Maximum puff pastry rise


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What's the ideal amount of turns (i.e. layers) and thickness if you're going for highest possible rise in puff pastry, say for vol-au-vent or pithiviers? I know the classic method is 6 single turns for 1459 layers (729 layers of butter), but I've read that while more layers create more flakiness, it may also inhibit rise since you risk the butter layers becoming too thin and merging with the dough. So would making fewer layers instead result in higher rise, and around where should I aim for: 1000 layers, 700 layers, 500 layers?

Additionally, the usual instructions for puff pastry are to sheet to 2-3mm thickness, but a slightly thicker dough would end up with a taller product, right? However, if the puff pastry is too thick, then I'd imagine some problems you may run into are a) thicker layers being too heavy and actually impeding rise; and b) difficult fully cooking the middle. So again, does anyone know what the best happy medium is: 5mm, 6mm, etc?
 
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What's the ideal amount of turns (i.e. layers) and thickness if you're going for highest possible rise in puff pastry, say for vol-au-vent or pithiviers? I know the classic method is 6 single turns for 1459 layers (729 layers of butter), but I've read that while more layers create more flakiness, it may also inhibit rise since you risk the butter layers becoming too thin and merging with the dough. So would making fewer layers instead result in higher rise, and around where should I aim for: 1000 layers, 700 layers, 500 layers?

Additionally, the usual instructions for puff pastry are to sheet to 2-3mm thickness, but a slightly thicker dough would end up with a taller product, right? However, if the puff pastry is too thick, then I'd imagine some problems you may run into are a) thicker layers being too heavy and actually impeding rise; and b) difficult fully cooking the middle. So again, does anyone know what the best happy medium is: 5mm, 6mm, etc?
While I’ve never made a pithivier, I can tell you they are not excessively puffy. And when it comes to puff pastry, or any laminated dough, more is definitely not better. When I first started out I was under the impression more turns would be better, as we all do. But that is not the case. Too many turns will yield a flat pastry.

The flakiness, or puffiness if you will, is less about the turns and really more about the quality of your lamination. If you fuse the layers it doesn’t matter if you made the correct number of turns or not. That dough simply will not puff.

The plasticity of the butter is key to good lamination. You need the butter to roll, not break. Locking in the butter block, and the initial roll out and letter fold, or whatever folding technique you use, are the most important steps. Normally you do two turns in that initial set up after you lock in the butter block. If you can roll it out without breaking up the butter, most likely the rest of the turns will roll out very well. As long as you have even layers of fat between the initial layers, then the dough won’t fuse to itself in the rest of the lamination as long as you don’t press, stretch and tear the dough in rolling during subsequent turns.

It’s that fat separation that allows the dough to puff. You can have those layers but if you fuse them you’re not gonna get any puffy. The butter plasticity and your rolling technique is really important. It’s not just about the number of turns.

But in so far as the number of turns I think it’s kind of a personal preference. I’ve noticed that younger bakers tend to do more turns, older more experienced bakers tend to do less.
 
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While I’ve never made a pithivier, I can tell you they are not excessively puffy. And when it comes to puff pastry, or any laminated dough, more is definitely not better. When I first started out I was under the impression more turns would be better, as we all do. But that is not the case. Too many turns will yield a flat pastry.

The flakiness, or puffiness if you will, is less about the turns and really more about the quality of your lamination. If you fuse the layers it doesn’t matter if you made the correct number of turns or not. That dough simply will not puff.

The plasticity of the butter is key to good lamination. You need the butter to roll, not break. Locking in the butter block, and the initial roll out and letter fold, or whatever folding technique you use, are the most important steps. Normally you do two turns in that initial set up after you lock in the butter block. If you can roll it out without breaking up the butter, most likely the rest of the turns will roll out very well. As long as you have even layers of fat between the initial layers, then the dough won’t fuse to itself in the rest of the lamination as long as you don’t press, stretch and tear the dough in rolling during subsequent turns.

It’s that fat separation that allows the dough to puff. You can have those layers but if you fuse them you’re not gonna get any puffy. The butter plasticity and your rolling technique is really important. It’s not just about the number of turns.

But in so far as the number of turns I think it’s kind of a personal preference. I’ve noticed that younger bakers tend to do more turns, older more experienced bakers tend to do less.
I've been doing some reading lately on the actual optimal temperature for the butter during lamination, to ensure it's not too warm (causing it to fuse with the dough layers), but also not too cold (causing it to shatter). I know the guideline is "cold but pliable" and the butter and dough should be as the same consistency, but me being me, I always like having some hard numbers to go by too. Especially as as beginner, I may not be the best judge of "cold but pliable", and besides once the butter is locked in you can't really tell its consistency anymore.

I'm seeing 55-57°F (13-14°C) as about what most people recommend, give or take about 1°C. And from what I understand, the détrempe should be a bit colder than that to be at the same consistency as the beurrage. However, something to take into consideration is that not all butter is created equal, as you mentioned previously in another discussion we had. The temperature for the ideal consistency for one brand of butter won't necessarily be the same for another. So at the end of the day I think I'll just have to do more experimenting to gain experience with laminating using the butter that I've got.

The reason why I mentioned pithivier is actually from this video. I love how beautifully it rises, but when I tried my hand at it I didn't have nearly as much rise on the edges. That's undoubtedly partly from faults in the lamination for making the puff pastry itself, cutting out the circles, and/or egg wash dripping down, but I was thinking the amount of turns I made (6 single turns) and the final rolled-out thickness of the puff pastry also contributed. In the video he rolls it out to 3mm, but I'm still wondering whether it'd have a better rise if it was slightly thicker, say 4 or 5mm.

Aside: I also found this interesting video that did an experiment on even greater numbers of layers in puff pastry. As expected, doing more than 6 single turns (>1500 layers) ended up creating less flakiness as the layers started to fuse into each other. It wasn't clear which one created the most rise, though.
 
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@Cahoot,

He’s using an inverse puff pastry instead of a standard puff pastry. The frangipane, which is a custard, has moisture, so will steam when baked. Inverse puff is a lot crispier than standard puff pastry, so it will perform better in this application.

Couple years ago I tried to make a gluten-free pithivier, it was a disaster. Gluten free puff pastry is pie in the sky dreaming even though I do have a good cookbook with a recipe for GF puff pastry. A pithivier is a lot of work. The fact that you made one says a lot about you as a baker.

Insofar as temperature of butter for lamination it really depends on the butterfat and water content. The higher the butterfat, the less water.

If you use a imported French butter, the butterfat will be around 86%. Irish butter like Kerrygold will have 83% butterfat. But the average Canadian butter is only 80% butterfat.

A higher butterfat content yields a softer butter, while more water can cause the butter to become very brittle cold. Especially if you use the freezer to chill the dough in between turns.

Peter Yuen, who is a master of laminated dough, “tempers” the butter. He puts it between plastic wrap and runs it through through a sheeter. Remember butterfat has crystals from the pasteurization process. So it’s not crazy to temper butter to align the crystals.

They make butter sheets specifically for lamination. Each manufacturer knows precisely what temperature is best for their particular butter sheets. Corman’s is 82% butterfat, they recommend 15°C – 20°C (59°F – 68°F). They recommend and ideal dough temperature is 4°C - 6°C (40°F - 42°F). I’m sure you can buy 82% butterfat butter in Canada; every manufacture of course is different, but you could use those temperatures as a guide.



https://www.corman-pro-artisan.com/en/products/20-extra-butter-82-fat-sheet
 
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@Cahoot,

He’s using an inverse puff pastry instead of a standard puff pastry. The frangipane, which is a custard, has moisture, so will steam when baked. Inverse puff is a lot crispier than standard puff pastry, so it will perform better in this application.

Couple years ago I tried to make a gluten-free pithivier, it was a disaster. Gluten free puff pastry is pie in the sky dreaming even though I do have a good cookbook with a recipe for GF puff pastry. A pithivier is a lot of work. The fact that you made one says a lot about you as a baker.

Insofar as temperature of butter for lamination it really depends on the butterfat and water content. The higher the butterfat, the less water.

If you use a imported French butter, the butterfat will be around 86%. Irish butter like Kerrygold will have 83% butterfat. But the average Canadian butter is only 80% butterfat.

A higher butterfat content yields a softer butter, while more water can cause the butter to become very brittle cold. Especially if you use the freezer to chill the dough in between turns.

Peter Yuen, who is a master of laminated dough, “tempers” the butter. He puts it between plastic wrap and runs it through through a sheeter. Remember butterfat has crystals from the pasteurization process. So it’s not crazy to temper butter to align the crystals.

They make butter sheets specifically for lamination. Each manufacturer knows precisely what temperature is best for their particular butter sheets. Corman’s is 82% butterfat, they recommend 15°C – 20°C (59°F – 68°F). They recommend and ideal dough temperature is 4°C - 6°C (40°F - 42°F). I’m sure you can buy 82% butterfat butter in Canada; every manufacture of course is different, but you could use those temperatures as a guide.



https://www.corman-pro-artisan.com/en/products/20-extra-butter-82-fat-sheet
I haven't seen any real confirmation, but from my observations it seems that inverse puff pastry is by far the most popular for French pastry chefs. I haven't tried making it yet though, since I still wanted to get a bit more comfortable with classic puff pastry before advancing to the next one.

I've never heard about tempering butter before, but Corman's link also mentions it. I haven't been able to find information on what the actual tempering process is - is it simply sheeting the butter itself, or does it involve heating/cooling like with chocolate?

Related to that, from googling these questions I've had I recently found a neat Canadian baking magazine called Baker's Journal. This article on croissants actually mentions Peter Yuen and his technique of tempering butter: https://www.bakersjournal.com/quintessential-croissants-4586/

They do sell 82% butterfat butter in grocery stores here, but I've never bought it because it's much more expensive than 80% b.f. butter. I can't remember the cost off the top of my head, but I'd estimate around 2x or more the price of regular butter on sale (since I usually just get butter in bulk when it's on sale and store it in the freezer).

The temperature benchmark given by Corman's is interesting. Intuitively, with the range of 15-20°C, then you'd think for a lower b.f., higher water butter, the ideal temperature would be even higher, which makes the 13-14°C range I found a bit too low. However, I've no idea how the formulation of this butter compares to regular grocery store butter, and hence whether its ideal temperature range can be used for comparison.

The Baker's Journal article I linked also recommended a minimum butter temperature of 9°C (48°F), which makes sense. The recommended dough of 4-6°C (39-43°C) is colder than I'd thought. I don't know how cold the détrempe gets in my fridge, but using those guidelines may mean placing it in the freezer for a bit to reach that temperature before doing the lock-in and laminating.
 
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I haven't seen any real confirmation, but from my observations it seems that inverse puff pastry is by far the most popular for French pastry chefs. I haven't tried making it yet though, since I still wanted to get a bit more comfortable with classic puff pastry before advancing to the next one.

I've never heard about tempering butter before, but Corman's link also mentions it. I haven't been able to find information on what the actual tempering process is - is it simply sheeting the butter itself, or does it involve heating/cooling like with chocolate?

Related to that, from googling these questions I've had I recently found a neat Canadian baking magazine called Baker's Journal. This article on croissants actually mentions Peter Yuen and his technique of tempering butter: https://www.bakersjournal.com/quintessential-croissants-4586/

They do sell 82% butterfat butter in grocery stores here, but I've never bought it because it's much more expensive than 80% b.f. butter. I can't remember the cost off the top of my head, but I'd estimate around 2x or more the price of regular butter on sale (since I usually just get butter in bulk when it's on sale and store it in the freezer).

The temperature benchmark given by Corman's is interesting. Intuitively, with the range of 15-20°C, then you'd think for a lower b.f., higher water butter, the ideal temperature would be even higher, which makes the 13-14°C range I found a bit too low. However, I've no idea how the formulation of this butter compares to regular grocery store butter, and hence whether its ideal temperature range can be used for comparison.

The Baker's Journal article I linked also recommended a minimum butter temperature of 9°C (48°F), which makes sense. The recommended dough of 4-6°C (39-43°C) is colder than I'd thought. I don't know how cold the détrempe gets in my fridge, but using those guidelines may mean placing it in the freezer for a bit to reach that temperature before doing the lock-in and laminating.

That’s a good article. Croissant and puff pastry are essentially the same dough, the difference is simplyyeast is added to croissant dough. Since he is a Canadian this is helpful for you.
  • blend a flour mix of 80% / 20% all purpose to pastry flour
  • use a high butterfat butter
  • laminating the butter to make it pliable

Regarding the dough temperatures in the article: Keep in mind Dumonceaux’s temperature is based on chilling the dough in the freezer, not the refrigerator. Freezers are normally set at -18°C (0°F) and refrigerators at 4°C (40°F). That’s a significant difference in temperature. He’s also using a commercial freezer for food production. So there’s deep shelves, and a lot of them; its not filled with a bunch of miscellaneous food items. So the freezing cold air circulates much better around the dough, chilling it much faster than in your home freezer.

Corman’s website doesn’t state whether the dough is chilled in the refrigerator or freezer. But looking at the dough temperature range of 4°C - 6°C (40°F - 42°F), I would have to assume the refrigerator since this is the range that a refrigerator is normally set.

I am not sure exactly how Peter Yuen tempers the butter. I know it goes through the sheeter. I assume it goes through in one direction. The action of sheeting the butter would create friction heat, so that would heat it up. I do not thing the butter would be heated any other way as that would risk breaking the butter. A couple of the instructions I worked with recently know Peter and worked with him. They have mentioned a few things Peter does. But they don’t say exactly how he does things. But pretty much everyone is in awe of what this man can do with laminated dough.

But however it is done, I intend to learn. Peter Yuen is considered a grand master of laminated dough. Yuen periodically teaches as a guest instructor where I take classes. I had planned to take a 2 day workshop with him earlier this year, but the COVID-19 shut down cancelled all classes. I have a credit on file with the training center. So if and when Peter Yuen reschedules the workshop, I will definitely enroll.

Just one other thing...in the pithivier video, did you notice how before he made the tri-fold he used the rolling pin to slightly flatten the edge of the dough that was on the inside? That is important. when making folds to reduce the bulk so the dough rolls evenly after it is chilled. At the training center earlier this year of the bakers who is pretty much strictly bread was making pasta; when he went to make his tri-fold he pressed the inside edge down just like you do when making laminated dough; then looked up and said, “Peter Yuen taught me that; now when I put this through the pasta roller it will roll out more evenly.”
 
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That’s a good article. Croissant and puff pastry are essentially the same dough, the difference is simplyyeast is added to croissant dough. Since he is a Canadian this is helpful for you.
  • blend a flour mix of 80% / 20% all purpose to pastry flour
  • use a high butterfat butter
  • laminating the butter to make it pliable

Regarding the dough temperatures in the article: Keep in mind Dumonceaux’s temperature is based on chilling the dough in the freezer, not the refrigerator. Freezers are normally set at -18°C (0°F) and refrigerators at 4°C (40°F). That’s a significant difference in temperature. He’s also using a commercial freezer for food production. So there’s deep shelves, and a lot of them; its not filled with a bunch of miscellaneous food items. So the freezing cold air circulates much better around the dough, chilling it much faster than in your home freezer.

Corman’s website doesn’t state whether the dough is chilled in the refrigerator or freezer. But looking at the dough temperature range of 4°C - 6°C (40°F - 42°F), I would have to assume the refrigerator since this is the range that a refrigerator is normally set.

I am not sure exactly how Peter Yuen tempers the butter. I know it goes through the sheeter. I assume it goes through in one direction. The action of sheeting the butter would create friction heat, so that would heat it up. I do not thing the butter would be heated any other way as that would risk breaking the butter. A couple of the instructions I worked with recently know Peter and worked with him. They have mentioned a few things Peter does. But they don’t say exactly how he does things. But pretty much everyone is in awe of what this man can do with laminated dough.

But however it is done, I intend to learn. Peter Yuen is considered a grand master of laminated dough. Yuen periodically teaches as a guest instructor where I take classes. I had planned to take a 2 day workshop with him earlier this year, but the COVID-19 shut down cancelled all classes. I have a credit on file with the training center. So if and when Peter Yuen reschedules the workshop, I will definitely enroll.

Just one other thing...in the pithivier video, did you notice how before he made the tri-fold he used the rolling pin to slightly flatten the edge of the dough that was on the inside? That is important. when making folds to reduce the bulk so the dough rolls evenly after it is chilled. At the training center earlier this year of the bakers who is pretty much strictly bread was making pasta; when he went to make his tri-fold he pressed the inside edge down just like you do when making laminated dough; then looked up and said, “Peter Yuen taught me that; now when I put this through the pasta roller it will roll out more evenly.”
I might've actually missed that part of the video (skipped through the puff pastry part), but funnily enough I actually learned that technique from another video:

I think in the past, I also rolled the dough too thick when laminating, causing more uneveness when folding. I'm guessing <1cm is a good benchmark for thickness before folding? It's just that even though I've given a couple of hours rest between series of turns, used lower protein flour, tried not to overwork the dough, etc., it starts to spring back when rolling and so becomes difficult rolling any thinner. At that point I don't wanna risk melting the butter so I just settle for making the fold haha.

If you don't mind, there's another question I just thought of. The article I linked also mentioned doing a "sandwich" lock, where the détrempe is cut in half to sandwich the butter block, instead of folding it over the butter block like a traditional French lock. So this eliminates the edges where there's just dough and no butter. Is this really advantageous compared to the normal fat lock-in methods? I figure the main advantage is that it makes for a more evenly laminated dough since you don't start with edges of just dough, but you also don't really "lock" in the butter, so it might risk squeezing out?

I'm very jealous of the Peter Yuen workshop you may be able to take. I honestly quite enjoyed working with puff pastry and have been trying to get better at laminating (i.e. what I'm doing here!). Would be a pretty nice experience to learn from one of the world's best experts in laminated dough. I found this interview from him on Pastry Arts Magazine: https://pastryartsmag.com/people/peter-yuen-interview/. I thought some of the business-side tidbits along with his thoughts on new trends in vienoisserie were interesting. Might be a fun read if you haven't read it before.
 
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I might've actually missed that part of the video (skipped through the puff pastry part), but funnily enough I actually learned that technique from another video:

I think in the past, I also rolled the dough too thick when laminating, causing more uneveness when folding. I'm guessing <1cm is a good benchmark for thickness before folding? It's just that even though I've given a couple of hours rest between series of turns, used lower protein flour, tried not to overwork the dough, etc., it starts to spring back when rolling and so becomes difficult rolling any thinner. At that point I don't wanna risk melting the butter so I just settle for making the fold haha.

If you don't mind, there's another question I just thought of. The article I linked also mentioned doing a "sandwich" lock, where the détrempe is cut in half to sandwich the butter block, instead of folding it over the butter block like a traditional French lock. So this eliminates the edges where there's just dough and no butter. Is this really advantageous compared to the normal fat lock-in methods? I figure the main advantage is that it makes for a more evenly laminated dough since you don't start with edges of just dough, but you also don't really "lock" in the butter, so it might risk squeezing out?

I'm very jealous of the Peter Yuen workshop you may be able to take. I honestly quite enjoyed working with puff pastry and have been trying to get better at laminating (i.e. what I'm doing here!). Would be a pretty nice experience to learn from one of the world's best experts in laminated dough. I found this interview from him on Pastry Arts Magazine: https://pastryartsmag.com/people/peter-yuen-interview/. I thought some of the business-side tidbits along with his thoughts on new trends in vienoisserie were interesting. Might be a fun read if you haven't read it before.
That was a good interview on Yuen. It’s always nice to learn about the bakers, how they came to be where they are today. I am very fortunate to live in an area that has a lively food and wine industry. The artisan baking movement started in the San Francisco Bay Area. so there are top training centers here that attract world class talent from all over the world.

The stacking of the dough on the butter block is the way I was taught by another master baker who is on Peter’s level. He runs the training center where I take classes. You can get a glimpse of the technique in Yuen’s video below.

I guess I never really thought about the thickness of the dough, I just go by feel and look. I roll out to a certain width and length. I guess my batches are scaled for the width and length. But you can feel and see it and just know if it is too thick or thin.

 

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