Layered Dough Products

Numerous bakery products have a unique texture, in that the baked dough is present in many thin layers rather than one continuous matrix. This effect is obtained by placing a layer of fat between two layers of dough, rolling out this sandwich to a thin sheet, folding the sheet over onto itself into three or four layers, and repeating this rolling and folding process two or three more times. If done properly, the final sheet consists of 50 to 100 layers of dough interspersed with an equal number of layers of fat. When baked, the dough layers set up more or less independently, giving the flaky texture of the finished product.

Puff Pastry

Puff pastry dough is used for a large number of culinary items, from basic pastries such as fruit turnovers and napoleons, to patty shells for holding a variety of fillings for appetizers, to dough for enclosing fish or meat, such as beef Wellington. It needs no fermentation but does require some care in the roll-in process to obtain a flaky final product.

The dough for this product is a flour/water dough (no yeast), containing about 6% shortening and 6% whole eggs. After it is fully developed it is sheeted out, fat is spread over two-thirds of the dough, which is then folded to give a sandwich having three layers of dough separated by two layers of fat. This is sheeted out and folded as already described. Usually the dough is refrigerated after the second sheeting and folding, to keep the fat in the plastic state. If the dough becomes too warm, the fat melts and gets incorporated into the dough itself, and the layering effect is lost. The fat usually used is a special puff-paste margarine, having a broad plastic range, and containing about 15% water. In the oven the water (which is finely emulsified in the fat) forms steam, which helps give the puff to puff pastry. Thus, puff pastry is a steam-leavened product.

Croissants

Croissants are another legacy of the siege of Vienna. The story is that the Turks were busy digging a tunnel under the city walls but were overheard by a baker in the early hours of the morning, as they were digging under his shop. He alerted the authorities, and a countertunnel foiled the plot. After the siege was lifted, the baker made rolls in the shape of a crescent (the emblem on the Turkish flag), which were sold to celebrate the victory, and which became a Viennese tradition. Marie Antoinette introduced these Kipfeln to the French court, and they became popular under the French name croissant.

A typical croissant dough is basically a straight dough, containing 10% sugar, 1% salt, and 4% margarine (flour basis), with a fairly high (9%) yeast level and slightly below normal absorption. Croissant dough is mixed cold (18-20°C, 64-68°F). This practice, together with the slight un-derabsorption, retards fermentation. Proofing temperatures are also relatively low, not exceeding the melting point of the fat (ca 37°C, 98°F). For these reasons a rather high level of yeast is used in the dough. Numerous variations on the basic mixing, sheeting, and roll-in process are used, most of which seem to be based more on tradition than on actually yielding superior product. After mixing, the dough is allowed to ferment for up to 1 hr, then the fat is rolled in, essentially as described for puff pastry. The traditional fat for croissants is unsalted butter, although many commercial companies today use a bakers' margarine that does not get as hard as butter at retarder temperatures and so spreads more uniformly during the sheeting and folding process. The usual fat-to-dough ratio is about 25%, that is, 1 lb of butter to 4 lb of dough.

The rolled-in dough is sheeted out, then cut into triangles having a height about twice the width of the base. This triangle is rolled up, starting from the base, the shaped dough piece is placed on a sheet pan, and the ends are pulled down to give the typical crescent shape. After proofing for 1 to 3 h, it is baked and cooled. Care must be taken that the piece is not underproofed, otherwise the finished product loses its flakiness and is tough, chewy, and unpalatable. Croissants are frequently sliced horizontally and used to make sandwiches, with a wide variety of fillings being offered by various specialty shops.

Danish Pastry

Danish dough is a rich, sweet, yeasted dough made with a higher than usual absorption. The dough is quite soft, mixed cold (62-64°F), and not fully developed in the mixer. Gluten development takes place during the roll-in process. The dough is divided into pieces of a suitable size (eg, 16 lb) and then retarded for several hours. Some fermentation takes place during this time. The cold dough is then sheeted out and fat is rolled in, as already described. Specialty shops use butter or bakers' margarine for the roll-in fat, but all-purpose shortening works equally well. The dough sheet is usually given the first two sheetings and folds, then returned to the retarder for 6 to 12 h. It is then given one more sheeting and three-fold, and returned to the retarder for 24 to 48 h for further fermentation.

Danish pastry is almost invariably made by sheeting out the rolled-in dough, cutting into various shapes, then adding some sort of sweet filling (fruit, nuts, cinnamon, etc) and folding or rolling up the dough to retain this filling during proofing and baking. The variety of shapes and fillings is limited only by the ingenuity of the baker. The proofed pieces are sometimes washed lightly with diluted egg just before baking, to give a shine to the finished piece. Alternatively, the piece may be sprayed with a light sugar syrup as it exits the oven, to give the same effect. If a Danish coffee cake, for example, is to receive an icing, this is usually a rather thin icing that is drizzled over the top of the coffee cake in a random pattern, rather than applied in a solid layer (as on sweet rolls). A good Danish pastry is one of the foundation stones of any small retail bakery today.

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