Thursday, January 7, 2010

Puff the Magic Pastry

This week our class focused on flaky, buttery laminated doughs. Laminated doughs include turnovers, croissants, danish, puff pastry and any other baked good with flaky layers created by folding butter into your dough. Laminated doughs are great because not only are they extremely versatile, but you can prepare a ton of this dough and freeze it for future use.

Butter Folding, Folding and More Folding
Laminated doughs are created by folding and refolding a large square of butter into the dough several times to disperse the fat evenly. It is a tedious process but it's necessary to distribute the butter evenly and to build the layers.

There are a few different methods for folding the butter, including the three-fold, four-fold and a cross-shaped pocket. Usually you are required to roll out and refold your dough at least three times, sometimes more. After each fold, you need to refrigerate the dough for a few hours so that it can harden again. Also, be sure to keep track of how many folds you have completed by sticking your finger in the dough to make a dot for that number of folds. Be sure to rotate your dough 90 degrees each time you take out the dough for refolding because this helps create alternating layers.

Yes, it takes some time and there are a lot of steps to making laminated doughs, but it isn't terribly difficult. Plus, as I mentioned before, you can make a large batch and store your extra dough in the freezer for ready-to-go pastry dough. That way, you can make flaky, buttery desserts on a whim. Need some ideas? Let the pictures inspire you. How about an apple tart, fruit-filled turnovers or chocolate croissant rolls? I'll get you started with the simple (and simply delicious) Apple Tart.

Apple Tart (first photo)
Very easy to make but it makes quite an impression! Roll out some dough until it is fairly thin and slide it onto a sheet pan before cutting into your desired shape. Find something round such as a cake pan if you want a large one that can be sliced like a pizza or use a small plate as a cookie cutter for a smaller, individual-sized tart.

Next, spread on a thin layer of Frangipane (a simple, sweet almond cream filling made with crushed almonds, sugar, butter and eggs), apple filling or experiment with other fillings. Thinly slice some apples (we used green apples) and create first the outer and then the inner ring by closely overlapping the slices. Then take a handful of cinnamon-sugar and spiral around the top starting from the center. After you finish baking it, we brushed on a light layer of apricot filling, but you can also drizzle on some clear glaze to give it a bit shine for visual appeal and a little extra sweetness.

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