The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why didn't my puff pastry puff?

cake diva's picture
cake diva

Why didn't my puff pastry puff?

I've made croissant dough the classic way a couple of times and never had problems with the end products.  Today, I made puff pastry and used a portion to make peach tart tatin. I'm disappointed that the crust didn't come out crisp-flaky as it should although I saw it puff a bit while baking.  I used flour labeled organic pastry flour that I bought in a blue bag at Whole Foods.  The flour was the color of wheat, i.e., not white, and the pastry had a wheat taste. Somehow, I remember a whiter-colored pastry flour when I took a class at SFBI. Are there many different types of pastry flour?  There was only this product in the store so I assumed it was the one I needed. Next time, what should I buy when the recipe calls for pastry flour?  Can Swan's Down cake flour substitute?

nbicomputers's picture
nbicomputers

wrong flour


pastry and cake flour are to light


puff bastry use a white bread flour bleached or unbleached

mcs's picture
mcs

of mostly AP flour (bread flour) with about 1/4 cake flour.  If you like, you can email me and I'll go into more detail with the step-by-step. 


-Mark


http://TheBackHomeBakery.com

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I just made some puff pastry a couple of days ago and it really puffed up.  I used AP and cake flour like Mark suggests.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Hey Diva,


Even though puff and croissant doughs are both laminated, there are some significant differences in the method of mixing and laminating.


Can you give us the formula you used, and where you found it?


I agree that flour could be an issue, but I think lamination technique is more likely the culprit.  Since puff is leavened only by steam, you need twice as many layers with puff (and about twice the butter block mass), and those layers really need to be perfect -- no broken pieces of butter, no thin spots for optimal results.


After that, you need to avoid crimping the edges of the pastries as you cut them, not dribbling egg wash over the edges, using enough heat up front to deliver intense steam, and then turning it down a bit to bake out the dough completely so it won't collapse.


Sure, there's some similarities in laminating puff and laminating croissant or Danish, but just the lack of yeast in puff really changes things enough to make it a different animal.


--Dan DiMuzio

cake diva's picture
cake diva

Ok, first let me say I was trying to get rid of my pantry items because I'm going to be leaving Cincinnati (hip hip hooray!) this weekend and won't be coming back for a long time- that's why the wide latitude in formulation.  I actually tried to be close to Michel Roux' classic puff pastry formula in his book Pastry. 


500g AP flour (I used Arrowhead Mills organic pastry flour)


12g salt


25ml white wine vinegar (I used very expensive blood orange vinegar from Napa)


200 ml ice cold water


50g melted butter (I used very soft butter)


400g very cold butter


I made the detrempe the night before using a food processor instead of using the frissage method. I noticed the dough came out very firm (I don't think I pulsed too long), almost as if the water wasn't enough.


Next day, I took out the dough and let it warm for an hour.  The dough was still stiff but I didn't wait-  I just started pounding away.  The butter (which was also pounded) was enclosed just like it would be with croissant dough- in the middle third.  Michel Roux folds the butter with 4 flaps so that the top side of the butter actually has 2 layers of dough on top of it.  And then the rest is typical- a total of 6 turns with 1 hour rest periods in the fridge every 2 turn. Dan, the butter I'm sure was all broken into discontinuous bits. I think it was because the detrempe was very stiff and not at all extensible and I had to expend a lot of force to roll it.


When I stuck the peach tart tatin in the oven (recipe called for 350F), I did see the pastry puff a little.  It was really the taste and texture that I was disappointed with.  The texture was grainy (like whole wheat) and the color and taste was also like whole wheat. 


I have more of the batch in the fridge and tomorrow I am making apple tarts with it. With this pastry, they'll be more like mini open-faced apple pies. :(

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Hi Diva,


The detrempe should be sort of firm -- certainly not wet -- but it should still be supple and not at all hard or crumbly.  In this case, it may well be the flour that defeated you, but not because it was bad, necessarily.  I've never used Arrowhead's white pastry flour, but it's quite possible that the stuff was stronger than what Michel Roux used in his formulation.  Alternatively, the flour could have been several months old, and it may have lost a lot of moisture during that time.  If the moisture level of your flour was even a point or two lower than Roux's, that could take the detrempe from firm all the way to brick-like.


There's a lot of misconception about what the plasticity of the butter should be -- I'll just try to keep this tip simple by recommending that you pound the butter to where it is the same consistency or feel as the cold dough -- not really the same temperature as the cold dough.  Keep the dough very cold before rolling it out, and then cover the sheeted dough and return it to the 'fridge if you like.  THEN pound your cold butter to the same consistency as the cold dough, and proceed to enclose the butter block with dough immediately.


After pounding to the correct degree of flexibility, the friction of the rolling pin on the butter block usually raises the butter's temp to around 60 degrees or so.  After the block is pounded and formed correctly, work quickly.  If the butter gets to be around 70 degrees, it gets too mushy to roll into a consistent thickness.


In my opinion, 350 degrees F is too low for baking puff, unless you're using a convection oven.  For a conventional range oven, somewhere between 375-400 would be a good place to start.  That really generates steam very quickly, which should help insure proper separation between the layers.  If the pastry gets too brown on top before the gluten structure has set completely, that means you need to adjust the temperature downward a bit to allow for a longer bake and less chance of collapse later on.


Just like with any new technique or process in baking, you'll have to experiment a bit with finding the right hydration for your flour, the right degree of development before enclosing the beurrage, and so on.  A wrong guess here or there is just gonna happen -- it does with anybody -- so don't let yourself get too frustrated with the process of figuring it out.


Good luck next time.  And the time after.


--Dan DiMuzio

cake diva's picture
cake diva

Dan et al,


Thanks for the tips.  I think I'll stay away from pastry flour to be safe.  I'll try Mark's suggestion of the AP-cake flour 3:1 combo.  And you're right about the baking temperature. I ended up cranking the temp to 400F when I saw the tart taking a while to brown.  I definitely will be making puff pastry again.  It's too good to pass up.  Hey, it took me a 3rd recipe to get eclairs to rise.  And if I can do croissants, I can do puff pastry!  Now if only I can get a sheeter for my home baking needs.

mcs's picture
mcs

Like Dan said, you're going for the same consistencies of the butter and dough.  If both the dough and butter slab start out at fridge temperature, to make them the same consistency I then put the dough in the freezer for around 90 minutes, and take the butter out of the fridge for 60 minutes (at room temperature of 68F).  Of course this is dependent on your room temperature and dough hydration and all of that stuff, but just as a ballpark figure, this gives me the same consistencies.


-Mark