Ever wonder how things like croissants and puff pastry got so puffy? I certainly did. With puff pastry especially, since the grocery store version comes as a flat sheet of dough and yet, when you throw it in the oven, it just expands and fills with air and layers of soft crispness that manifest themselves seemingly out of nowhere.
In breakfast station, I learned just how this phenomenon is brought about - through lamination of the dough. So after dough is made, it is run through the dough sheeter (which rolls out dough to a certain consistent thickness) and folded in half with butter sandwiched in between. Then it's run through again, folded in fours, left to sit for half an hour, run through and folded in threes, then left to sit again for half an hour, and run through and folded in threes. So now, even though the slab of dough has only three apparent folds, it secretly harbors 36 folds (4x3x3), butter between each, and the butter is what creates the layer. Butter, along with any other type of fat used in pastry, is a shortening - that is, it shortens gluten strands and prevents them from uniting the entire pastry into a chewy whole (which is desirable in things like bread, but not so much in things like croissants).
Using the dough sheeter is fun. (And a good thing I learned how to use it too, since we had a practical exam on it.) Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the sheeter, but I do have a picture of Sydney and I with our "dough babies", croissant and danish doughs we finished laminating one day.
Aside from muffins, quick-breads, croissants and danishes, the last thing we make in breakfast station are cinnamon buns. They're made using the scrap dough left over from cutting croissants and danishes. It's funny they're made from scraps, because I like them best out of all the sweet pastries. (And it seems like many good things are created of scraps and leftovers, french toast and paella being two examples that come to mind.)
So first the scrap dough pieces are kneaded together, then run through the sheeter to 2.5mm thick. The dough is laid out on our floured marble table (the marble is so the dough can stay as cool as possible) and topped with copious amounts of brown sugar and cinnamon. Roughly an inch at the top is left untopped.
Starting from the bottom we roll up the dough so it becomes a long dough snake. We cut it into pieces about the width of four fingers (or a hand, if you have small hands like me). Each piece gets the un-sugared segment of the dough folded underneath (to form the bottom of the bun), then is smashed into a spot on an oiled muffin pan.
After they puff up and brown in the oven, they're taken out and rolled around in cinnamon sugar.
And there you have it, a delicious treat that's crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, with layers of sugary cinnamon goodness.