Brandenburg’s Puff Pastries and Savories
Previously, we touched on some fun stuff: how real bread is made, and classic german baking in Sarah’s family. However, delicious fresh bread and scrumptious chocolate crumb cake aren’t the only thing we make at Brandenburg Bakery.
Croissants and turnovers are examples of puff pastries: layered, tasty, often flaky, and perfect for a quick snack, or if we are talking about one of our savory spinach and feta turnovers, a great lunch.
That’s right, lunch! Sausage and pepper, reuben, and spinach and feta turnovers make an excellent mid-day meal.
Puff pastries are versatile things, and fairly intensive to make. The flaky, buttery textures look so simple and unassuming, but quite a few steps (and days) go into making them.
What’s a puff pastry versus any other pastry?
Most puff pastries have no leavening—yeast or baking powder or another ingredient to make it rise. Unlike other pastries or breads, puff pastries rise by a mechanical process rather than a chemical one.
This is what gives puff pastries those flaky layers we expect from a good turnover, as opposed to the solid structure of, say, bread.
However, some puff pastries do use yeast, like danish and croissants. They are still layered, and rolled and folded much the same.
These layers are what really separate a puff pastry from other types of pastries—the unique textures of a croissant or turnover are very different from other baked goods. Either the butter steaming under baking heat, in the case of a turnover, or us physically rolling berries and almond paste into a long tube of dough, in the case of a danish, create these wonderful layers.
A mechanical process?
When a puff pastry like a turnover is baked, the butter melts and gives off steam. This (tasty) butter steam pushes the layers apart, and infuses the cooking dough with its buttery goodness. This is why every single bit of that turnover is as buttery as any other bit—it’s a part of the very essence of the pastry.
This is what gives us those individual layers of pastry, versus a lump of dough baked solid, and is perfect for holding things like berries and cinnamon. We let the butter do the work, and the lack of yeast keeps the layers thin and flaky instead of thick and doughy. This is why our spinach and feta turnover, for example, is flaky and layered.
Since the puffing up of the puff pastry is because of either butter, or yeast, the ingredient list of these pastries is super simple: flour, water, salt in the dough, butter rolled in as the dough is worked (turnovers and croissants) or added into the mix (danish). In the case of a danish or croissant, yeast, and milk as well.
Maybe even a little cocoa powder, if we're talking about a chocolate turnover.
That’s it. Four or six ingredients.
These very basic building blocks, combined with the rolling, baking, and butter sheets, are all that go into a basic puff pastry.
Of course, a supermarket-bought pastry might have many more ingredients…I mean, how else is the thing going to last two months on the shelf before you eat it?
But, if done right, and done naturally, there is very little in the dough—all the flavor comes from the butter and whatever filling may be in the pastry.
A long term thing…
A puff pastry, if done right, takes days to make.
Each step begins with a thorough rolling of the dough, folding it over itself when thin enough, and rolling some more.
Rinse, repeat, quite a few times.
But here’s the catch: if you overdo this all in one day, the dough starts to break apart. Dough is held together by a fine lattice of proteins, and overdoing the rolling and folding too quickly breaks these down. Since no one wants “most” of a pastry, the dough has to sit—“rest”—between rolling and folding sessions, for at least a few hours, to regain some of the structural strength that gives us a pastry instead of a bunch of torn dough.
During this process—over two days—sheets of pure butter are put on the dough, folded into it, and rolled as flat as the dough itself. Some places use shortening, or oils, or in the case of “magical mystery” canned pastries, some combination of multi-syllable chemicals, instead of butter.
However, butter is the best. The taste, and the consistency, relies on good butter since the butter is the very thing that makes a puff pastry puff. Skimp on this step, and you get a skimpy pastry. No one wants skimpy pastries.
We roll the butter into the dough sheet, fold it some more, roll it some more, let it rest some more, and do it all again until the layers are stacked up nice and neat.
And these layers run into the hundreds. It’s a little game of baker-math (and who doesn’t like math?). If you have two layers and you fold it in half, you get four layers. Fold that, eight. Fold that, sixteen. Fold that…well, you get the picture.
While most puff pastries follow these steps to a point, things get interesting just after.
What makes a turnover and a danish so very different?
It all comes down to these last steps.
A croissant, for example, is cut from the dough and rolled at an angle, and then gently formed into the crescent shape we know and love.
Danish are rolled out into a huge, flat sheet (ours is as long as our entire counter) and then filled with whatever delicious goodie is going inside—blueberries and almond paste, maybe. Then, like a giant cigar, it is rolled starting at one long side until we have a huge tube of dough and filling, to be slice into parts and baked. The rolling of the dough is what gives us those peelable layers of danish tastiness we know and love.
A turnover brings out the straight-edge. The large, final flat sheet of dough is divided into little rectangles, filled, and then folded over itself—hence the name, turnover. This is what gives us the pocked of goodness inside, like our spinach and feta or chocolate turnovers.
Hard work pays off
When finished, the pastries are baked, and the butter does its magic.
What you end up with is a wonderful, delicious, and light treat.
We think you'd be hard pressed to find better puff pastries anywhere else in the area, as Errol and Sarah pride themselves on making them from scratch, with real butter, all natural ingredients, and it shows!
Come in this weekend (and any other day!) for our wide variety of made-from-scratch danish, croissants, and hearty turnovers. Blueberry, poppy seed, almond, and raspberry danish, as well as our ever-popular savory turnovers and flaky croissants, are here for a delicious snack or quick lunch!
Photos by Glow Jar Photography