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The dough that rises without yeast: puff pastry

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The dough that rises without yeast: puff pastry

This title is a wordplay worthy of a magician. Well yes!

We’re speaking of mechanical leavening, a word many people are not familiar with; other types of leavening processes are better-known.

Let’s dwell on this concept a little. The types of leavening occurring in baking are:

  • natural
  • chemical
  • physical
  • mechanical

Natural – or biological – leavening:

It occurs when mother dough or brewer’s yeast are used.

Chemical leavening:

It occurs when baking powder (leavening agents) is used.

Physical leavening:

It occurs by incorporating air into a mixture (meringues, sponge cake).

Mechanical leavening:

It is obtained by the combined action of heat and steam.

Which preparations leaven mechanically?

The answer is easy: PUFF PASTRY!

Let’s have a closer look at this type of leavening process. Unlinke the other doughs, puff pastry is made of 2 preparations:

These two doughs are then combined and laminated through the folding process.

Thanks to the heat formed during baking, the water contained in the détrempe evaporates but it hits a watertight layer (the butter block) which pushes steam up forming the typical laminated layers and making the pastry puff.

How can we control the leavening of dough?

In doughs that require yeast the solution is easy:

we only need vary the amount of yeast in the recipe depending on several factors, such as outside temperature, to make sure the outcome is perfect both in winter and in summer.

Of course, we cannot do it with puff pastry because it contains no yeast!

The leavening of puff pastry is given by several factors:

  1. Kneading the détrempe – The longer I work my dough the stronger and more resistant it is, and the leavening is less intense but uneven; conversely, if I work the dough shortly my détrempe rises more, but less regularly.
  2. Carefully creating the folds – The folds must be done very accurately, and the corners of the dough must be lined up otherwise the pastry will puff irregularly.
  3. Number of folds – A higher number of folds makes the dough rise evenly but not abundantly; conversely, few folds make the dough rise a lot but rather unevenly.
  4. Quality and choice of raw materials (butter or margarine, flour) – do I really need to repeat it again? This aspect is crucial to make an excellent puff pastry!
  5. Oven temperature – Set the oven at approx. 200°C to allow perfect mechanical leavening and maximum puff.
Here’s one last reccomendation:

this dough must be rolled out quite thin, we cannot use the same thickness of shortcrust pastry, otherwise our desserts will be raw inside and indigestible!!

Have a nice dessert!!


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2 Responses

  1. Precy T. Caronongan
    | Reply

    Great explanation why there is neither yeast nor baking powder when making puff oastry

  2. Mel
    | Reply

    thanks… I was wondering why I did not need leavening!

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