Pastry chef tips – Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand


More often than not, I always share tips and techniques in my posts. Why clingfilm to the touch, how to fold cream when making a mousse, how to get a neat crack on top of a loaf, how to blindbake tarts, and so on.

But since so many of you requested, I thought I’d start a new feature* where I give you not-so-secret tips from a pastry chef. I’ve found over the years, that it – almost always – gets down to these little things. Yes, they usually make all the difference.

Today, as I was rolling some craquelin (a thick dough made of butter, demerara sugar and flour; and used to top choux before baking – but more on that soon!) I realised there is one thing I always do when rolling dough; and yet, I haven’t told you about it before.
This is exactly the kind of things I’ll talk about here. Possibly very random. But if those pastry chef tips can be useful to at least one person, then I’ll be the happiest.

The tip

Before rolling it, flatten the dough the palm of your hand. Use fast movements, with as little contact as possible with the dough to avoid warming it (which causes the water present in the butter to be more available for gluten to develop, which isn’t something you want for a short dough). And flatten it into a rough rectangle, almost to the thickness to which you want to roll your dough.
Top it with another layer of baking paper or feuille guitare and this way, once armed with your rolling pin, all you’ll have to do is to even out the bumps.

The reason behind it

Flattening the dough before rolling makes the actual rolling much easier and faster. By shortening the rolling process, you’ll reduce the amount of time and the strength with which the dough is worked, hence minimising gluten development.
This technique also makes it much easier to have an uniformly rolled-out dough, with the same thickness through-out; which, in my opinion, is something fundamental when it comes to tarts. When dough is rolled to an even thickness, it will prevent it from collapsing in the oven and will bake consistently.
Yes it might be easy to achieve when rolling 300g of dough, but keep in mind, that at the restaurant (and I’m not talking about pastry shops here, as most of them have a laminoir [dough break]) we roll pâtons between 750g up to 1kg, depending on the thickness we want it to be.

Notes

As Pete noted in the comments, the dough is quite soft. This is because I always roll my dough before refrigerating it for at least 4 hours. I’ve never understood why so many people call for chilling the ball of dough before rolling it, as you’ll then have to either leave out to come to room temperature (which goes against every dough rule: a dough should stay as cold as possible at all times to avoid gluten development) or bash it with a rolling pin.
What I recommend is: make your dough, flatten it, roll it until smooth, and then chill it in between two sheets of baking paper or guitare. It can now be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for a couple of months.

In the pictures above, I’m using a cut-out freezer bag to roll my dough; it’s definitely not as nice as the feuilles guitare I’m used to, but ok enough.

I normally turn my sheet of dough as I go, but for the sake of our animated gif sesh, I moved around the dough instead; DON’T do this at home!

* Remind to re-organise this blog one day please. Right now it’s the happiest mess I’ve ever seen. Do you find it hard to navigate/find what you’re looking for?

12 thoughts on “Pastry chef tips – Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand

  • Pete April 14, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Love this kind of stuff. The animation is so useful. More please!

    The dough looks quite soft when you work it, so I presume it’s not straight from the fridge. Has it be out at room temperature for a bit or did you whack it with the pin a few times?

    • fanny April 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm

      I never place my dough in the fridge before rolling. But roll it straight after it’s made and then refrigerate it for at least 4 hours before using it.

      PS. thank you for your enthusiasm! xx

  • emily April 14, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    This makes so much sense! I love the science behind it too – I agree with Pete, more please!

  • Paula April 15, 2015 at 11:08 am

    I love this tip, Fanny!!! 😀 I’ll make it, I have a little-hate relationship with rolling pin!

  • Ken April 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Spot on, Fanny! It has never made sense to chill and roll. In a similar vein, I have had friends ask me about pasta dough – following a recipe, they have been unable to roll the dough when it comes out of the fridge! Quelle surprise!

  • dyuies April 15, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Great tip! I found the traditional way (make the dough-put into fridge-bring out-wait-roll) quite repetitive but never known we could do it another way lol THANKS LOADS! x

  • dyuies April 15, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Is there anything to do with the 4 hour resting btw?

    • fanny April 16, 2015 at 8:30 pm

      Do you mean skipping the resting time? If so, you can shorten it to 30-60 minutes, but don’t tell me about it 😉

  • Rachel April 16, 2015 at 2:40 am

    Hi Fanny,
    What a great tip for getting the pastry into the right shape before rolling. If you were making a tart or pie, would you roll the pastry and then put it in the tart tin or pie dish before you refrigerate it or would you roll it, chill it and then put it in the tart tin or pie dish once it had rested. I would like to know which way gives you the best results for a pie or a tart.

    • fanny April 16, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      Hi Rachel, it depends which dough I’m using. If I made a pâte brisée [shortcrust] then I like to line my ring straight away as it hardens quite a lot once chilled and I just find it easier this way. I don’t trim the edges straight away though. If using pâte sucrée [sweet paste] I roll and chill; and then line. If you’re interested I have a few notes about lining/blindbaking tarts made of pâte sucrée here: http://www.likeastrawberrymilk.com/2015/01/notes-blind-baking-tarts/ x

      • Rachel April 17, 2015 at 5:17 am

        Thanks Fanny,
        Those blind baking tips are really useful as well. I will gather all these pearls of wisdom and put them in a folder so I can find them when I need them. Keep publishing your tutorials – they are really practical for pastry novices like me.

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