Puff Pastry Is A Good Workout

Image source: Tornado Alley Atheists.

I’ve been watching too much baking stuff on Netflix, “The Great British Baking Show” in particular. The show highlights some interesting things that people can do with dough, but it edits out all the important stuff. In an effort to understand more about baking, I’ve tried some of the stuff featured on the show. My latest effort was puff pastry.

For those who don’t know what puff pastry is, it’s a laminated dough. Put a disc of butter into an envelope of dough and then roll it out. Fold it into thirds, then roll it out the other way. Then, put the dough in the fridge because – and I’m serious here – the heat from working it will melt the butter. Melted butter is something you do not want.

Puff pastry is an attempt to get a dough that puffs up in the oven without using yeast or baking soda or some other rising agent. All that’s going on is cold butter meeting a hot oven, where the water in the butter turns to steam and rapidly expands. If the butter is melted, it just combines with the dough. No expansion, no puff. Just a wad of dough and butter.

Now that I’ve made some, I can say that all the gripes about puff pastry are real. The dough can delaminate, which is a fancy way of saying the layers can break open. Butter goes everywhere. Your rolling implement gets lubricated for free. Then it gets tough to hold onto. This is easy when you’re folding the dough so many times that the layers become paper thin.

The end result has been worth it. Despite all the mistakes I’ve made with it, I managed to make pastry that puffs up. Granted, there’s also some melted butter, but I got more out of it than I thought I would get my first time making it.

And the best part about all of this is that the effort I put into making the dough gave me a decent workout. Not enough to cover all the calories from eating it, but a decent upper body workout nonetheless. Next time, I’ll be sure to roll it out on the counter instead of on a plastic mat that moves whenever I roll something. It should cut down on the amount of work I have to put into it.

Also, having made the dough, I’m now suffering from delusions that I might be able to try croissants.

Mostly the experience has been a decent one. If I ever put any of my new knowledge into a book, I’ll make sure to put the less glamorous bits in as well. They might make a story more interesting.

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