Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Strudel & Puff Pastry

We spent the morning learning about gluten development in doughs because we would be working with two types of dough that were depended on gluten's two proteins gliadin and glutenin to give it structure and strength. By combining flour and water and kneading it, we produced a very simple dough and if we washed away the starch surrounding it, we could see and sort of manipulate the webbing created by the gluten, getting an idea of the webbing. Pretty interesting stuff really.

From what I understand, gliadin provides the stretch and elasticity, while glutenin provides the dough structure and strength.

To start off, needed to start our puff paste dough because it would require lots of trips in and out of the fridge to let the dough rest between creating layers. We started with a simple dough of butter, flour, cold water and a pinch of salt, and rolled it out into a 1/2 inch thick, large square shape then let it rest in the fridge while we shaped the roll-in butter for the dough, which is basically a huge lump of butter (with a little flour) rolled to roughly the same shape and thickness of as the dough. Once the dough and the butter have rested and had time to chill, the butter is placed diamond-like on the square dough, and the flaps of the dough are folded over the roll-in fat and rolled together, flipped, folded onto itself by thirds and allowed to rest and chill again before the next rolling and folding (called a 'turn').

This process took a long time, particularly because of the time needed between each stage for resting and chilling. If we didn't let the dough and butter rest, the butter would begin to temper and melt, destroying the layers we were trying to create by doing all the folding and resting.

I'd never made puff paste before, so the process was really interesting to me and I was happy to have a chance to do it. I couldn't believe just how much butter was rolled into the dough. In this class, I've mostly been rather disgusted by the food we've made smothered in butter and even if I used to like it (hollandaise sauce comes to mind) after seeing just how much butter went into it, I haven't been able to eat it again. Oddly, I don't feel that way about puff pastry. I think it's because I can't really taste the butter in the layers, just the flaky deliciousness of the crust.

Next up was preparing everything for the apple strudel. I'd never seen a strudel being made, and I've never been much of a strudel person, so, again, watching and participating in the process was really interesting.

Potter, my partner for the day, made the dough for the strudel while I went to work slicing apples and preparing the filling for the strudel. I'll never get over how many apple and pear desserts we've made this semester. I've never been so sick and so enthralled by the apple before.

I never realize that strudel pastry needed to be so elastic, but it was obvious later on why it needed the elasticity. The dough was made with flour and a little fat, not much of anything else. The pastry is rolled out and stretched very carefully over the back of our hands on a large worktable draped with a tablecloth. We kept pulling at the dough slowly and what started as a small lump of dough ended up being this massive tissue-like dough that spread out well over seven feet by 5 feet.

Starting size:

Stretching the dough:

Cindy said that it should be so thin (evenly all over the dough) that a newspaper can be read through it. The eventual size and thinness:
Once the dough is to the right shape and size, we trim off some of the excess hanging of the edge of the table and place the filling along one side of the dough in a long, thing strip. Since the dough is so gentle and thin, it would be too risky to pick up the dough of the strudel and roll it with out hands, we'd likely end up with lots of little holes where our fingers touched the dough. Instead, we use the tablecloth that we'd be stretching the dough out on and lifted it to start the rolling process on the strudel:

Once it was all rolled we tucked the ends underneath itself and transfered the entire roll to a baking sheet and cut in some steam vents.

They turned out nicely, but for the effort, I don't imagine I'll be making one any time soon. The flavoring is similar to apple pie and apple turnovers and if I really need a flaky apple dessert, apple tarte tatin is a far easier option.

I'm glad for the experience though!