Laminated dough: a guest post from bakery owner Andy King

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We recently hosted bakery owners Andy and Jackie King at our Baking Education Center here in Norwich, VT, where they taught a delightful class in laminated dough, the multi-layered, buttery dough used for croissants and other wonderful pastries. Prior to the Kings’ appearance at the education center, we asked Andy if he’d like to write a blog on the subject. Happily, he agreed – and you’ll find the result below. Our thanks to Baker’s Catalogue photographer John Sherman, and Eric Laurits, for the photos. Enjoy!

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Andy King here, owner and operator (with my lovely wife, Jackie) of A&J King Artisan Bakers, in Salem MA. I’m honored to be guest-blogging here at the King Arthur Flour blog, which is one of my favorites on the Web. I’m just taking it over for this entry – your regularly scheduled bloggers will be back before you know it.

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Today we’re discussing lamination, specifically, how it relates to various shapes of croissants. Once you have the process down, it’s incredibly flexible and can be applied to a number of other pastry items: sticky buns, Danish, kouign amman… even some pastry doughs and pie crusts are laminated for greater flake and tenderness.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you’re like me, circa 2000 (when I was entering the food industry), you hear the word “lamination” and you think of Staples/OfficeMax: plastic-covered sheets of paper, and dry-erase markers – nothing to do with food at all.

What’s interesting is that the process of sandwiching a piece of paper in between two sheets of heated plastic is not so very different than the classic pastry process we’re going to undertake today.

But instead of the layering being plastic – paper – plastic, we’re going to take it a step more delicious and substitute this: dough – butter – dough.

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See? It’s already getting more interesting.

However, we’ll be taking it a step further than the office product. When we’re talking about laminating dough, we’re talking about the process of not only just making that first layer, but then folding the dough over onto itself dozens of time to create a “book” of dough that has over 80 layers of dough and butter! And we do this for one reason: To create the flakiest and most buttery pastry you can possible imagine.

Let’s get started, shall we?

I’m going to forgo the classic french terms of detrempe (the actual dough) and beurrage (the butter you fold in, sometimes mixed with a bit of flour) in favor of the terms we actually use at the bakery: “dough,” and “butter.” We’re simple folks, really.

Step 1: The Dough

Mixing croissant/lamination dough is actually one of the more simple mixing processes you can undertake. You’re looking for a lack of dough development.

You know all of the kneading you do for other doughs, to develop gluten and make a strong dough? Forget it. We’ll be folding that dough so many times in the future, we want the dough loosey-goosey.

The following ingredients will make 5 pounds of laminated dough:

10 3/4 cups (46 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
9 tablespoons (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) sugar
5 teaspoons sea salt or 5 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1/2 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or 3/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 cups + 6 tablespoons (27 ounces) water (barely warm; 95°F)
1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, chilled to 40°F in the refrigerator

Mix all of your ingredients (except the chilled butter), preferably by hand (mixers work well too), until everything comes together into a shaggy mass. Add about 30 seconds mixing for good measure, and put the dough into a (preferably) rectangular shaped container to ferment for a couple hours in a warm spot. The rectangle helps later on when you’re making your “book” of dough with the butter.

After the 2 hours is up, or the dough has doubled in size, sprinkle it with some flour and deflate the dough with the palm of your hand. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap, and put her away in a refrigerator for at least 12 (or as many as 24) hours.

Step 2: The Butter

You’re going to want to use the highest-end butter you can find for your croissants – or else, what’s the point of making insanely decadent pastry?

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Look for Plugra, or Cabot 83, or another butter with at least 83% butterfat content.

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Take your butter straight from the fridge, lay it on a piece of parchment paper measuring 13” x 18”, and – here’s the fun part – smack the daylights out of it with a rolling pin.

Really smack it around, folding it over and working it until it becomes pliable (but still cold). It should bend (not break) when you fold it over. When you’re finished, manipulate the butter so that it fits in an even layer on the lower half of the parchment paper – not the whole thing.

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Yes, that’s butter wrapped in parchment; it’s simply a darker shade of parchment than you’re probably used to.

Take the butter’s temperature with an instant-read thermometer. It should be 55°F when you start the lamination. If it’s too warm or cold, stick it in the fridge/leave it out, respectively.

Step 3: The Lamination

OK, we’re going to do some measuring in the next steps, but it’s pretty straightforward and all you need is a measuring tape or a ruler. You probably have one in your junk drawer; we’ll wait… OK, we’re back. We want to keep true to these dimensions so that we have the nicest possible end product  – perfection is reached with accuracy at every step.

So the move here is that we’re going to create a book of butter and dough. Turn your chilled dough out onto your floured table top, the short side nearest to your belly.

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Use a rolling pin, plus gentle pulling and tugging, to create an 18″ x 13″ rectangle.

Manipulate the dough so that it’s roughly 18” x 13”.

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Take the rectangle of butter (55°F, right?) and lay it on the bottom half of the dough, peeling the parchment paper off, and making sure that no butter is hanging over the edge of the dough.

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Fold the top of the dough down over the butter, and pinch the edges shut. Voilà: dough – butter – dough.

With the palm of your hand, flatten the book until it thins out a bit before going at it with the rolling pin.

Step 4: Rolling and Folding

So this is the crux of lamination: rolling and folding.

At the bakery we use a big, mechanical rolling machine called a “sheeter.” At home (or when the sheeter breaks), we use a rolling pin. I like the rolling pin better. For the rolling instructions, I’m going to quote Jackie here, directly from her instructions in our book Baking by Hand. Take it away, Jackie:

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The first rollout should be relatively easy, as the dough is still weak. You need to roll it out to 18″ x 30″. Sprinkle the top as well as underneath the dough with flour as needed, to prevent sticking; and roll in alternating strokes, top to bottom and side to side. Keep the thickness and lines of the rectangle as even as possible.

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After you’ve attained your dimensions, brush off all the excess flour with a pastry brush. This is important because, if you don’t, the excess flour will gum up the layers when it encounters steam, during baking. This will affect the texture of the final croissant.

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Next, perform your first envelope fold by taking the right 1/3 of the dough and folding it across. Brush off excess flour on this piece before bringing the left side over on top of it. You can now sprinkle the top lightly with flour. You have your first fold.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, dust with flour, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45 minutes (no longer; the butter will get too hard and affect the lamination).

Next it’s time for the second fold or turn.

Sprinkle some flour down and position the baking sheet so that the seam of the envelope is closest to you and the open part is farthest away.

Flip the dough out onto the table; it’ll be bottoms-up. Turn it over so it’s tops-up. Now roll the dough to an 18″ x 30″ rectangle again, rolling top to bottom and side to side to stretch the gluten in many different directions.

Brush all the surfaces, and fold the dough the same way you did for the first fold. This time the dough will be a bit more resistant, now that the gluten is forming and the dough is cooler.

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Refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Time for the last turn. Perform the steps just as you did for the second fold, but you’ll notice that it’s a bit harder still to roll out. You want to roll it to 18″ x 30″; if it starts to fight back, let it rest for 10 minutes, to relax the gluten.

Brush the dough, fold it up, and place it back on the baking sheet. This time, rest and chill the dough for a minimum of 2 hours, or as long as overnight. This longer chill has the advantage of breaking up the process into 2 days, as well as allowing you to shape and proof the croissants the next morning, in time for a breakfast or brunch. (You’ll probably have to get up early to get them shaped and leave them time to proof and bake, but I guarantee that your guests will appreciate it.)

By the time you’re done, you’ll have 81 layers of dough and butter. When that rich dough is shaped, proofed, and hits the oven, all of your work will pay off. The dough rises (because of the yeast, of course), but all of those layers of butter – in the heat of the oven – evaporate into steam and create pockets of air in the pastry that we know and love as flakiness. It’s the same steam-leavening effect that makes your pie dough flaky, but multiplied by a gazillion (just to be scientific).

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Go forth and laminate!

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For a step-by-step tutorial in shaping and baking croissants, see this post: Making Baker’s Croissants: Capturing Butter Heaven. Ignore the dough preparation photos, and skip right to the croissant shaping/baking.

comments

  1. Mandi

    Laminating dough at my kitchen table is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend time. This post was lovely.

    Reply
    1. Linda Jean

      Oh, Mandi, can I come eat at your table? I love croissant and I cannot imagine getting through this process. The post really served to increase my admiration for those who can!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re definitely smart Ray to think of waiting for the weather to cool off a bit before braving a hand lamination adventure. I hope you enjoy your wonderfully flaked products in the coming months and happy baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  2. montana2010

    Can’t wait to try this. The steps are so well demonstrated, and the pictures are a great help.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad you enjoyed this new post and found it so helpful. We hope you enjoy your laminating endeavors and that you will soon be surrounded by the lightest and flakiest doughs that pastry has ever seen! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Best of luck and we hope you enjoy getting back into it! Laminated doughs certainly are a labor of love but the results are equally rewarding when they come beautifully risen and flaked out of the oven. Happy Laminating! Jocelyn@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      So glad you enjoyed the blog and we certainly agree! Flaky, buttery deliciousness made with love in every bite! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  3. Sheri

    I’ve never tried to laminate dough because it sounded so hard. Now I think I understand the process. That doesn’t mean I won’t mess up the first few times, but I get the idea. Yep! I’m going to try it. Wish me luck (and I DO mean luck). Thank you so much for such an understandable blog.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Laminated doughs certainly are quite intimidating, but hopefully with this little tutorial you can feel confident in your first go round! All us bakers here at KAF wish you luck and Happy Laminating! Jocelyn@KAF

  4. Tina

    Would this work with substituting the Gluten Free flour? Just wondering if you have done this with the gluten free product?

    We love your GF products, but realize working on something like this could definitely produce a different result and I didn’t want to experiment since experiments are very expensive when using gluten-free products.

    Have a great day!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Tina, I don’t think it would work – there’s too much stretching of the dough involved, and GF products just aren’t very good at stretching. So I’d be wary of experimenting with this one, unfortunately… PJH

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Tina- We wouldn’t recommend making laminated doughs with gluten free flour unless the recipe is written to gluten free flours in particular. The protein content for wheat and gluten free flours is very different and that protein structure developed by gluten is vital to the layering in a laminated dough, so a GF flour substitution will most likely yield poor results. Your best bet would be to search online for a gluten free version of this type of recipe and that should give you much better results. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  5. Randy

    Do you use this same recipe and the same number of turns for turnovers and Danish?

    Thanks for your time.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Randy- You could use this for danishes, but some danish doughs are often designed more like a puff pastry dough, with less yeast than croissants. But you certainly could use this in a danish type application if you like. It really is just a matter of personal preference in texture, but either way, your pastries should be delicious! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  6. Gary

    I agree with Mandi; it’s my favorite baking technique. I find is relaxing and cathartic. Not only that but the results are beautiful and delicious. I vary fillings with it and people love the pastries.

    Reply
  7. Jen

    I have just realized that I think I’ve been adding an extra turn every time I make croissant dough–which is probably why it fights me so much when I go to roll it out–thanks so much for an excellent (and clearly needed) refresher course for me!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re very welcome! I find even if I have a made a recipe a hundred times, each little refresher I read through helps me find one more little thing I can do better the next time around. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  8. Kristen

    Yum! I too will wait for the weather to cool off a bit before trying this out in my un-air-conditioned home. Luckily, I live in Beverly, Mass. so it’s just a quick jaunt for me over to Salem for A&J King croissants and sticky buns.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sounds like you can have the best of both worlds…you get to grab some from the experts when its toasty outside and can enjoy the satisfaction of making your own when it cools down a bit. Happy eating and baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  9. Gramgrimes

    Can I cut the recipe in half? Or, alternatively, can I freeze the completed dough? Otherwise, I guess I could wait for a church bake sale! Two-person households have their own challenges!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you cut the recipe in half, you do need to be careful as your lamination dimensions will change up on you a bit, although if you take this into consideration it is possible. Freezing this type of dough will generally be detrimental to the overall final rise, so we would recommend freezing the baked product and refreshing them in the oven after you thaw them to enjoy. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  10. sfreshwater

    Isn’t this the same as Filo dough? My daughter has made Filo dough and seems the same. I think she made something called baklava (?) Delicious but all that butter gives me problems. I’m lactose intolerant but I love pastries.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Filo dough has a somewhat similar texture to it but it is a slightly different kind of dough. This has a bit more body to it and it is a bit more “bread-like” than simply a crisp flake like in filo. And you are certainly correct that filo is often the dough of choice for delicious baklava. The butter is, unfortunately, a necessary evil to achieve that flaky texture. But there are all kinds of crazy developments in the world of pastry these days, so fingers crossed that someone out there will invent a new version for you to enjoy soon! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

    2. sharon

      I have used imperial margarine in place of the butter for baklava. It turned out fine. I also use less -maybe about 1/3 to 1/4 less or so–of the butter or margarine than what the recipe calls for. I do this by occasionally doubling up on the sheets of filo. I know the final product isn’t as flaky but it is still really good and doesn’t feel as greasy to me. Also, you save some calories and some money. I find most recipes for baklava and spanokopita are very heavy handed with the butter.

      btw; the frozen filo dough in the store is dairy free. The baklava gets all of the butter brushed on each sheet of phyllo as you are building it.

  11. Randy

    One more question if you please. What is the reason for using dry milk powder in a laminated dough?

    I look forward to trying this recipe. I have only a couple of Croissants left in the freezer so laminated dough is soon to come up on my schedule again.

    Thanks again for your time.

    The milk powder serves as a tenderizer, and also makes the dough a bit more extensible, so it’s easier to roll out. Susan

    Reply
  12. NY home baker

    Please, can we have the ingredients in grams? Surely that must be how professional bakers do it in any event, and now that I have gotten used to it there’s no going back for me. Thanks.

    Reply
  13. Texas Baker

    Haven’t tried this recipe but I will…when the weather cools off.
    Several years ago I made laminated dough in a very small kitchen. It was a bit of a struggle. But after two days I had 12 lovely croissants. At the time I thought that was a lot of work for just 12 croissants. Neighbors could smell the aroma, came over and ate them all!!!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Amy, once you start “persuading” the butter with your rolling pin, it becomes plastic and pliable, while still staying cool. Once it’s flexible, you can push it into the rectangle you seek. You can roll it in it’s parchment wrapper to flatten it, then use the palm of your hand to straighten up the edges. Susan

    2. Amy

      Thanks, Susan, but I actually meant this: butter comes (usually, in the US) in 1 lb blocks. I’ll need to use part of a second block for the 1/4 lb remnant. Every time I’ve tried this, I end up with an obvious seam between the big block and the 1/4 extra. Is there a way to avoid that problem?

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Amy- I find if you flatten out the larger block (I usually beat the cold pound brick to about 1 in with a rolling pin to start) and then beat the smaller remnant into the center of the big block as you get to your final thickness (instead of placing it on the side), that you should be able to avoid seaming issues. I usually smear my trimmings from squaring off my butter blocks into the center of the book too so they aren’t wasted. I hope that helps! Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  14. Faith Perue

    Many years ago I worked for a restaurant that made peanut butter rolls, they were a sweet roll and my family loved them. I have tried to duplacate them in many ways and never come up with a roll I’m satisfied with. Does anyone have a good idea to make these?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Searching online, I found peanut butter roll recipes that use a sweet bread dough more akin to a cinnamon roll dough than croissant dough. Do you know if your restaurant did use croissant dough for the peanut butter rolls? ~Jaydl@KAF

  15. Marci

    I loved this post. Thank you so much.

    I’ve been wanting a brush to brush off excess flour for years. Now that I’ve seen one, I’ve got to have one. :)

    Reply
  16. Laura

    What an excellent post! I’ve never seen this subject presented so well. The directions are easy to understand, the pictures a great help, and there’s enough of the science-of-baking information to explain why you are doing what you are doing and when. Once I figure out where I can roll out that much dough, I’ll be trying this!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Laura, we’re so glad to hear you enjoyed this posting so much and finding a big counter space is definitely one of the major challenges of setting up for this recipe. But I think you will find, upon concluding your lamination adventure, it will be well worth all the prep and efforts…Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

  17. Gramgrimes

    Here at high altitude, the usual change is to cut the yeast by 25 percent when baking bread. Would that be the case here as well? Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, you will certainly need to reduce your yeast by 25% for this recipe. We also have on high altitude baking as well! Jon@KAF

  18. Gramgrimes

    Sorry to keep bugging you…in reading the referenced tutorial on shaping the croissants, and comparing her recipe, I’m guessing this recipe would make 4 dozen… Correct?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Not quite, actually. Susan’s recipe makes about 60 ounces (give or take depending on the amount of flour used) of dough in comparison to the 80 ounces of this recipe. Keeping in mind that she made 2 dozen from her recipe, you should get about 32 croissants from this recipe (using 2.5 ounce pieces of dough). Jon@KAF

  19. Cedarglen

    What a wonderful post. I’ve had a dough like this on my bucket list for years. The great instructions answered those worrisome questions. My target will be filled Danish types, formed from cut and twisted strips of dough. I can’t wait to get started, but as several have suggested, I’ll wait for the weather to cool a bit. -Cedarglen

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, making laminated dough is one of those baking goals that can be daunting, but is oh so satisfying to accomplish! Cool weather definitely makes it easier. And won’t a homemade Danish be wonderful on a cool Sunday morning in the fall? Barb@KAF

  20. agtwo

    I’ve always been curious, what exactly is a “shaggy mass”? I’ve seen it before & always think of a texture like making pie crust, where it’s a bunch of little flaky dry-and-less-dry pieces right before you add just enough water to form it together into a ball. But I’m 90% sure I’m wrong as that doesn’t seem right for this recipe & the description given. Yet whenever I’ve seen a “shaggy dough” description, there’s never any picture. (I’ve seen tons of pictures for “smooth & elastic” & “like coarse breadcrumbs” but both of those descriptions are clear through their words)
    Thank you! I’d really like to try making croissants one of these days. :)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Hi – I guess I need to do a blog post about bread terminology – thanks for the idea! A shaggy mass is when the dough has come together in one piece, but since it hasn’t yet been kneaded, it’s very rough (shaggy); perfectly kneaded dough looks like a balloon – very smooth. Shaggy dough looks like, oh, a coarse-weave sweater; its surface is rough, rather than smooth. Hope this helps – PJH

    2. Susan Reid

      You are actually very, very accurate with your description. The shaggy mass stage is sort of like the adolescent stage of dough, when it’s unevenly hydrated, and at times doesn’t have all of the liquid added. The action of kneading will usually finish bringing the dough together, and the fat in the dough is manipulated to be more evenly distributed. Susan

  21. "Mary from Michigan"

    Hi,
    I have been wanting to try this for the longest time so am very pleased to see this blog with details!

    I was just at my local store and they had Plugra butter on sale. They were out of the unsalted and I could not remember what was called for anyway so I bought the salted. Will that be OK to use? If so, how much salt should I use now in the rest of the recipe? If I should just wait and get the unsalted butter later that is fine, I can use this butter for something else.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you have to use salted butter, I would reduce the salt by half for this much butter. A better option will certainly be to use the unsalted Plugra. Jon@KAF

  22. Randy

    I made the recipe over the weekend, Wow! What a huge amount of dough. Five pounds before adding the laminated butter and 6.25 pounds after adding the laminating butter. I will post some pictures on my blog today if I time permits. The advantage of this large amount of dough is well worth the effort if you have freezer space or have friends come over to split the rewards.

    Their recipe and instructions are very easy to follow.

    A few tips. After you mix the dough, use a lightly floured, nonstick 9×13 cake pan to store the dough in the fridge. The dough will rise a couple of inches above the side so give it plenty of head room in the fridge. Second one, unless you are a tall person, use a table to roll the dough out since a counter is higher making it more difficult to have a good angle-down to roll out the dough.

    Next time I will make this I will use whole milk instead of the dry milk powder. After shaping my croissants, I freeze the shaped, unrisen dough on a pan then bag after frozen for future use. Often I will bake just two croissants. My reasoning is I want a baked product with a darker crust without having to use an egg wash every time. If you bake more than two at a time then the original recipe is perfect if you use an egg wash for browning as they recommend.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. It was great fun to make.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Thanks for sharing all of your great tips and experiences Randy. When working with laminated dough, there’s no such thing as TMI! ~ MJ

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