Yeasted pastries are light flaky pastries that are crisp on the outside, but soft and tender on the inside. The dough, which has yeast added, is layered with fat, so this pastry is a cross between bread and pastry.
Examples of yeasted pastries include croissants and Danish pastries. Croissants are made in a horseshoe shape, and are traditionally eaten warm filled with butter and jam for breakfast.
However, in New Zealand we eat them any time of the day with all sorts of fillings. Danish pastries are found in all sorts of shapes, such as swirls and figures of eight. They are always sweet and can have a filling, such as custard, and icing on top, making a delicious snack or dessert.
Yeasted pastries are a delicious product that originated in Europe, where they are traditionally eaten in the morning freshly baked and still warm. They are a cross between bread and puff pastry and so they should be crisp on the outside, like puff pastry, and soft and tender inside, like bread, and should melt in your mouth, leaving no aftertaste. Two types of yeasted pastries are commonly eaten in New Zealand: Danish pastries and croissants.
Croissants are thought to have originated in Austria. In 1683 when the Turks were secretly digging tunnels under Vienna to make a surprise attack on the city they were heard by the bakers working early in the morning. The bakers who raised the alarm and saving Vienna from being defeated by the Turks, then baked a special commemorative roll in the shape of the crescent on the Turkish flag. Marie Antoinette, a French princess, introduced the roll to France where it became known as the croissant, the French word for crescent.
Over the years the croissant developed into the product we know today. Because croissants are time-consuming and expensive to produce by hand, they were not widely eaten. Recently new technologies have been developed that allow less expensive, efficient, mass production of this delicious cereal product.
Croissants are made from a sweet yeasted paste (unbaked pastry) layered with fat. Nowadays they are eaten at any time of the day and can be filled with all sorts of delicious savoury or sweet fillings. They may also be pre-filled with delicious fillings such as chocolate, fruit or almond paste.
Little is known about the history of Danish pastries. They are popular throughout Europe and the USA. In different countries they have different names: the Danish call them Wienerbrod (Vienna bread, after the Austrian capital) and the Austrians call them Kopenhagener (Copenhagen, after the Danish capital). They were introduced to America by bakers from Denmark.
Like croissants, Danish pastries are made from yeast-leavened sweet doughs layered with butter or margarine. They are not kneaded for as long as croissants so they will have a softer mouthfeel and will be more tender. They can have all sorts of fillings and/or toppings, such as nuts and fruits
Making yeasted pastries
Figure 1: Steps in the production of danish pastries
Yeasted pastries are a cross between puff pastry and bread so a combination of techniques used for both bread and pastry making are involved in their production. To make high quality yeasted pastries it is important to understand the effects of ingredients on the quality of the final products. Information about the functions of ingredients can be found in the bread and puff pastry information sheets.
First, a dough is made with yeast in the same way as bread dough is prepared. This contains flour suitable for breadmaking, some sugar, dough fat, salt, yeast and cold liquid, which is usually water or milk. Some recipes include eggs, giving the baked pastry a beautiful golden colour. The flour needs to have a fairly high protein content. When the ingredients are mixed into a dough the protein changes to gluten. The gluten is strong and elastic, producing layers that hold up the pastry after it is baked. After the dough has been kneaded it is covered and left in a cool place to relax. This helps prevent distortion and shrinking in the final product. After relaxing, the dough must cool for the lamination stage.
Lamination is a way of adding the 'roll-in' fat to the dough to produce a paste (unbaked pastry). This paste is made up of many very thin layers of dough and fat, which are made by rolling and re-rolling the dough in a similar way to making puff paste. The tastiest fat is butter and it leaves no aftertaste. The butter must be cool, but pliable. If it is too soft it soaks into the dough and layers will not form. One way to add the roll in fat is to use the English method.
The dough is then given four half turns. This is done by placing the paste on the bench so that the unfolded sides of the dough are parallel to the edge of the bench. The paste is then carefully rolled away from the edge of the bench into another rectangle and then folded into three, as in figure 2b. It is then covered and placed in a fridge for 10-15 minutes. Repeat this twice more. Finally the dough is rolled out ready for cutting.
The lamination process in yeasted pastries
Figure 2a: Adding the roll-in fat
Figure 2b: Making a half-turn
Croissants are made by rolling out the paste into a square about 3.5mm thick. This is cut into triangles that are rolled up, bent into the traditional crescent, put on a baking sheet and left to rise until they have doubled in size. This takes about 40 minutes at 32°C. Before being baked, croissants are brushed with a beaten egg so the baked croissant looks golden. During baking the dough rises a little more, as bread does during breadmaking. This is called ovenspring. The moisture in the dough puffs up the pastry when it converts to steam. The steam is trapped between the layers of fat, turning the fat and dough laminations into flaky layers so the croissant looks like a cross between bread and puff pastry.
Danish pastry make-up
To make Danish pastries the paste is rolled out to about 4mm thick, cut and folded into various shapes - from 'snails' and 'elephant ears' to 'swirls' and 'knots'. All sorts of fillings can be added; popular ones include almond paste, fruit, nuts or custard. Like croissants, danish pastries are then put on a baking tray and left to rise until about double in size. Toppings such as chopped nuts may be added and a beaten egg may be brushed on the surface just before baking. Danish pastries rise up and form flaky layers like croissants. After baking, the pastries are usually glazed to make them look attractive and to add flavour. Usually the glaze is diluted apricot jam, which is brushed on while the pastry is still hot. When cool the pastries may also be iced. Lemon icing is a delicious and popular icing.