Laminated Doughs and a French Apple Tart

Week 5.

If you noticed the tag line for Sugar Talk, I entered into the pastry course under the assumption that learning pastry is a complex process. When I think back to those beginning days, I realize now that I equated the complexity of the learning with the complexity of the recipes. The recipes to date, however, have been rather simple (read: few ingredients) with some slight complexity around the technique, so I’ve been questioning whether learning pastry really is all that complex. To prove my thinking, I came up with the genius idea to keep a real-time chronological account of each week’s class, to make a syllabus, if you will. Week Five’s class was my first go at it. No more questioning – it’s complex. Take a look. I think you will agree that while my lengthy posts (on which I am working) are indicative of the amount of knowledge I am learning, a glimpse at Week Five’s syllabus underscores the complex (borderline manic) nature of the learning process.

1. Questions from previous week.
2. Lecture on the evening’s topics – laminated doughs and French apple tart.
3. Chef demonstration on making détrempe and beurrage for the classic puff pastry dough.
4. Each team makes its own détrempe and beurrage for classic puff pastry.
5. French Apple Tart.
– Chef lecture on the proper apple tart.
– Chef demonstration of the proper way to peel, cut and slice an apple.
– Chef makes sucrée shell for the tart.
6. Each teams peels, cuts and slices (properly) its own apples and rolls out sucrée shells.
7. Chef uses the détrempe and beurrage (which had rested for about 45 minutes) to “create the book” for classic puff pastry with its first “turn.”
8. Each team makes its own book with the first turn.
9. Chef demonstration on making cheese straws using the dough he had made earlier.
10. Chef provides us with a list of suppliers, discussion on the suppliers.
11. Chef demonstrates making a “double turn” with the classic puff pastry that has been turned once already.
12. Each team completes a double turn.
13. Each team glazes its apple tarts, we sample cheese straws and tarts (if so desired).

Now, mind you, also during this time I am furiously taking notes, trying to listen and take more notes, double checking the notes I have already taken, trying to chat a little with my partner, Ally, or the assistants, and going back and forth between the lecture/demonstration kitchen to the kitchen where the teams work. And in re-reading this, I realize I missed two items. Somewhere between number 6 and number 13 above, Chef demonstrated assembling a classic French apple tart and then the teams assembled their own apple tarts. Complex, indeed.

Speaking of complex…laminated dough. Certainly not the most glamorous term, but laminated dough ends up as very glamorous things like classic puff pastries and croissants and…cheese straws. According to the hardcover Encarta World English Dictionary (I’m bringing old school back, Google, watch out), laminated is defined as “composed of layers bonded together.” Laminated dough (LD), then, is layers of dough and butter bonded together. While there are different laminated doughs, every LD has two components required to create the layers: détrempe and beurrage. Détrempe [day trahmP] is the “dough block.” The translation from French is “waterlogged.” Actually, the détrempe is not too wet, but the water in the dough is what accounts for the steam that eventually makes the end product rise and flake. So, I guess the French considered that “waterlogged” was appropriate when coming up with a suitable name for the dough block of laminated dough. Beurrage [brrr raj] is the “butter block.” Beurre [brrr] is French for “butter,” beurrage means “to butter.”

Laminated dough is laminated through the process of “creating a book” with a “turn” which essentially is rolling out a layer, folding it in thirds, turning it counterclockwise so it looks like a book with the spine to the left and the opening to the right, letting it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and repeating the process several more times. I’m not kidding. Thankfully, if you don’t need the dough right away or don’t have the time, laminated dough may be frozen once half of the turns have been completed. So, work on some of it now, freeze it, defrost it in the refrigerator and start working on it again when you want.

Classic puff pastry. Whether this is the most common or most basic of laminated doughs, I’m not sure, but since it is “classic” and it was the first one we learned, I am going to assume so. Think warm apple turnovers and Napoleans, also known as millefeuille [mill fahwee] which is French for “thousand folds” or “thousand leaves” (it’s hard to get a straight answer). Classic puff pastry should get six rolls and six single turns with 30 minute rests between turns to create the flaky layers. It also should be baked cold, but in a hot oven (400 degrees) so the water in the détrempe will create the steam necessary for the dough layers to rise. However, if one does not want the dough layers to rise, such as with Napoleans, one “docks” the dough which is to say puts holes in it.

Once each team made its own détrempe and beurrage and both had rested for 45 minutes, it was time to “create the book” which would create the laminated dough known as classic puff pastry. I think the easiest way to explain this is through pictures.

Step 1: Roll out the détrempe into a flower shape with four petals (that’s what is supposed to look like anyway) and place the beurrage in the middle (remove the parchment paper wrapping, of course. That was to let you know that I was, in fact, actually using the beurrage I made. Quality control, you know.). I would like to point out my copious notes in the upper right-hand corner.

Step 2: Fold each détrempe “petal” back to just the middle, ensuring the beurrage is covered.

Step 3: Using your hands/knuckles, flatten the détrempe and beurrage a bit. I’m going to just call it dough from here forward. 

Step 4: Make the first roll. Using the rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle. Let it rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Step 5: Take the rested dough and “wake it up” by “walking” the rolling pin along the length of the rectangle.

Step 6: The first single turn. Fold toward the bottom the top third of the rectangle. Fold toward the top the bottom third of the rectangle. Fold the top over the bottom so it now looks like a book facing you. Turn the book counterclockwise so the spine edge is on the left and the book opens on the right. The classic puff pastry book is now created with its first single turn. Return the dough to the refrigerator to let it rest for 30 minutes.

After it rested for 30 minutes, each team began the process again at Step 5. However, instead of doing a single turn, each team completed a double turn. A double turn is a single turn done twice in a row without letting it rest between turns. This is a shortcut, but an acceptable one. The goal is six turns total, but a double turn here and there to save time is alright. We had run out of time during Week 5, so we would continue with our classic puff pastry book and creating an end product during Week 6. At that point I wasn’t sure what the classic puff pastry dough would be used for…to be continued.

Up next, quick puff pastry also known as rough puff pastry. I’m not going to spend much time on this because the teams did not make their own quick puff pastry. We listened to and watched Chef as he demonstrated making it. Quick puff has larger, random chunks of butter – at least one inch when incorporated into the dough – versus the uniform beurrage layer of classic puff pastry. However, as with classic puff, quick puff requires the creation of the book with the rolls and turns. Chef did not cover the science behind why the following is so (or I wasn’t listening), but quick puff does not rise as much as classic puff, therefore, it is used for things like cheese straws which do not require much rise. Flaky and delicious, nonetheless.

On to the sweet ending…a classic French apple tart. French apple tart is comprised of the following: a sucrée shell, frangipane, apples and apricot glaze. On some boring afternoon make a batch of pâte sucrée, make a batch of frangipane, keep them hanging around in the refrigerator along with some apples and whenever you want you can have a classic French apple tart in the time it takes to watch an episode of <insert the name of your favorite television show>. The key with a proper, classic French apple tart is the proper peeling, coring and slicing of the apple and the placement of the sliced apple in the 
sucrée shell.

How to properly peel an apple. Probably many people reading Sugar Talk know this. Choke down on a paring knife and cut out the top and the bottom of an apple. Starting at the top of the apple, peel it by working your way down to the bottom. Bonus points for creating one long peel.

How to properly core an apple. Cut an apple in half. Using a small melon baller, scoop out the middle core of the apple. Repeat at the top and bottom of the core. Using a melon baller was news to me, but it worked like a charm and has probably prevented many a cut finger or hand over the years.

How to properly slice an apple. Take one half of a peeled, cored apple. Lay the cut side flat against a cutting board. Cut across the core of the apple into 1/8 inch thick slices.

How to properly create a classic French apple tart. Keep the sliced apple half together (don’t let the slices fall apart from each other) and place it on a pan. Top the sliced apple half with a little butter and sugar. Cook at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes until the slices are “knife tender.” Pre-cooking the apple slices takes out some of the moisture so the apple slices are not runny when baked in the tart. Take the chilled sucrée shell, spread a thin layer of frangipane on the bottom and then artfully fan out the apple slices over the frangipane. Bake, let cool slightly and then glaze.

How to properly eat a classic French apple tart. Who cares? It’s America – eat it however you want to eat it!

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