Dessert Components: Pastry Dough, Part Deux

Click to read Part 1, addressing pie crust and laminated dough.

Finally, I am getting around to Part 2 of the Big Old Subject of pastry dough.  As I mentioned in Part: The First, this subject is much broader than One might think.  When considering pastry dough, most folks think of pie crust and then call it a day.  But there are so many more types of doughs out there than just “standard” pie crust.  I loosely categorized them thusly:  pie crust, laminated dough, yeast doughs and pate a choux.

Yeast Doughs

For our purposes today, when talking about yeast doughs, we’ll only look at enriched doughs–doughs that contain relatively large amounts of fat, sugar and/or eggs along with the standard Big Four of the bread world: flour, water, salt and yeast.  Dough that only contains the Big Four ingredients, or only trace amounts of some of the richer ingredients are called “lean” doughs.  Like Jack Sprat.  Today, we shall focus on his wife, the rotund and jovial Mrs. Spratt.

During the pate a choux portion of today’s post, I will attempt to convince you that a)you do Not need a mix from the lovely folks at King Arthur (although they’d be thrilled to sell you one or five) in order to make pate a choux and b)pate a choux is Dead Easy to make.  But first, I give you Mrs. Spratt:

Yeast Dough

You might not think of yeast breads as pastry dough, but take a sec to consider the murky origins of cake.  Most likely, the first cakes bore little resemblance to American butter-based, chemically-leavened cakes of today.  Olden Cakes were initially yeast doughs into which had been tossed some dried fruits.  Later, cooks also began enriching doughs with fats, because Fats are Tasty, carry flavor, improve keeping qualities and also tenderize gluten, leading to much lighter, less chewy end products (think brioche versus a baguette).

And then, along came the baba.  The origins of this alcohol-syrup soaked rich bread are a bit hazy–some sources say that a pastry chef doused a stale panettone with rum syrup, and I tend to buy into this.  I mean, how many Keen foods have been invented on-the-spot to cover up mistakes or to save slightly-past-prime ingredients and minimize waste?  Lots.  I give you the following scenarios:

1) Oops!  I accidentally dropped that burrito into the deep fryer.  Whatever–let’s call it a chimichanga.

2) Hey!  That bread is stale and hard.  I know, I shall soak it in custard and pan fry it.  Hello French toast.

3) Hey! That bread is stale and hard.  I know, I shall cut it into wee bits and dunk it in melted cheese.  Hello fondue.

4) What a tough, stringy old rooster.  But, I’m starving, so I shall toss him in a pot, pour on a bottle of grandpapa’s kinda not-so-great wine, and braise until tender.  Bonjour, coq au vin.

5) Dang!  This sponge cake is boring and kinda dry.  I know, I shall tear it up, glug on some booze, fruit and custard, and call it a trifle.

See what I mean?  So it makes perfect sense to me that someone decided to make a rum syrup to pour over a stupid, dried out panettone, call it something fancy serve it to the king.  Or someone.  Ballsy.  Creative, too.

So, what are some other types of enriched breads?  Well, there’s the classic French brioche, which is so full of egg and butter that you have to shape it straight from the fridge and let it rise for like eight hours before baking.  Those yeasties have to work hard to produce enough CO2 to raise up such a fatty dough.

You’ve also got your challah, which is similar to brioche but contains oil rather than butter.  Then, there’s the sweet dough you’d use to make cinnamon rolls. Or hot cross buns.  Or sticky buns.  The dough itself really isn’t all that sweet, actually.  It doesn’t have to be: you’re filling it and/or topping it with sugary goodness.

So, can you make cinnamon rolls from lean dough? Sure, but the dough will be chewy since it doesn’t contain any tendering fats or sugar.  It’s up to you.  If you want a chewy cinnamon roll (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), be my guest.  Using laen dough in a dessert is far from unheard of.  After all, some of the tastiest doughnuts are the kind that you make out of pizza dough–and that’s pretty lean, too.

Personally, I have one really excellent (I think) sweet dough in my repertoire, and then I change it up by altering the flavoring agents and/or fillings and or/toppings.  It makes life so much easier–way easier than trying to keep track of twelve slightly different doughs for twelve different types of sweet breads.

Here is an Important Thing I want you to know about yeast dough: Yeast dough is one of the most forgiving Pastry Items you can make.  Precision is not as Critical as it is with, say, genoise, pound cake or fancy buttercream.  As long as you have:

  1. flour for bulk and structure
  2. liquid to activate the yeast and jump start gluten formation and keep things nice and moist
  3. salt, for flavor and yeast growth management
  4. yeast, to eat and do their yeastie thing

your bread will be just fine. It’s nice to know how large your loaf is going to be and all, but if you end up with too much dough, just refrigerate or freeze some of it for use Another Day.  If you’re going to make a sweet dough, with a lot of added fats and sugars, use 1 1/2 to 2 times the yeast you normally would, since they’ll be working in territory that is Hostile to Yeast.

Here’s some more Information on Bread:

My Basic Breads page on the main Pastry Chef Online site.
Cinnamon Rolls (and why those weird tubes of dough are Bad)
Check out the potato baba portion of the TaytoRiCo post for a completely free-form (no recipe) potato-based enriched dough.

Take your favorite basic sweet dough and change it up by kneading in any combination of dried fruits, citrus zest, crystallized ginger, spices, sweet herbs, nuts, etc.  You can fill your sweet dough by rolling it out in a sheet, slathering on some filling and then rolling it like a cinnamon roll, or you can just roll it flat, spoon filling lengthwise down the center and then pinch the long ends together all down the length so you end up with a Tube o’ Dough filled with whatever yumminess you chose to put inside.  You can even do this on a small scale with three portions of dough and then carefully braid them together.

For a sweet topping, you can make anything from a simple confectioners’ sugar glaze to a spiced confectioners’ sugar sprinkle to cream cheese frosting to ganache.  Just make sure that your topping complements your bread without masking its flavor.

Like I said, yeast dough is surprisingly forgiving, so just play with it and have fun.

Pâte à Choux

Back in one of my pâte à choux posts, I likened the stuff to something made by Cyberdyne Industries.  Like the Terminator.  Because it was made to do one thing and one thing only:  rise up to dizzying heights.  (Now that I think about it, puff pastry falls into that category, too, ‘cept it does take awhile to make).  So, don’t be thinking that it’s all hard and stuff to make pâte à choux.  Because it isn’t.

Pâte à choux contains like five ingredients.  It’s just about as easy to make as it is to make some cheese toast. It contains:

  1. liquid (water, milk or a mixture of the two)
  2. salt (and a little sugar)
  3. butter
  4. bread flour
  5. eggs

Here’s the short version of how to do it:

  • Bring liquid, salt (sugar) and butter to a boil.
  • Dump in flour all at once and stir until it looks like mashed potatoes.
  • Stir over the heat for a minute or so to dry out the dough a bit.
  • Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix for a couple of minutes just to cool it off.
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time, until the dough barely flows and more or less holds its shape.  When you pick up the paddle, the dough that is left on it will form a smooth V-shape off the bottom of the paddle.  If it’s a very raggedy V or breaks off before you get a reasonable point, you’ll need to add another egg white or yolk (a whole egg will probably make it too wet).
  • Do with it what you will.

What to Do with It

  • Pipe it straight into the deep fryer to make lighter-than-air funnel cakes.
  • Pipe it onto parchment, freeze solid and then, when you need them, toss directly into the deep fryer. (You can control the shape this way.  Pipe zig-zags, curlicues, numbers, letters–whatever you like).
  • Pipe into fingers and bake to make eclairs or mini eclairs.
  • Pipe into little mounds for profiteroles or cream puffs.
  • Pipe them into 1″ segments directly into simmering water to make Parisian gnocchi.
  • If you leave out the sugar, add enough salt to taste plus some cheese, you magically have batter for gougeres.  Traditionally made w/Gruyere cheese, you can use whatever kind of cheese you want.  They bake up crisp and, well…cheesy.  You can fill them with stuff, or you can just crunch them up on their own.

Okay, so now we have come to the End of Part II, in which I promised ideas for Keen Items made with one or a combination of these pastry doughs.  So, here we go:

  • Croquembouche:  Make a bunch of cream puffs, fill them with whatever non-melty filling you want, dip them in caramelized sugar and attach them to a large foil-covered Styrofoam cone.  Impressive. (But not difficult)
  • Galette:  Take a circle of puff pastry or pie dough, dump some stone fruit (pitted) in the center.  Sprinkle on a bit of demerara, a wee pinch of salt, a squeeze of citrus juice.  If you want thickened juices, toss your fruit with a little arrowroot or cornstarch, fold the excess dough over the fruit, brush with milk, sprinkle with more demerara, and bake until bubbly and deep golden brown.
  • Make this lovely tart, like my friend Camille did.
  • Paris Brest:  A classic French dessert originally made to celebrate a bicycle race.  Pipe a pretty big, thick ring of pâte à choux.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds and bake in a hot oven (maybe 425F) until well risen and getting golden brown.  Turn the heat down to about 350F and continue baking until deeply golden brown (this helps to dry out the insides to keep your masterpiece from deflating).  Remove from oven, let cool, slice in half horizonally, pull out any doughy bits and fill with whatever.  The traditional filling is a hazelnut-flavored pastry cream, but you’re a rebel.  Fill it with whatever makes you happy.
  • St. Honoré:  A circle of puff pastry edged in a ring of pâte à choux.  Once baked, add another ring of small profiteroles filled with pastry cream or chiboust cream
  • Use your puff pastry to make cheese straws, herbed cheese straws or caramel-y sugar-y straws by rolling both sides of the puff in grated cheese and/or herbs or in sugar, cutting in strips, twisting them and then baking them at about 375-400F.
  • use your sweet dough to make a baba au rhum or a savarin
  • Try experimenting with Japanese cream puffs–an inner ball of pate a choux surrounded by a more traditional pie crust-type dough.  I would try piping and freezing the pate a choux and then molding a thin sheet of pie crust around it.  Freeze the whole shebang and then bake as you would a regular profiterole.  I have no idea if it would work, but it sounds like an Excellent Idea.
  • Make cinnamon rolls (or any kind of snail-ish looking roll) with either puff pastry, croissant dough or sweet dough.  Decide which you like best, or keep all three versions as your favorites.
  • Take a buttery, lightly sweetened pie crust dough, add in a little grated citrus zest, roll out and cut into cookies.  Press a little sugar onto the tops.  These make a nice accompaniment to tea.  Or sherbet.

Add to the list in the comments section, okay?  And if you’re interested in your Certificate of Pastry Dough Prowess, make sure you have commented both here and over in Part One, and I’ll email you one.

Until next time, have a lovely day!


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Comments

  1. says

    Hey, thanks for the link! I love love love parisian gnocchi, they are great on their own, sautéed with brown butter and sage, or bacon and corn, or… and they also make excellent dumplings. As in chicken and dumplings.

    Along the lines of your sugar straws, palmiers are one of my very favorite treats.

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