There could be an epic love story written about the way I feel about dough. Whether it’s pie dough, cookie dough, bread dough, or croissant dough – I love them all. I’m constantly amazed at how just a few identical ingredients can be combined in different ways to create completely different products. Nearly anyone can make a passable pie dough, but there’s so much nuance to creating exceptional doughs and that’s why I loved this week. Elbow deep in flour with an intent focus on perfecting my doughs is just about the happiest I could be. It doesn’t hurt that pastry doughs are easily my favorites to eat as well, so this made for exceptional taste testing.
We started off the week by making a variety of similar doughs with different techniques. The two base concepts we covered were crumbed doughs (like flaky pie dough) and creamed doughs (like tender shortbread). There are countless ways to achieve flaky dough, so we explored everything from different types of fat (spoiler: European butter was the best), to different sizes of butter chunks, to special mixing techniques like fraisage or single turns. From all that we have the knowledge to decide as chefs what methods we like best going forward. I’ve made many pies in my life, but in just a few days of class I’ve already improved how I handle and roll out dough. The simplest tips and corrections make all the difference and I’m so excited to continue perfecting my skills. My favorite advice from the week was to be confident and never be afraid of your dough.
Usually some of our days are filled with discussions and demonstrations, but every day this week was pretty much just nonstop baking. We made an insane amount of pies, tarts, pop tarts, rough puff pastry, biscuits, sables, and strudel. The standouts for the week were peanut butter banana cream pie, strawberry balsamic pie, salted chocolate tart, and the most delicious and crisp chocolate sable cookie (which I want to bake and eat every single day). Sables are my favorite type of cookie and I’ve decided that I’m going to dedicate more energy to them in the future. They’re unassuming, but amazingly crumbly and delicious when they hit your mouth – as is usually the case, I just love the simplicity of them.
All this dough work meant we got a ton of practice using the dough sheeter we have at school. If you were thinking professional bakers and pastry chefs stand around all day rolling out large quantities of dough with a rolling pin, you were wrong. The sheeter is like a gigantic pasta machine that quickly presses large batches of dough into a perfectly flat sheet, which can then be punched out into cookies or shaped into a tart pan. If I had thousands of dollars to spare, I would totally buy one. To finish off the week, we pulled strudel, which, if you’ve never seen it, is the craziest process. It literally requires you to gently stretch the dough with your hands until it covers an entire table and is so thin you can see through it. Something I’ll take up regularly at home? Probably not. But I loved learning it and I will definitely do it again.
Next week we’re onto a second week of pastry doughs for cookies, bars and who knows what else! Maybe I’ll make my classmates try out my perfected chocolate chip cookie recipe to see how it stands up to the ones we make in class. We also have a field trip on Tuesday to visit the production kitchen for Craftsman and Wolves, which I’m very excited for. Until next week!