Tech Talk: Laminating trends

New trends in laminating are shaking up the way layers are counted and the mouthfeel of the finished product.
Alan Dumonceaux
August 16, 2017
Written by Alan Dumonceaux
In recent years, you have likely seen amazing laminated dough pictures posted online by many great bakers. Lately, the layers are thicker in the finished products. The result is very defined layers of dough separated by the butter.

Traditionally croissants were laminated by covering 1/2 of the dough with butter, (known as the French lock in method of fat incorporation) and then giving three single folds or commonly referred to as three half turns. Some may argue that the croissants made using this technique provided the most tender or “short” croissant – very flakey with minimal resistance in chew, especially when fresh.

The “classic” way resulted in 55 layers of dough and butter. I should point out that how layers of laminated dough are counted by many has changed slightly. The difference being, when dough layers touch dough layers, which would have been previously counted as two layers is now only counted as one layer, which is technically just a thicker layer. Previously the French lock in and three single turns would have been counted to 81 layers, but now you subtract two layers for every single fold or half turn. As you fold the dough into three, twice the dough touches dough, resulting in a minus two in the count, which is now the newer method of counting layers. To recap: Traditional count with French lock in: Three layers – lock in x 3 = 9 x 3 = 27 x 3 = 81 total layers. New method: Three layers – lock in x 3 = 9 – 2 = 7 x 3 = 21 -2 = 19 x 3 = 57 – 2 = 55 total layers.

In the case of a book fold you would subtract three layers after each book fold. The classic puff pastry for 1280 layers – hence the name Mille Feuille, was counted like this using an English lock in: English lock in 5 layers x 4 = 20 x 4 = 80 x 4 = 320 x 4 = 1280 total layers. English lock in 5 layers x 4 = 20 – 3 = 17 x 4 = 68 – 3 = 65 x 4 = 260 – 3 = 257 x 4 = 1028 total layers.

This brings us to laminating a dough, which results in only 33 layers. This creates a dough with very pronounced layers. French lock in = 3 layers x 1 book fold - 4 layers = 12 – = 9 x 1 book fold or 4 = 36 – 3 = 33 layers.

The last key part of the new trend is to not take the dough down too thin in the final sheeting, anywhere from six to 12mm. Of course, if you only sheet to 12mm, you will end with much more pronounced layers which are much thicker versus going down to 6mm.

The final product will have a distinctive difference in chew or mouthfeel. It will certainly not be like a tender flaky croissant. You can continue with this same lock in, folds, and sheet down to 3mm and make croissants. Your croissants will reveal very pronounced layers. The challenge is that upon cooling the top thick layer tends to always break and flake off. Extreme care and attention in handling the baked croissants is necessary or your showcase will be full of damaged croissants.

Once again, the mouthfeel of the croissant with only 33 layers too sum will be tougher. The thicker the layer then more resistance you have in your bite and chew. Some may view this as a fault. Is it a fault or is it just a current new trend in laminating?

Bakers are experimenting with a variety of different layer combinations. The traditional French with three singles is only but one option the baker has for laminating croissants and Danish dough. You can laminate down to only 25 layers if you want even thicker layers, this is achieved by using a French lock in with one book and single fold. (3 x 4 – 3 = 9 x 3 = 27 -2 = 25 total layers) Remember a byproduct of these very thick layers is a certain amount of butter pooling around the base of the product as it bakes, which some view as a fault.

We have 25 layers, then 33 layers, the next sequence moving up is 37 layers, which is English lock in with two single turns. The next sequence is English with one single and one double (5 x 3 = 15 – 2 = 13 x 4 = 52 – 3 = 49 layers. Then the traditional 55 layers from a French lock in and 3 single turns.

This is certainly not the only possibility of layers. You can also take the 25 layers and fold in half and end up with 49 layers, subtract the one layer where the dough touches dough.

We are also seeing a great deal of colour layers in laminated doughs, mostly red and chocolate. For chocolate, you add 10 per cent cocoa to a brioche dough. Most other coloured doughs are achieved by adding food colours. Once all of your folds are in, egg wash the top of your laminated dough block. Sheet down to 12mm, then sheet your coloured dough down to 2mm and layer together. Once you add the coloured dough, freeze for about 10 minutes before sheeting down to 3mm for your final product shaping.

If you want to maintain a brilliant colour, you have to bake at a low temperature, slightly under bake and then you can have a rich second colour to your product.

Alan Dumonceaux, C.B.S., is a member of Baking Team Canada and chair of the baking certificate program and the school of hospitality and culinary arts at NAIT.

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