Chef Loy
The thing I love about culinary school is learning new things and then seeing the finished product. Other than cakes, which I bake for my family and friends, and holiday cookies, the occasional dinner rolls, quick breads, and cookies, I have stayed away from baking due to time constraints and the constant worry about weight gain. After working all day I hardly have time to make dinner let alone bake something. And then of course, the fact that it doesn’t take too many pieces of any baked good to add on the pounds. I typically buy a loaf of multi-grain bread from Artisan Baking Company and enjoy a slice each morning. I would love to go to a bakery and stock up on danish pastries and croissants but then I would be in big trouble when I go for my annual physical (which is coming up soon!) One of the students in my class mentioned that her cholesterol level is up 70 points since starting pastry class. I’ll soon find out the damage report on myself. I still treasure the learning process and even if I don’t make laminated dough too often at least I’ll know how if the occasion ever comes up and I am now capable of making a beautiful and tasty croissant I think a treat of homemade croissants at Christmas would be wonderful. And, if you’ve ever looked at a Williams-Sonoma catalog they sell frozen croissants for a small fortune ($39.95 for 15) and they come frozen and you have to bake them yourself!
Lamination refers to the process of layering the dough and fat. When baked, the butter worked into the layers of dough gives off moisture, and the steam causes the thin layers of dough to puff and rise. There is no substitute for butter here–can’t use olive oil or reduce the amount of butter or it won’t be the same thing. Folding is the most critical factor–the layers must be even and consistent. The process of folding is not all that complicated but requires repeating at least 3 times with resting and cooling periods in between. The whole whole process takes hours from start to finish but the finished product is out of this world. Much better than what they call “croissants” at most stores and even bakeries. I usually skip them because I’ve had so many bad croissants over the years. I do love a really good chocolate croissant though, so maybe I’ll try making that eventually. Some good tips we learned–brush off excess flour between turns, keeep the dough covered during the resting and folding periods, and don’t roll it too thin.
Last week we started our croissant/danish and puff pastry doughs by encasing the butter in the dough. We froze the dough for both puff pastry and croissants with the intention of doing the folds in tonight’s class and then baking off a small piece of dough and saving the rest for a class later on when we would make finished products with our doughs. Chef Loy gave a very detailed and interesting lecture on lamination and then threw out a lot of French terms which I hope I can remember. Bouchees, vol-au-vents and feuilletees are some of the different types of puff pastries. We went to our stations and started by working on a new type of dough, blitz puff pastry. Now this is something very useful. It’s a short cut to the much more time consuming real puff pastry and is made somewhat like a biscuit dough. We cut in the butter, some salted water and the made a shaggy dough, rolled it out, folded it, chilled it and folded it 4 more times, chilling it in between. This was not hard at all and resulted in a very flaky and puff like product. On the other hand, the puff dough from the freeze did not perform. Our puff samples were pathetic, flat and ugly. The croissant dough, however, made lovely croissants, largely due to the yeast in that dough. Since we were supposed to use the frozen dough later on I know I’m going to have to make my own at home, which is good because then I’ll have to practice.
Croissants
We were able to use the blitz dough to make anything we wanted. I was attracted to the palmiers and wanted to make some. Later I realized that I used to buy very large palmiers at the bakery for my mother but they were called elephant ears. She loved those things and it made me sad when I thought about how tickled she’d be to have a homemade palmier from me. If fact, all the things we’re doing in the lamination classes are things my mother dearly loved. In Japan she grew up eating French bakery goods–the cream puff, eclairs, croissants and such and always spoke fondly of them, but she was not a pastry maker and we never lived near any French bakeries so I didn’t appreciate her good taste. I wish she could be here today when I practice making more palmiers. I miss her so much but her love of cooking, gardening, and making things for people will live on in me. Thanks Mom.