While processing is an important point of differentiation for laminated products, it all starts with one key ingredient, and that’s the fat.
“Butter is the one ingredient that really identifies the premium product,” said Eric Riggle, president, Rademaker USA. “Value products tend to use shortening or margarine, but premium pastries always start with butter.”
The fat type, especially butter, can really dictate certain aspects of the process for many reasons. For starters, butter is expensive.
“The quality of butter is defined by the percentage of solids, and there are various levels of butter qualities that can be purchased in the market,” said Jerry Murphy, president, Rondo.
Butter in the U.S. market tends to have less fat solids than its European counterparts. A higher-water-content butter may come with a lower cost, but that also comes with processing considerations.
“Providing the right amount of fat in a lamination process controls the cost,” said John McIsaac, vice-¬president, strategic business development, Reiser. “But more importantly, it affects the product quality. If the fat application is inconsistent, the product will be inconsistent.”
Reiser’s Vemag depositor and Reiser-engineered sheet dispensers offer uniform fat dispersion, Mr. McIsaac said.
When running butter through a fat pump, it’s hard to avoid separating the water from the fat. To avoid getting too much water onto the dough, Rondo’s fat pump is designed with a water extraction area.
“There’s no way to prevent the water separating from the fat when you put it under pressure, but with this design, we can separate it without bringing it all the way onto the dough sheet,” Mr. Murphy said.
At Rademaker, the company’s fat pump is equipped with a pressure switch that monitors and maintains consistent pressure levels.
“This ensures the baker is not jamming butter through a nozzle and out onto the dough sheet,” Mr. Riggle explained. “The machine carefully meters so there’s still some separation of water and fat but nowhere near as much because it’s done gently.”
On Rheon’s MM line, dough is extruded through a 10-inch diameter tube that is lined inside with the butter or other fat to incorporate it into the dough. Although this is an older technology for Rheon, many pastry producers swear by the process, said John Giacoio, vice-president, sales, Rheon. Conversely, its stress-free V4 line lays the butter on top of the sheeted dough before folding it into layers.
Temperature is another factor that must be considered with the type of fat used in a value or premium pastry because butter has a much lower melt point and a narrower temperature range for machinability than other fats.
“Oftentimes when you’re dealing with a ‘real’ ingredient like butter, it needs to be processed at a much colder temperature,” said David Moline, vice-president, sales and marketing, Moline Machinery. The company’s Ram Feeder can handle butter and other fats down to 32˚F with a high level of uniformity, Mr. Moline said.
Mr. Murphy explained the importance of equilibrium between the dough and butter in a premium pastry process. Extruding butter onto a dough band will naturally warm it, and the pastry dough is typically cooled at that point, either through an ice or refrigerated system or a jacketed mixer.
“This is where process time is important because once you make the dough books or blocks, you want to allow the butter and dough temperature to equilibrate,” he said.
Jim Cummings, president, Tromp Group, noted that maintaining a cooler temperature with premium pastry dough goes for any type of fat being used.
“Premium products machine better and form better when cold,” he said. “All types of fat work with our equipment, and with fat like palm shortening, it’s also beneficial to keep it cold.”
Goldilocks was onto something when she tested the proverbial porridge: You have to get the temperature just right. Laminate pastry dough when it’s too warm and the fat’s too cold, Mr. Riggle warned, and the fat will tear through the dough.
“On the other hand, if the dough is too cold and the fat’s too warm, the fat will get absorbed into the dough, and it won’t create that nice, distinctive layering,” he said. “This is a processing step we really pay attention to … when working with butter, keep the dough and fat a consistent temperature so that when it’s sheeted down, it’s not damaging the layers a baker spent all this time and money creating.”