Pastry Anxiety

First let me say it’s good to back. Second let me say I have great sympathy for all of you who wrote in this week to protest that home-made laminated dough is too hard to make. So as my third thing let me say this: it’s time you manned up and went for it.

Homemade pastry-making isn’t a terribly difficult process to begin with, and it’s made significantly easier if you employ the critical tip of adding flour to your butter pat before you start to roll. That’s a step that even some of the best pastry books miss. And it’s an omission that I believe is responsible for the majority of laminated pastry failures. What does the added flour do? Quite simply it helps keep the butter more plastic while at the same time inhibiting melting. The result is a more forgiving dough that the novice pastry roller can take a bit more time with.

Trust me friends, for those of you out there who are looking for ways to significantly improve the quality of your pastry, there’s nothing like homemade laminated dough. You can start small, with just half a recipe or so. Make it a low-pressure thing. Tell yourself you’re only going to use it for an Alsatian onion tart, or something else that doesn’t need to puff terribly much, if that will take the edge off the anxiety. Tackle it on some lazy weekend afternoon. Keep a game on in the background and have a cold bottle of suds available at all times. Whatever you need to keep yourself chipper and relaxed. Because trust me, once you’ve done it right once you’ll want to do it all the time, both to amaze your friends and terrify your enemies.

Get a good pin, some even better butter and try! Now who’s with me?

16 thoughts on “Pastry Anxiety”

  1. Care to show us a step by step of this “not-so difficult” home-made puff pastry? I remember back I in culinary school, my instructor referred to the puff pastry (croissant, etc) as the “advanced course” and that kinda made it off-limits to beginner me.. 🙂

    1. Just look over to the left there under the Techniques menu. There you’ll find a tutorial on laminating dough. It works for puff, croissant and Danish dough. Let me know how yours turns out! – Joe

      1. Can I use margarine instead of butter? I personally don’t like the milky taste of butter and what if I’m vegan and using vegan margarine?

        1. Quite a few laminated pastries are made with margarine, so yes you certainly can. I don’t know about vegan margarine, but I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work if the fat is solid at room temperature. Thanks for the question!

  2. That tip about the flour is priceless–just wish I knew about it when I was in cooking school!

    Thanks again Joe (aka National Treasure)!

    (PS: man up y’all…it’ll be worth it!)

  3. Having used that recipe to make that dough – I can vouch that it is not scary at all. You do have to spend the day babysitting your dough. (But it goes pleasantly with some wine and magazines.)

  4. Even without the better butter.. I was very pleased with the results.. and it was very easy to make.

    Thanks again..

  5. When I went on my internship from culinary school, my one and only job at the bakery was to make croissant dough. For weeks I struggled with dough in a kitchen that was too hot, butter that was too soft, dough that was too sticky and then like magic, it happened. I just “got it” from that day on croissant dough was a peaceful, pleasant way to spend my day. The rythm of the folds and turns just kept me focused but relaxed.

    Everyone should go for it!

  6. I must say, Joe, that after five-plus years of trying to resurrect my grandmother’s revered-but poorly-transcribed Danish recipe (sorry, Nana), I was left every year with greasy, soggy, lackluster pastries. Finally I merged her recipe with your technique and last Christmas my family was finally rewarded with a pastry that took me back on a flaky, delicious trip to my childhood and helped me to pass the memories on to my kids.

    Not to wax too poetic, but suffice to say that the flour on the butter pat was a lifesaver. Thanks once again, Joe!

  7. Joe, I’ve made laminated doughs (both yeasted and non) with and without the floured butter and had good success with each, though my preparations are often months separated, so I have had little chance to compare side-by-side. Is there any reason to add flour to the butter pat if conditions (temperature, time, temperament, etc) don’t necessitate it? Does the flour have any effect on taste, texture, tenderness, transport (in keeping with the alliteration), or is it done simply to make the laminate more forgiving to the chef?


    1. That’s a good question. The extra flour is mainly there to help with the rolling, but it also helps keep the layers distinct in the oven, which is a nice. But no, it doesn’t add a floury, cereal taste to the finished product or change the texture. As I mentioned last week, the Hermé “inverted” version packs the butter pat with flour, to no detriment to the finished pastry. So flour away and fear not!

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