I’ve noticed bakers are a lot like musicians. They touch bread much like a musician touches an instrument to create a perfectly puffed pastry or a perfectly placed chord. A guitarist can play softly or strum with intensity. Bakers, similarly, know when to be gentle, when to be rough and when to be gently rough as they learn to see and feel the differences in texture and the ways in which they need to manipulate their dough to reach the desired end result. Whether it’s a song created or puff pastry baked, the importance of engaging all of one’s senses throughout the production phase is significant.
Our class has been getting loud. If you walked by the fifth floor pastry kitchens over the past week you would have heard the sound of thirteen rolling pins bangin’ on dough — it’s loud enough that you can hardly hear the person next to you when they ask you for some more bench flour. We’ve been making puff pastry, a laminated dough with layers of butter. To make classic puff pastry, you 1) prepare the détrempe (dough) by mixing butter into flour 2) make the beurrage by pounding butter into a one-inch-thick square, 3) form the pâton (package of dough) by rolling four flaps out of the détrempe, placing the beurrage in the middle and folding the flaps over, 4) roll the dough out and fold the ends of dough to make 4-layers, also known as a double turn, 5) repeat, 6) rest the dough, 7) complete two more double turns and 8 ) rest the dough again at least four hours. Rolling dough out is a definite skill, especially when the dough has a pound of butter in it and you’re working in a kitchen with the ovens on. The one tip Chef Scott kept giving us was to work with puff pastry that was cold, buying you some time to work with the dough before the butter melts. Let’s hope I am able to work quickly enough during our Module II practical exam on Sunday!
When we weren’t banging dough, we were making and pulling strudel dough by hand. This was actually a really cool experience, working as a team with two of my classmates to stretch paper-thin dough out to the width of our table by using the backs of our hands. Between puff pastry, strudel dough and phyllo dough, we made an endless variety of treats — from palmiers, mille feuille and gateau pithiviers, to apfelstrudel, topfen strudel and tyrolean strudel to baklava, spanikopita and galaktoboureko (my new favorite word). What could be better? Maybe a really good song with a really great title.
Next up: Sadly, the end of Module II and hopefully the successful execution of the steps above on practical day!