The golden-brown finish on puff pastry
Let’s take a look at the tricky matter of producing puff pastry with an attractive, golden-brown finish. French pastry chefs call this “dorure” (literally, “gilding”).
Behind this quirky term there lurks a real problem (and the solution): when using puff pastry (pâte feuilletée) for a pie, or to prepare a feuilletage for a recipe, how can we ensure that the baked pastry has a beautifully browned crust?
Is this really a problem? Well, yes, as there is no sugar in the pastry – it is just flour, water and butter – so it does not naturally brown well during baking. We need to understand that, even if it is fully cooked, pale and colourless pastry looks pretty unappetising.
To overcome this, pastry chefs/bakers/cooks use a glaze made from beaten egg. They brush the pastry with this before baking.
It is very easy to glaze a piece of pastry with a brush, but it is also easy to make the mistake which can ruin everything: glazing down the cut edges of the pastry as well. This prevents the pastry rising, as it effectively “welds” the edges shut and stops the pastry puffing up into flaky layers.
Simply put, we should only brush the glaze over the top surface of puff pastry, and avoid getting on the sides. This will allow the pastry to puff up as much as possible.
This diagram represents a piece of puff pastry on a baking sheet: brown indicates where to brush the glaze, and red indicates where to avoid glazing (yes, I know, I know – you can see that my drawing skills are somewhat limited).
This is why on a vol-au-vent, for example, the top is always nicely browned, but the sides are still pale – and that is just how it needs to be.
To sum up: For nicely browned puff pastry, brush the glaze over the top, but avoid glazing the sides.
The 3 essential knives
You must have heard a chef or cook say: “There’s no good cooking without good ingredients”. This is very true, of course, but for any amateur or beginner it is equipment that really counts to start with. What I mean is that you should not skimp on [Read more…]
Using stretch food film effectively
Maybe you use food film in your own kitchen. You know, the very thin, clear plastic stuff that you can stretch, often used to cover food and protect it from the air. It’s become so widely used that it’s now an essential item for pros. They even [Read more…]
The mock CAP baker’s certificate exam
The next instalment in my life as an apprentice baker at the French INBP professional school. I’m now halfway through training and it’s still as exciting as ever, and exhausting – but maybe I’m just getting old, or both… Anyway, a few days [Read more…]
Rosemary in recipes
Rosemary, as I’m sure you know, is a culinary herb:
It is one of the famous French “herbes de Provence”, and is very effective in bringing a real taste of the Mediterranean to any dish.
The classic way to use it in a recipe is to add a [Read more…]
The Holy Grail of French bakers
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Is it really necessary to cream egg yolks?
Let’s try and answer a question that crops up in cookery and patisserie, even if it verges on the existential: do the egg yolks in a custard recipe really need to be beaten until pale, or not?
You might already have noticed in many recipes [Read more…]
Egg yolks and caster sugar
We often come across recipes where we need to mix egg yolks with caster sugar. This would appear to be a very ordinary and simple thing to do but, be warned, these two ingredients can behave oddly together.
Let’s take confectioner’s custard [Read more…]
Fats for cooking
If you need to fry or sear anything a frying pan or saucepan, the temperature is likely to be high.
In particular, I have cooking red meat in mind. In this case, what should fat should we use? And at what temperature?
For our red meat, let’s [Read more…]