29 April 2012

Day 92: Pastry Origami

We had a substitute chef-instructor one day who said baking was a more creative endeavor than the savory side of things, owing to the fact that almost all baked goods are essentially the same: flour, butter, sugar, and some liquid. And while I don't necessarily agree that baking is more creative, she certainly had a point. How could all these things spring from the same ingredients?

I'd counter that baking is more involved on a step-by-step basis. If I forget to season an omelet when it's in the pan, no big deal. In baking, if I mix in a key ingredient too early or too late, it's screwed before it's in the oven.

But of course there is creativity, as I saw when we made dough that can be baked into croissants, danishes, turnovers, whatever. The key was the painstaking (and, apparently, machine-accomplished in professional operations) process of turning dough, which creates alternating layers of flour and butter. When the butter melts, the water evaporates, which is how flaky and buttery goodness comes to be.

The basic idea is to wrap some dough around a big ass block of butter. If you took a cross-section of it, it'd be dough-butter-dough. We then rolled it out and did a tri-fold back in on itself and rolled it flat again – voila, triple the layers (that's dough-butter-dough-butter-dough-butter-dough). And again and again. The painstaking part? The dough fell apart at room temperature, and tore easily, and squirted butter all over the table, so it had to be chilled often before we could work with it again.

But then comes the fun part! We cut it down into 4-inch squares and go crazy. 

Roll them out thin, cut into triangles, and roll from the flat side toward the tip? Croissant!

Fill with almondy goodies, roll into a cylinder, score and bend? Bear claw!

Fill with chocolate, roll into a cylinder? Chocolate croissant!

Fill with jelly, crimp along the edges? Popover!

Cut in from the corners and fold? Pinwheel!

Probably the coolest one: fold into a triangle, score almost to the point, unfold, then cross the margins you've created to the other side and fill with jelly? "Window" or "frame" danish!

And one last thing: the stuff that makes pastries kinda shiny and pretty is called nappage. Basically, it's apricot jelly that's watered down and brushed on after the pastry is baked. Seriously, that's it.

No comments:

Post a Comment