Can I just start off saying that I come from a family where our grandma used to be the queen of all things baked, bulochki/pastries and roulades in particular? Her bulochki (aka pastries) were so soft, so fragrant, so delicious and for years I tried to make mine similar to the way hers came out and never succeeded. Mine were soft and delicious when they just came out of the oven, but would harden or go stale very quickly. Other times, in an attempt to make my pastries softer and stay fresh longer, I would reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe, which would result pastries that looked like a melted candle, all liquidy and almost runny, while good on taste, not so much on presentation. I don’t quit easily, in fact I don’t know one recipe where I quit before reaching the desired goal. Over the years I have gained a lot of knowledge about the yeast dough, how it works, what it likes and what it dislikes. I think this recipe will conclude my search for the perfect dough, perfect technique and perfect pastries. I am really excited to share it with you, as I like knowing that I helped someone find that perfect recipe and saved you from the same trouble that I had finding it.
Here’s some general theoretical knowledge about yeast dough, that I have collected over the years.
One of the most important and key things when working with yeast dough, is kneading it to the correct gluten development .
To figure out if the gluten is fully developed you would take about 2-3 tablespoons of dough and stretch it out with your fingers to make a ‘window’ – if the dough tears, then it is not developed yet. When you are able to stretch the dough to an almost paper thin thickness and when you look through it it is uniformly thin, with no chunks of thicker dough, the gluten is fully developed and you’re ready to add your fat component (butter/oil/margarine). This is called a “windowpane test”. At this point the dough will not stick to the walls of the mixing bowl.
Why is gluten development important? Gluten is what will eventually hold the air bubbles in as they expand. The strands of gluten will easily stretch and easily accommodate for the air. If the gluten is not developed and you proof the dough and then shape it, most likely it will result a very misshaped product that ‘runs’ instead of holding it’s shape and form and deflates very easily.
If you braid a hala, it will most likely tear at each twist, as there is not enough gluten development for the dough to properly stretch with the rise, and if you were to make a roulade, then it will most likely be flat’ish instead of holding the round shape a roulade should hold.
There is such term as “strong” flour. When the word “strong” is used to describe flour, it usually means that it is high in gluten content. The higher the gluten content, the more moisture it can hold. That’s how you get a ciabatta bread. The ratio of water to flour is very big, nevertheless you don’t get a flat piece of bread, but a fluffy, rounded bread, with huge air bubbles that don’t collapse.
Fat – this is what makes the bread soft and pastry-like. Fat also inhibits or prevents the development of gluten. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to things like brioche.
Sometimes the fat is added after the gluten is fully developed as at this point, the gluten strands are developed and the fat just coats them from the outside, giving us the benefits that come with strong strands of gluten, but also the benefits that come with fat being present. If you were to add the fat before the gluten is developed, each flour particle would be covered in fat, therefore inhibiting or not allowing any gluten development at all. Hence the name ‘shortbread’, it actually refers to the strands of gluten being ‘short’ (as we all know, the cookies have a very high ratio of butter to flour, therefore not allowing any gluten development at all), which results in crumbly and ‘sandy’ texture of the cookies. So now we know that fat can inhibit the development of gluten. There is one more thing though – depending on how much fat we add, we can get soft pastry, without it becoming a shortbread. “Amount’ is the keyword here.
Understanding this little bit of information about the yeast dough, gives you a an upper hand when it comes to breads, pastries and such.
So let’s get to the recipe itself.