Saturday, October 16, 2010

Laminated Doughs & Pastries

On Thursday, I welcomed my 29th birthday with a new class called Laminated Doughs and Pastries. The word "lamination" in the pastry world refers to layering a fat (usually butter) between two layers of pastry dough, and then using using different techniques to turn those three layers - dough, fat, dough - into multiple (sometimes hundreds) of layers. When the product is baked, the result has hundreds of crisp flaky layers such as in croissants.

During Thursday's class, we made Austrian Apple Strudel. We first made strudel dough and then prepared a filling with diced apples, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, walnuts, raisins, and cherries. This was an unbelievably amazing process. Chef demonstrated how the strudel dough can be stretched so thin that you could slide a piece of paper under it and read the paper. Here's what I'm talking about:

Seriously, we started with just over a pound of dough and were able to stretch it this thin without putting holes in it. It is pretty amazing. After stretching the dough, it is buttered. My friend Gilly took this photo, and again you can see just how far we were able to stretch this dough:

After adding the butter, we layered panko bread crumbs. Along the edge of the dough, we placed the apple filling in a line, and then began to roll the dough with the help of the tablecloth. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the product after rolling, but you can imagine that it was the width of the table and rolled about 10 times. In this sense, the lamination comes through the rolling process, when the dough and butter become rolled over the filling. Here's the finished product with Chef's presentation:

During class, we also began to prepare Puff Pastry, which we'll make often and use often throughout the course. We prepared the puff pastry dough by mixing and kneading it by hand, and placed it in the cooler. Puff pastry dough needs to be extremely cold to work with. After it had time to chill, we took 2.5 lbs of butter and created a butter block. To create a butter block, you basically take a rolling pin and beat the butter into a sheet. The butter also must be cold for this process. A high quality butter will maintain its shape and become pliable. We were then able to knead the butter like we would knead dough. Once the butter block was prepared, we rolled the puff pastry out into a rectangle, and placed the butter block onto half of the dough. We then folded the second half of dough over the butter, so we had three layers - dough, butter, dough. Throughout the class, we performed different folds with the puff pastry dough. After the first fold, we ended up with 12 layers. After the second fold, we ended up with 36 layers. After the third fold, we ended up with 144 layers. And we still have one more fold to do next week. It's quite fascinating to know and see how puff pastry becomes so flaky. Can anyone guess how many layers we'll have after the fourth and final fold on Tuesday?

On a side note, I already have a hugh appreciation for people who make and sell product made from puff pastry. Once you actually see the amount of time and energy that goes into the process, it's certainly understandable how these products are able to be sold for a higher price. The labor (and labor of love) is intense.

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