On New Year’s Day, I learnt how to fraisage a dough.
Fraisage is a French pastry making technique used to create flakiness in a finished pie crust. I watched Joanne Chang working her dough on Simply Ming, and raced straight into the kitchen to try it out. I’d always wanted to make flaky pastry, but hadn’t known how to go about it before.
My first attempt was a little dodgy, so I rang our friend Craig the baker for some advice. Craig generously gave me both his recipe and some tips on handling the dough. The results were sooo exciting – Pete came into the kitchen when he heard me squealing with delight!
Fraisage is the technique of smearing cold butter inside a loose dough to form it into sheets. The butter melts on baking, creating layers within the finished pastry. In order to do this successfully, the butter needs to be very cold (but not frozen rock solid), and handled reasonably briefly.
Craig uses a 3 – 2 – 1 pastry formula as follows:
- 300g (2 cups) plain (AP) flour
- 200g (7oz) unsalted butter
- 100g (3½oz) cold water
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar (optional – for sweet doughs only)
1. Cut the cold butter into rough 2½cm (1″) cubes and measure out the water. Craig’s tip is to pop both the butter and the water into the freezer to chill while you prepare the board and measure out the dry ingredients (give it about 10 minutes or so).
2. In a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt and sugar (if using) and add the butter, beating on a medium speed just until the butter is reduced to pea-size pieces (some bits will be a bit larger). Quickly add the cold water and mix just until the water is incorporated. The dough will be very shaggy.
Turn the dough out onto a well floured work surface…
3. Using the palm of your hand, push sections of the dough outwards. The aim is to flatten the dough and smear the butter into long streaks…
4. Continue working the dough a section at a time, pressing down and flattening it onto the work surface. It helps to have cool hands…
5. When you’ve flattened all the dough, gather it together with a spatula or pastry tool…
6. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film, and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour and up to three days. The dough can also be frozen for latter use.
I turned half of my dough into a sweet pie filled with boysenberries and raspberries from the freezer. The crust was egg washed and sprinkled with demerara sugar before baking…
And the end result was…flaky!
I think learning a brand new technique on New Year’s Day is a very auspicious way to start 2013. I need a lot more practice of course, but I’m so chuffed with how my second attempt turned out that I’m off to buy more unsalted butter!