The Secret to Perfect Pastry: Tips from Top BakersFebruary 27, 2023
1. Keep everything cold
The key to flaky pastry is keeping the ingredients as cold as possible. This is because cold butter and other fats create pockets of steam as they melt in the oven, which lift the layers of dough and create that signature flakiness. To keep everything cold, work quickly and chill the dough and any equipment or ingredients that need to be kept cool.
2. Use the right flour
Different types of flour have different protein contents, which affects the texture and structure of pastry. For flaky pastry, use a flour with a lower protein content, such as pastry flour or all-purpose flour. Bread flour, which has a higher protein content, is better suited for yeasted breads.
3. Don't overwork the dough
Pastry dough should be handled gently and minimally, as overworking it can result in tough, dense pastries. Mix the ingredients just until they come together, and avoid kneading or stretching the dough excessively. If the dough becomes too warm or sticky, chill it before continuing.
4. Use a light touch when rolling out the dough
When rolling out pastry dough, use a light touch and work quickly to avoid warming up the dough. Roll from the center outwards, rotating the dough frequently to ensure an even thickness. If the dough starts to stick to the surface or rolling pin, lightly dust with flour.
5. Add water sparingly
Pastry dough needs some moisture to hold together, but too much water can make it tough and heavy. Add water gradually and only as much as needed to bring the dough together. A good rule of thumb is to add just enough water that the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.
6. Chill the dough before baking
Chilling the pastry dough before baking helps it to firm up and relax, which can prevent shrinkage and ensure a crisp, flaky texture. After shaping the dough, refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes (or longer, if possible) before baking.
7. Use a hot oven
To achieve a golden, crisp crust, preheat the oven to a high temperature (at least 400°F/200°C) before baking the pastry. This will help the dough to rise quickly and set before the butter starts to melt and create steam.
In addition to tips and techniques above, I find the recommendations of top bakers such as Pierre Hermé, Adriano Zumbo, and Claire Ptak to be particularly noteworthy.
Pierre Hermé advises us to use high-quality ingredients and pay attention to the details. For example, he recommends using unsalted butter, as salted butter can affect the texture of the pastry.
He is widely regarded as one of the best pastry chefs in the world. He has worked at some of the most prestigious pastry shops in Paris, including Ladurée and Fauchon, and has been awarded the title of World's Best Pastry Chef by the World's 50 Best Restaurants.
Adriano Zumbo tip is to practice, practice, and practice. He believes that mastering pastry-making takes time and dedication, and that home bakers should be patient with themselves and keep trying until they get it right. Adriano Zumbo is an Australian pastry chef who is known for his elaborate and creative desserts. He has appeared on several TV shows, including MasterChef Australia, and has opened multiple patisseries in Sydney and Melbourne.
Claire Ptak recommends us to use senses when baking. She recommends listening to the sound of the dough as you roll it out - if it's too dry, it will make a cracking sound.
Claire Ptak is a California-born pastry chef who now runs the Violet Bakery in London. She is known for her beautiful cakes, tarts, and pastries, and was even chosen to make the wedding cake for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.
With dedication to practicing and keeping in mind the valuable tips provided by expert pastry chefs, creating pastries that are not only light and flaky but also delicious is certainly achievable. Now you can start your own pastry-making journey without being in a state of anxiety. Take your time, and soon enough you'll be creating pastries that are sure to impress.
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