There are custards in most every culture, but we have the French to thank for the glorious Crème Brûlée. An unpretentious custard baked until just set, then finished by caramelizing sugar on it’s surface until there is a crunchy, caramelized crust encapsulating the cream below. We find beauty in the simplicity of using only four ingredients in our custard: cream, sugar, egg yolks and fine Tahitian vanilla beans – and create effortless transport by baking in a buttery short crust.
Feuilletage is what separates the men from the boys around the bread table. Bakers lust after it. Patrons crave it. It’s what turns an ordinary bakery into a destination.
In laminated doughs, the feuilletage is the coveted complex formation of thin “leaves” that develop when the butter that has been rolled and folded numerous times into a simple dough begins to steam in the oven. The evaporation of the water molecules in the butter create steam and lift the hundreds of layers of dough, which then crisp and bake. This process gives croissants, pain au chocolat and puff pastry their signature flaky, light, crisp and buttery structure.
If you have ever had Viennoiserie that is heavy and dense, it’s probable that the laminating process is flawed. There are many critical steps to achieving the perfect feuilletage. If the room is two degrees too warm, if the folds aren’t perfect and if the product is over or under proofed, it is detrimental to the integrity of the product.
Laminating dough is an absolute art form. This process is all based on technique, skill and attention to detail. Without patience and experience, there’s no faking the feuilletage.