American Butter vs. European Butter


Baked Puff Pastry for American Butter vs. European Butter for Laminated DoughsButter used to be butter.  Cream was churned and separated into butter and buttermilk.  While it is still made that way, where in the world it comes from makes a difference, both in taste and its ability to make laminated doughs rise dramatically.  The puff pastry above started out as a 3/8 inch rectangle and rose to a dramatic 3 inches.

For this test, I used Land O Lakes American butter and Kerry Gold Irish butter.  I couldn’t find Plugra in my area.  Both of the butters were unsalted.Butters used for American Butter vs. European Butter

The puff pastry dough, which we will get into in the coming weeks is made with the same technique as the Croissant.  The butter is cut into small pieces and frozen.  The detrempe is made and partially frozen.  They are then cut together and a series of turns finishes the dough after which it is put to rest before shaping.

The puff pastries were made on the same day in as close a test as I could do. I was in an air conditioned room with two fans going, one overhead and one floor fan. They were made and rolled out in quick succession for two double turns.  After resting and chilling them for about an hour, I gave them two more turns, wrapped and marked them and left them in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Kerry Gold unsalted butter (made in Ireland, considered European Butter): The butter contains 82% butterfat. The yellow color was very deep  golden yellow. It is softer than American butter.  The side of the package states:  “cultured pasteurized cream”.

It went together the same in the processor but it is a bit more difficult to roll as it softened quickly even though it was rolled on a marble top with a marble rolling pin. The second set of two turns found it somewhat difficult to roll without the butter smearing on the table.  Partial freezing between folds would help here.

Land ‘O Lakes unsalted butter (made in America): American butters, by order of the USDA must contain a minimum of 80% butterfat – which is what most of them contain. There may be some local butters that contain more, but I wanted to test with a national brand easily available. The side of the package states:  “Sweet cream with natural flavorings”.  Not sure what “natural flavorings”  means.

The butter was more firm which makes sense as there is more water in it and less fat to soften. It was easier to roll out and it did not smear on the table. It was an easier pastry to work with and I had no problems rolling out.

Flour used for the Puff Pastry
The original plan was to use my standard pastry flour made with 2/3 all purpose flour and 1/3 cake flour.  Then I watched a segment of one of my favorite shows, “The Great British Bake Off” with Paul Hollywood (I honestly can’t believe that is his last name with him being English, but whatever.)  He mentioned the use of strong flour, read bread flour,  for puff pastry on one of the segments.
So I made puff pastry using my pastry flour version and the bread flour version. Each of the versions featured the Land O Lakes and the Kerry Gold.  The difference in height was dramatic.

I rolled each of the four pieces of puff pastry to 3/8 inch.  Look how much more yellow the Kerry Gold is.  They do not use annato to color their unsalted butter as manufacturers in America area allowed by law to do.Unbaked puff pastry for American Butter vs. European Butter

I double panned to prevent the bottom from getting too brown or burning over the long baking time.  Because the puff pastry was relatively thick, I started it at 425°F for 15 minutes to give it an initial burst of heat to get the water turning into steam.  I then lowered the temperature to 350°F and baked it for an additional 25 minutes covering the top loosely with foil before it browned too much.

The bottoms were the same color as the tops.Bottoms of puff pastry for American vs. Europen Butter

When baked, the highest one measured 3 inches.  Quite a rise I would say. Baked puff pastry for American vs. European ButterFrom the left:  Pastry flour with Kerry Gold, Bread Flour with Kerry Gold, Bread Flour with Land O Lakes and Pastry Flour with Land O Lakes.  Had the one with pastry flour not tipped over I think it would have been the same size as the bread flour.  The difference in height was the Kerry Gold Butter.

I think the bread flour was a bit more sturdy without being tough.  As a result, I am going to be switching to bread flour for my laminated doughs.  I already use bread flour in my pate a chou pastry because of its strength.

Thank you Paul!

Taste wise – the Kerry Gold was superior.  So despite it being a softer butter, I will simply put it in the freezer to firm it up more often.

A Discussion of Laminated Doughs


Kouign Aman for Laminated doughsIn the coming months, I am going to be featuring articles on laminated doughs.  While they have  a reputation for being difficult, the newer method of making them has taken a lot of the fear away.  It used to be that we were told there couldn’t be a single tear in the dough or the butter would all leak out or the layering of dough would suffer.  Well this easier method has the butter and detrempe or dough package cut up in little pieces, and then shoved together and rolled out.  No more worries.  This post will serve as a foreward to these individual posts.

Laminated dough refers to a baking technique in which many thin layers of dough, referred to as leaves, are separated by butter, as a consequence of repeated folding and rolling. There are different types of laminated doughs. Puff pastry, croissant, and Danish are the three original laminated doughs. Kouign Aman and cronuts are variations of one of those.

Croissant and Danish contain yeast, puff pastry does not. In addition, the initial dough or detrempe for Danish contains egg which the others don’t. A recent addition to laminated dough is the cronut which is basically doughnut dough that is laminated with butter. Kouign aman is a croissant type dough that is sugared when shaping producing a crackling caramel sugar coating. It can be filled or unfilled. I will blog about this one shortly. The photo that opens this blog is of the Kouign Aman.

Croissant or puff pastry can be savory as well as sweet.

Laminated doughs are often thought of as difficult or scary to attempt. Originally, lamination occurred when a lean dough (one with no or little fat) was rolled out and a butter block was encased in the dough. It was then rolled and folded several times to obtain a great number of thin layers of dough and butter. These are referred to as “turns”.

However recently, a much easier method is being used. I first introduced making puff pastry in a food processor in my first book, “The New Pastry Cook”. It was based on the Dutch system or  Scottish method of making puff pastry in a mixer which was introduced to America by Julia Child. Using a mixer allows you to use refrigerated cold butter. As a result, Julia cautioned not to use the processor for her method – and she was correct.

However, one simple change allows puff pastry or laminated doughs to be made in the processor. Freezing the butter and partially freezing the detrempe makes it possible to use the food processor. It has been interesting to see how many books and articles are now using this method or some variation of it. I was surprised to see the Culinary Institute of America’s “Baking & Pastry, Mastering the Art and Craft” now uses the Dutch system or Scottish method of making puff pastry in the mixer as opposed to the original butter block method which was always favored by pastry schools and professional pastry chefs.

There is another method of making puff pastry which is called inverse puff pastry. This is where the detrempe is on the inside and the butter is on the outside. There is an excellent article at

Butter as used in Laminated Doughs
Butter is the preferred fat for incorporation because of its taste. However, any fat from lard to Crisco can be used, but isn’t suggested for reasons of taste. Vegetable shortening will give the highest rise and is used commercially in some ready to use puff pastry in supermarkets. But the lack of taste along with the coating it leaves in the mouth makes it undesireable.

It stands to reason that the higher the butter fat content the higher the laminated dough will rise when baked simply for the reason that the more fat there is, the more steam will be created as it melts  and releases its water in order to lift the dough. For this reason European butters such as Plugra, Kerry Gold and others are often recommended as they have an 82% butterfat content whereas most national brands of American butter contain 80% butterfat as mandated by congress.  I will be writing a post comparing the butters.

While yeast aids in lifting croissants, kouign aman, cronuts and Danish pastry, puff pastry is  completely dependant upon the steam produced by the water in the dough and in the melting butter to raise it.

Flour used in Laminated Doughs
Flours can vary depending upon what laminated dough you are making.  Generally speaking if the dough uses yeast, the flour is bread flour which has a high protein count making it possible for the item to retain its height while the heat sets it.

My recipe for puff pastry uses pastry flour that I make by combining all purpose and cake flour. However, I recently heard Paul Hollywood of The Great British Baking Show, mention that strong flour (bread flour in America) should be used.

However, Rose Levy Beranbaum in her book, “The Pie and Pastry Bible” thinks bread flour is not such a great idea for puff pastry.

Stay tuned for my butter and flour tests using European and American butters as well as the traditional pastry flour and bread flour.

Rolling out the Dough
There is a special rolling pin called a tutove for rolling out laminated doughs. However, I don’t make them often enough to worry about it. I use my marble rolling pin on my marble tabletop. Marble is the best surface because it stays cold which helps keep the butter cold. The least desireable surface is wood. However, just pop the laminated dough into the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes if it warms up too much.  Just keep it firm.

Originally puff pastry was rolled and folded in what was referred to as a single turn. That meant it was folded like a letter. The method I use is the double turn which means the dough is folded down from the top to the center and up from the bottom to the center, then folded in half at the center. This speeds up the processor of rolling out and making turns as not as many are needed. It is then turned 90° so the folded side is to the left for the next turn.

Resting the dough
During the rolling out and folding stage, the dough needs to be rested from time to time. While I have read it is because it springs back, I haven’t found that to be a problem with my method. The reason I rest it is to keep the butter solid. If the butter begins to soften you will roll it into the detrempe or onto the table and that is not what you want to do. The idea is to keep the butter between the sheets of the detrempe. So it is necessary, if using my method or anyone’s to keep the butter cold so it doesn’t mix with the dough or stick to the table.

Storing Laminated Doughs
When the dough is completed, it is best to leave it in the refrigerator overnight or up to several days. If not using it then, freeze it for up to a year for unyeasted doughs. Several months for yeasted doughs. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before using if frozen.  The product can also be made up and frozen then baked from the frozen stage.

Shaping the dough
Any laminated dough needs to be cut so the edges of the dough are not sealed or it won’t rise as dramatically. The dough needs to be cold to cut it. If it has just been rolled out, refrigerate or freeze briefly to firm up. When cutting use a sharp knife in an up and down motion. Do not drag the knife as that can seal the edges of the dough.

Also, if using cutters, do not twist them when cutting. Cut straight down and remove them straight up to keep the pastry from baking lopsided.  If you are unsure the cut has gone to the bottom, move the cutter side to side.

If you need to attach pieces of dough together, brush them with water and press them together lightly. I prefer this to egg as the egg can seal the pastry if it drips down but water won’t. I often glaze the finished product with an egg wash, but I don’t attach pieces with it.

Although scraps of laminated doughs will never reach the height of the original, they are still eminently useable. I usually piece mine together or stack them up, dust them lightly with flour and roll them out. If they soften, refrigerate them. Give them a turn, wrap them in film and refrigerate or freeze them.

Baking Sheets and Baking Temperatures
Light colored baking sheets lined with parchment paper should be used when baking laminated doughs. The high butter content can cause the items to burn fairly fast. Dark sheets brown more quickly and that is not what you want here. Also, I double pan all of the laminated doughs  to insure the bottom is not burned before the item is baked all the way through. I also bake on the middle rack of the oven to prevent burning the top which can happen if baked higher up in the oven.

Baking temperatures can be anywhere from 350°F to 425°F depending upon what is being baked. Some recipes, especially if the laminated dough is thick, start at a high temperature to get the maximum lift to the dough and then reduce the temperature to make sure it bakes all the way through. Follow the guidelines in the recipe.

When cutting laminated doughs to serve, use a serrated knife in a sawing motion to preserve the layers and not squash them. It is the exact opposite of cutting the dough before it is baked.

Research for this article came from the following:
The New Pastry Cook, Helen S. Fletcher
The Pie and Pastry Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum
Baking & Pastry, Mastering the Art and Craft, CIA

Chocolate Raspberry Pop Tarts


Chocolate Raspberry Pop TartsA friend of mine, Danielle Luisi the pastry chef at Annie Gunn’s, came up with this version of a pop tarts, but with different fillings. I can’t thank her enough because they are easy and a very upscale version of this popular treat. Imagine a thick filling of chocolate and raspberrry sandwiched between two pieces of flaky buttery pastry.

My pop tarts starts with a pate brisee, the French butter pastry. Made in the food processor it takes minutes. Chilling is the secret to this pastry because of the high butter content. Anytime it starts feeling a bit soft, line a baking sheet with parchment and pop it the fridge or freezer for a few minutes. Other than softening, it is a dream to work with.  This recipe also features a method to make shaping easier.

However substituting a regular pie pastry will due nicely here also. Continue reading

Internet Bakery Suppliers of Cake Paper Goods


Paper goods for Internet Bakery Suppliers of Cake Paper GoodsBy habit and desire I use many of the cake paper goods for cakes I was accustomed to at the bakery. They make baking a lot easier and, in most cases, better looking. While local craft supply stores, kitchen stores and grocery stores now may carry some of these they are usually quite expensive and not necessarily the best of that particular item.

If you bake a little or a lot, are a home baker or a professional, there are cake paper goods used in baking that make cake making so much easier. Parchment paper rounds that are sized to individual pans used for baking, corrugated cake boards on which to place the cake for finishing or presentation, gold boards that upscale the presentation and boxes to transport the cakes are essential in the bakery kitchen. Foil covered foam core boards, often referred to as drums, are essential for heavy cakes or wedding cakes. Continue reading

Deep Butter Cake


Deep Butter CakeDeep Butter Cake is a speciality of St. Louis – or at least it was.  Somewhere in the last ten or so years it seems to have disappeared from the cases of bakeries in my fair city.  I was reminded of it by a reader.  Marilyn was originally from St. Louis and remembers the city, and it’s bakery items, fondly.  She commented on a blog of mine and asked if I knew of a recipe for the Deep Butter Cake.

As you can imagine, that sent me on a hunt – which was short!.  While there are many listings for  the other St. Louis speciality – The Gooey Butter Cake, there are only two for the Deep Butter Cake.  The original recipe came from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch which ran the recipe from Helfer’s Bakery.  The only other mention I could find was from Olla Padrida who altered the recipe by doubling the crumb part. Continue reading