Laminated Dough 101
When I first started baking, I would always shy away from any recipe calling for a laminated dough. At the time, I didn’t even fully understand what the term “laminated dough” truly meant. All I knew is that it seemed very complicated and I would undoubtedly move on to a more approachable recipe.
When I finally ventured into making my first laminated dough, puff pastry, I realized that it really was not as scary as I thought it was. As with most new techniques in baking and pastry, it just took me jumping in and getting my hands dirty, quite literally, for the intimidation to fall away.
My goal with this blog has always been to make baking feel more approachable for people who might feel slightly intimidated by baking in general or by seemingly more complicated baking concepts. I always find that understanding more about a technique will always make it feel more attainable. So, let’s talk about what laminated dough is, exactly.
What exactly is laminated dough?
The term “laminated dough” refers to any pastry dough that has been rolled and shaped in a way in which many layers are created of dough alternating and fat. There are various techniques for how the dough is “laminated” with the fat and in which layers are created, but all laminated doughs go through a series of repeated folding and rolling in order to create these many layers.
What is the process of making laminated dough?
The process for making all laminated doughs is basically the same. You start with a very simple dough called a detrempe, made mostly of flour, water, and salt. A block of malleable fat, usually butter, is then wrapped inside of the dough. The dough, with the fat encased inside of it, is then rolled out, and folded over itself multiple times in order to create layers of fat within the dough. Each cycle of rolling out & folding the dough is called a “turn” or “tourage”.
The number of “turns” a laminated dough goes through really depends on the desired end result. For instance, when making puff pastry you could go through a series 6 “turns” to create 729 layers within the dough OR it could go through 7 “turns” and end up with 2187 layers in the dough. The latter would create a pastry that could be too flaky, if you can imagine such a thing, for some uses.
Note: It may seem counter-intuitive to roll out a flaky pastry dough many times over. In the pastry world it is often preached that flaky doughs need to be handled as little as possible. The reason you must handle something like a flaky pie crust very little is to prevent overdeveloping the gluten which may cause it to be tough. The opposite is true of laminated doughs. The process of rolling the pastry out many times helps the gluten in the dough to develop which is necessary to create the structure in the dough where the layers of steam can be trapped.
What is the purpose of layering fat throughout dough?
FLAKINESS & PUFF! Period. The end.
If you’ve ever eaten anything made with puff pastry then you understand the flaky glory that this dough creates. Layers and layers of flakiness due to pockets of air that have been formed once baked.
The reason this process of layering fat through the dough many times over works is because of the water content in solid fats, such as butter or vegetable shortening. When the cold fat hits the hot oven, the water in the fat starts to evaporate quickly and in return creates steam. The steam is actually the key to the air pockets/flakiness and lift. As each of the many layers of fat begins to release steam, the pastry begins to rise and the iconic flakiness is created.
Which doughs are considered “Laminated Doughs?”
Puff pastry contains very few ingredients: flour, butter (or shortening), water, and salt. This pastry gets its impressive rise only from the lamination in the dough. It can be used for any number of final preparations, both savory and sweet.
Blitz Pastry (aka Quick Puff Pastry, American Puff Pastry, Rapid Puff Pastry, Rough Puff Pastry)
Blitz pastry is the only laminated dough in which a slab of fat is not encased in the dough before the folding process begins. In order to speed the process of creating the dough, large chunks of butter are mixed into the actual dough, and then the folding process is completed. This pastry dough can be made from start to finish in an hour, which is significantly shorter than a traditional puff pastry dough. The results are slightly less flaky than the traditional version, however it is still quite an impressive and delicious pastry.
There are a few differences between croissant dough and puff pastry. The main difference is the addition of yeast as well as milk. The final product is more bread like in quality, however, the process of lamination creates the distinct layering found in all pastries of this category.
While puff pastry may go through a series of as many as 6 or 7 turns to laminate the dough, croissant dough typically only goes through a series of 3 turns which creates larger and more distinct layers.
Note: Typically when making a yeasted bread dough, you will knead the dough thoroughly to create the gluten structure. For croissant dough, very little mixing is done when combining the ingredients for the dough, however, the gluten structure is formed during the process of completing the turns.
Much like croissant dough, Danish is a pastry dough that is leavened both by yeast as well as lamination of fat throughout the dough. The main difference between croissant dough and danish dough is the addition of eggs, which creates a chewier product. Danish also typically goes through 1 less turn than croissant dough, creating less puff and slightly larger and more defined layers.
Basic tips for working with laminated dough:
Keep the dough cold
The key part of laminated dough is keeping separated layers of fat and pastry. If the dough warms up too much, the two will start working together into one cohesive dough which is not desired in this instance. It is also important that the fat stays cold so that the water will quickly evaporate out, creating steam, once it hits the oven.
Don’t skip the resting time
One of the most frustrating things about making laminated dough, with the exception of quick puff pastry, is the resting time required between the steps. Many times you must wait several hours between each turn, and for some doughs you may need to let it rest overnight before using it for your final product. Resting the dough allows for glutens to relax and allows for the dough to be rolled out more easily and reduces shrinkage once baked. Resting the dough also allows for the fat to become cold and solid again.
Cook it in a hot oven
You really want to be sure that your oven is properly preheated before your dough hits the oven. If it is not hot enough the butter will melt slowly and just seep out of the pastry instead of causing it to rise and trap the steam within the layers. Most laminated doughs will be baked somewhere between 375-425 degrees F.
I hope this helped you gain a better understanding of the basics of laminated dough! I have found that tackling an intimidating pastry technique truly is the best way to learn, so next week I am going to give you a tutorial for making quick puff pastry. It is the perfect place to start to get your feet wet in working with laminated dough!
If you want to learn more about laminated dough here are a few of my favorite pastry books that I frequently reference to gain a better understanding of baking and pastry techniques!
The Baker’s Manual by Joseph Amendola & Nicole Rees
The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
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