In pastry and baking, dough lamination is the process in which thin layers of dough are repeatedly folded and rolled onto each other, generally separated by butter. The reason for folding the dough in this way, is to create a flaky product. Laminated doughs can have multiple number of layers, where some end products can as many as 80 layers, such as the croissant, a popular laminated pastry.
Laminated doughs usually start off with water, flour and salt. Depending on the end product, one can add milk and yeast to the dough. When making laminated doughs, “turns” are an essential process. This is when the dough is flattened out, a thin layer of spreadable, but not melted fat (such as butter) is applied and then the dough is folded onto the new buttery layer and rolled once more. Turns help create the buttery, or fatty layer between each dough layers which helps create the flaky end product. To keep the dough spreadable, but not melted, it’s important to keep the dough refrigerated between what is known as a “series of turns” (Escoffier, 2018) .
You want to avoid kneading laminated doughs – when kneading you create a tough, gluttonous dough which is not needed in a laminated dough. The dough should be loose. During the baking process, the water in butter vaporizes, expanding the dough to puff up. As it puffs up, the fats in the butter “fries” the dough to give it the flaky, crisp texture. Examples of the most traditional European laminated doughs are: puff pastries, croissant pastries and Danish pastries. In Danish pastries, milk and yeast is added and folded no more than three series of turns whereas croissant pastries have “a sweet spot of 4 series of turns .
Although the croissant is known for being attributed to French cuisine, it is argued that the first croissant originated in Vienna, Austria (Calvel, 2001) . After the Austrian-Hungarian war with the Turkish Empire, the emperor of Austria-Hungary “awarded…the brave bakers of Vienna” privileges, which allowed them to create a victory treat: a sweet puff pastry. In Vienna, the croissant is yeast-raised and unflaky, unlaminated, compared to the fermented laminated flaky croissant . The French adopted the Vienna style baking technique when the Austrian and French empires joined via marriage.
Calvel, Raymond. The Taste of Bread. Springer. April 30th, 2001.
Larson, Sarah. “The Versatility of Laminated Dough.” Auguste Escoffier, School of Culinary Arts. November 7, 2008. https://www.escoffier.edu/blog/baking-pastry/the-versatility-of-laminated-dough/