Ask a Pastry Chef Week 2: How to Make Perfect Pastry and Doughs
All the answers you knead to know
To prove that you don’t need a ‘knack’ for baking—only a good dusting of knowledge—each week this month, we’re putting 5 of your most commonly asked baking questions to our very talented pastry chef Johanna.
Some of my fondest memories in the kitchen revolve around dough or baking. I'll always remember the long hours spent with my mom making my own birthday cake as a child, the smell of freshly baked bread pervading every inch of my parents' house every other day, and the feeling of rebellion that gobbling spoonfuls of cookie dough would awaken inside me (long before the fear of salmonella infection won the argument, that is).
With nostalgia in the air, we arrive at our all-about-dough week. As you probably already know, dough is chiefly a mixture of 2 basic ingredients (flour and a liquid, usually milk or water), but the possibilities this basic mixture yields are just endless: From a simple pie with great crust to your own homemade bread (white, ciabatta, sourdough) to the best chocolate chip cookie you’ll ever eat. Not to mention pasta, croissants, puff pastry, pizza, brioche, focaccia, and the list goes on.
With such good intentions, it’s frustrating to have to stop and reflect on what actually comes out of the oven when baking at home: Yeast dough that refuses to rise, bread dough that collapses, a crust that just isn’t right. If something of the like has already happened to you, welcome to the group. No more Did I knead enough? Did I use the right amount of yeast? Did I use too much flour? We’ve collected some of the questions you, the community, have asked and we’re here today to say that it’ll all be okay! Read on for Johanna’s answers and find our best how-to videos, plus the dough-y recipes to have on your list. Happy baking!
If you have more baking questions for Johanna, write them in the comment section below!
1. Why won’t my yeast dough rise properly? Why does bread dough sometimes collapse and how to prevent that?
Many factors might be causing your yeast dough not to rise properly. First, make sure the yeast you’re using is in fact fresh. Personally, I’m not a fan of using warm water to ‘activate’ yeast: The water is often too hot and might turn your dough into a sticky lumpy mass, which is not going to rise either.
To prevent your dough from collapsing, it’s important not to let it rise too much. The rule of thumb is that the dough should double in volume. When that happens, it’s ready to go into the oven.
For more information about different types of yeast, how to use and substitute them, check out this article.
2. Making pizza or a pie from scratch at home would be amazing, but rolling out dough can be really messy and time consuming. Are there any life-saving tips?
To roll out shortcrust dough to perfection, lay it between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll it out evenly with a rolling pin. The baking paper prevents the dough from sticking to the countertop and rolling pin and it also makes it way easier to move the rolled out dough to a baking pan: Remove one of the sheets, turn the dough over, and place it on the baking pan. Then remove the second sheet of paper and fix the edges.
Pie crust - a basic recipe
- 02:11 min.
- 254.3K views
When it comes to pizza dough, it’s important that it rises long enough, otherwise it will stick to your countertop. If that happens, try sprinkling some wheat flour. To prevent the dough from sticking back together when you roll it out, it’s important not to knead it too much after it’s risen.
3. How to get a soft crust when baking with yeast?
To achieve the perfect, soft, and fluffy braided Easter bread, for example, it’s important to have the right recipe. Just as important, though, is to brush the dough with a mixture of egg yolk and cream or egg yolk and milk (1:1) before bringing it to the oven. This is the secret for a beautiful shiny soft crust.
4. How to get a golden crunchy crust when baking bread?
Your oven plays a big role in the creation of the perfect crust. If you have a recent model with steam function, things will be easier for you. Make sure to only use the steam function once a light crust has already formed. If your oven doesn’t have a steam function, you can improvise and sprinkle some water or place a couple of ice cubes on the bottom of the oven. The water makes sure the surface of the bread remains soft, which prevents the crust from breaking during baking—which by the end of the baking time will have formed into a golden, crunchy crust.
5. Why do I need to have cold ingredients to make pastry?
When making shortcrust, it’s important to work with cold butter. This guarantees you’ll get a crumbly dough instead of a sticky clump. This will also make it way easier to roll out the dough and it will prevent it from sticking to your countertop, for example.
Check back next week for Part III, where we'll be exploring everything to do with cake decorations!
Published on May 10, 2019