Layered pastries

Layered pastries

By
Leiths School of Food and Wine
Contains
18 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849495516
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

Layered pastries rise because hundreds of layers of dough, separated from each other by rich butter, are pushed up by steam as the pastry cooks. Puff pastry has the most layers and therefore the highest rise but is also the most difficult to make. At Leiths, we start by making rough puff pastry, which is easier but still allows our students to practise creating the layers. We then tackle flaky pastry which has more layers and rises higher, before moving on to puff pastry, which after all that practice feels much easier to master.

All layered pastries are created using a technique of rolling out and then folding the pastry to create the layers. The base dough, or détrempe, is quite soft and elastic, as the gluten has been developed enough to allow it to stretch and strengthen the layering between the layers of butter and to trap pockets of air.

The layering technique

You will need to begin with cold or chilled ingredients and equipment. An efficient rolling and folding technique with short, quick strokes helps to keep the butter cool between the layers, which is crucial for a good, even rise. Maintaining shape and a uniform thickness is also important for even rising. If the pastry feels as though it is warming up and becoming elastic through overworking, chill it in the fridge. This will help to keep the butter firm. By resting the pastry for a while, you are also helping to relax the gluten that has developed, which will make the pastry easier to roll.

The gluten development needed to strengthen the layers, protect the butter and help keep the layers separate does need to be limited and controlled, to ensure the pastry remains light, tender and does not shrink excessively.

The objective is to incorporate the butter into the layers of détrempe (the pastry base) as thinly as possible, without allowing the butter to become greasy or melt.

Layered pastry needs to be cooked at a high temperature, to encourage rapid expansion of the air trapped between layers to quickly separate and raise the layers, and to seal the butter into the pastry.

Once you have mastered the layering technique, you can make puff, rough puff or flaky pastry. The difference between these classic pastries is the quantity of fat used and at what stage the fat is incorporated, which helps to determine how high the pastry rises.

The layered pastries are generally interchangeable between recipes, with puff the richest with the highest rise and most defined, even layering, followed by flaky, then rough puff.

Layered pastry making guidelines

Keep the ingredients cold at all times, particularly the butter and pastry, which should remain cold but pliable, when rolling and folding, and shaping. If the pastry warms too much, the fat will begin to melt and stick the layers together.

Work efficiently, with an awareness of the temperature of the pastry. Two sets of roll and folds should take no longer than 5 minutes.

The détrempe should be soft rather than dry, and should be worked sufficiently to make it smooth and uniform in colour, but not excessively.

Develop an efficient ridging and rolling technique. Keep checking for straight sides and square corners. Avoid creating ridges at the ends of the pastry and rolling over the edges.

Relaxing the détrempe, and the pastry between roll and folds, will prevent overworking, stretching and shrinkage. Relaxing in the fridge will help to maintain the cold but pliable quality of the pastry, but if the pastry is left in the fridge too long then the butter will firm up too much and may break through the layers when rolled again.

When relaxing pastry in the fridge, wrap it closely in cling film to ensure it doesn’t dry out and make a note of the number of roll and folds that you have done, as it’s easy to lose track.

Avoid rolling the pastry too wide or long – it will become too large to manage easily and will become too thin, which can destroy layering. Conversely, avoid leaving it too thick – in this instance, the butter will not thin out enough so the pastry will be too heavy to rise properly and will bake to a greasy mass.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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