The DoughGenerally, pastry is made using enriched dough - a dough that has a higher concentration of sugars, fats, and/or dairy. Your specific application and desired final result will determine which particular recipe you may use. Whole milk is a very common dairy in pastry recipes and creates you a very flakey dough that crisps well. Using sour cream in lieu of milk to make your pastry softer and more supple. Brioche creates is signature light and airy texture by going heavy on the eggs. We have included one of our favorites and broadly applicable recipes below.
Pastry dough needs a flour with enough protein to hold all the fats together. However, too much protein when overworked by the lamination process will create a tough dough. Cake flour won’t have enough structure. Bread flour will get too tough. All-purpose flour is your best bet for nearly all pastry.
As with all food, the ingredients matter more than the tools or the procedure. And since butter is a key ingredient in pastry, don’t cut corners here. We recommend a high fat / European (sometimes labeled Irish, French, English, etc.) butter. European style butter is perfect for laminating dough because it has a much higher fat content (~97% vs ~80% in American style butter), as well as it tends to have a stronger savory flavor. The higher water content in American butter will steam when baking, creating puffs in the layers. Yes, this makes your pastry fluffy, but not flakey. And when you taste the fluffy and flakey side by side, you’ll know which the flakes are what we’re chasing!
Turning: Creating the LayersBuilding the layers in pastry dough is a laborious but intuitive procedure we call turning. With each turn, you fold the dough (which creates more layers of dough and butter), and then rolling thin so you can create even more layers through more turns. With each turn, the layers increase by more (often double or triple) than the turn before, so you end up creating a lot of layers quickly. The more turns you complete, the more layers your final pastry will have The more layers you have, the flakier your pastry will be. .
Calculating the layers you’ve created can be confusing as the layers grow exponentially. We generally use a tri-fold turn. Think of rolling your dough into a rectangle (like a piece of paper) and then fold your dough into thirds (like a letter). We find the tri-fold helps maintain precise control and consistency. So, once you have done the initial turn of dough with butter, 3 layers will have been created. On the next turn, tri-fold again, you will have 3^2 or 9, on your third turn 3^3 or 27, on your fourth turn 3^4 or 81, etc.
Different types of pastry generally have a specific range of layers.
- For Danishes, turnovers, pain au chocolat, beef wellingtons, etc: 27 layers or 3 turns
- For croissants: 81 layers or 4 turns
- For kouign-amanns: 243 layers or 5 turns *Note when laminating for kouign-amanns you are creating layers of dough, butter, and sugar
- For puff pastry: 700-2000+ layers or 6-7 turns *Note the final count should vary on preference and application. For example, with a weighted pastry like mille feuilles, you’ll want more layers. Whereas, you’ll want fewer layers for a classic puff pastry.
Culinary Crafts favorite recipe for pastry
- 1 1/3 tsp Active dry yeast
- 1/2 c warm water (98-102 degrees)
- 2 oz brown sugar
- 3 TBSP sour cream
- 3 oz eggs ( 1 large egg and 1 yolk)
- 1 oz butter (melted)
- 11 oz all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 oz butter
Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.
In the meantime, beat your butter.You can cheat a little and use your mixer for this, but we recommend doing this by hand with a rolling pin, since the butter will incorporate less air and stay colder. You want the butter to be as dense and cold as possible, while still having made it pliable. You can sprinkle the butter with a small bit of flour so it doesn't stick to the counter or your pin if needed. You may need to fold your butter and pound out multiple times. Fold the butter into roughly a 4”x 5” rectangle (should be ~¼” thick), place in between two pieces of parchment and set in the fridge. Remember, the butter should be cold but still pliable. Getting the butter to ~60 F (or about 15 minutes in the fridge) is a good target. Timing the butter and dough to be ready to leave the fridge at the same time is a good strategy. Roll your dough into roughly a 15” x 6” rectangle (3x wider and 2” longer than your butter rectangle). Place your chilled butter right in the center of the dough. Then fold the long ends of the dough over to cover the butter (like folding a letter). Because of the tri-fold, your rectangle of butter and dough should be roughly 5” x 6” again. Now roll out the small rectangle until it’s back to 15” x 6” again. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, and tri-fold again (in a new direction this time). The 90 degree rotation will bring the open ends to the center and help keep the butter inside your dough. Fold and roll repeatedly - making a 90 degree rotation with each turn - as appropriate for the desired number of layers. Patience is key to successfully making great pastry dough. When you roll out the dough and butter, your focus on rolling carefully with gentle, even pressure, using a rolling pin. Do not try to muscle the butter in or press too hard. It should take 8-10 minutes for each fold. Focus on rolling the dough out in one direction towards the open ends. Rolling the dough along the 6” length. Back and forth, consistent and gentle until butter is incorporated. Throughout this process, you want to keep your dough about 60 degrees —not quite refrigerator temperature, but colder than room temperature. Depending on the temperature of your working space you may be able to do 2 turns in between chilling. At this point you have laminated dough. You’ve done the hardest part. Congratulations! Now simply shape and bake as appropriate for your application. Check in next week to see one of our favorite holiday recipes using your laminated dough!