt, water, and butter. Puff pastry is sensitive to over mixing, because if the butter is fully incorporated, distinct layers will not form. During the production of puff pastry, temperature is critical. The dough should never exceed 16 ℃ (60 ℉). To do this, all ingredients and utensils must be chilled before and between each addition of butter. To start a puff pastry dough, chefs make a short crust pastry dough and roll it into a rectangle. On this they place a flattened sheet of butter that is about one fourth to one third the size of the dough. They then fold the dough into thirds on its self and roll the dough back out. After this, the dough is chilled for at least thirty minutes, and then the process is repeated. The more times the chef folds and rolls the dough out, the more layers that will form. The formula for the number of layers is I=(f+1) n. In this formula I is the total number of final layers. F is the number of times folded, usually two, and n is the number of times this process is repeated. So if the dough is folded into thirds, f=2, and that is repeated 3 times, n is 3, thus the number of layers is 256. The number of layers desired depends on the use, but generally meats and foods with juices require fewer layers, and sweets and cookies require more layers. Some recipes call for as few as sixty layers, while others want over seven hundred. A common variation on this pastry dough involves the addition of yeast, giving an even more air and risen pastry. This is common in Spanish empanadas. This is also common for croissants, and Danish pastry dough. The type of fat used is important in making puff pastry as well. Butter gives the richest flavor, though lard gives a better texture. Some chefs mix butter and lard to obtain a product that is both flavorful, and texturally perfect. Rough puff pastry is an easier, but less flaky adaptation of puff pastry.