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.
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.
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?