Neither Fish nor Fowl

Laminated pastry makers get hung up on numbers: 243, 729, 2187…the big multiples of three that you get when you fold a three-layer dough-butter-dough packet many times (2187 is the result of six letter-style tri-folds or “turns”). All those layers are what give laminated doughs their texture. Generally speaking the more layers you have in the dough the lighter, flakier and crunchier the finished product will be. Puff pastry has the most layers: 729 (5 turns) or 2187 (6 turns), croissant dough usually has the least: 81 (3 turns) or 108 (2 tri-fold turns plus one 4-ply “book” turn).

Kringle dough generally doesn’t appear in most laminated dough taxonomies since it’s the product of a mere two letter-style turns, which gives it only 27 layers. When the dough is baked up you scarcely know it’s laminated at all. The texture of the crumb is somewhere between a croissant and an enriched yeast dough (like brioche). This is what makes it unique, and also rather sneaky. You might call it semi-laminated.

There are quite a few semi-laminated doughs out there, flying under the radar of formal pastry protocol. The first time I came across one was back home in Chicago. My mother brought me a potato galette from a French bakery in the suburbs which had a most unusual texture. It was a free-form pie-style galette but its crust was clearly not made of pie dough (short pastry). It was shiny and golden brown like a croissant but nowhere near as light. Still it had a refreshing airy quality about it that made it very different. Curious, I marched down to the shop to make a few enquiries. The baker was cagey, but eventually, under pressure, he admitted what I suspected all along: that it was a simple yeast dough he’d buttered and turned once or twice (I hated to strong-arm a Frenchman like that, but it’s the way we do things in Chicago).

Prior to that day it had never occurred to me that anyone would ever think of breaking the unwritten rule of 81, 243, 729, 2187. I confess it took me a while to come to terms with it emotionally. And I’ve never trusted anyone from France since.

4 thoughts on “Neither Fish nor Fowl”

  1. When I first started laminating doughs I read somewhere that areas where dough touches dough shouldn’t actually be counted as a layer. So 3 letter folds would actually be 55 layers and not 81. Any thoughts on this?
    1st letter fold: 3×3 = 9(but the dough touches other dough in 2 spots so it only has 7 layers)
    2nd letter fold: (7×3)-2 = 19
    3rd letter fold: (19×3)-2 = 55

    1. Hey Eric! I’ve never heard that but it makes sense. It’s certainly another way of looking at lamination.

      I appreciated the comment!

      – Joe

  2. My favorite of your posts yet. I find most of your posts interestingly informative but this one added a very personal touch that really tickled me. I appreciate the passion and patience you have for the Art. Thank you.

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