Puff category – A delightful bakery segment

Puff category – A delightful bakery segment

Photo - Pexels via Pixabay

The global bakery industry is witnessing a plethora of new trends. These modern-day frenzies are primarily driven by an increasing number of health-conscious consumers and the subsequent rise in demand for innovative offerings. With social distancing and work from home becoming the new normal, food deliveries and takeaway services have become a staple. And food enthusiasts are increasingly looking for delectable options that are different from the usual culinary Indian fare. This desire to eat something different has fuelled the popularity of the humble puff pastry.

Alternatively known as Pâte Feuilletée or feuilletage in French, it contains multiple layers of dough and fat, making it an extremely delicate and rich delicacy. The process of lamination involved in preparing the pastry plays a crucial role in giving it a flaky, crispy, light, and crunchy texture upon baking. The puff category has an array of uses such as pies, tarts, Allumettes, Bouchees, Vol-au-vents, and Mille-Feuille, among others. The Indian market notes a high demand for a wide range of puffs, primarily consumed during tea-time. For instance - kharis and its variants -such as cheese, methi, and ajwain- are popular in the Western regions, the northern side prefers marodi/twist as well as fan khari, whereas egg, veg and meat puffs are favorites of consumers hailing from the southern parts of the subcontinent.

The entire process of baking a puff pastry needs extreme care and immense attention. The first step in the process is the preparation of the water-based dough, which is commonly known as detrempe. The dough is further flattened to enclose a block of butter/ fat inside it. This dough and butter/ fat combination is folded multiple times to create alternating layers of the two key elements. This technique can be used to create single and double folds in the pastry. However, for best results, there needs to be a minimum of four such single folds and a maximum of six. However, the primary determinant of the pastry’s quality is the way the lamination process has been carried out. It will turn out as a successful amalgamation of textures only when the vapour released from the dough layers during baking is properly entrapped by the insulated fat layers. Since vapour helps in the proper expansion of the pastry by exerting sufficient pressure, it leads to crispier puff pastries. To produce a top-notch puff pastry, here are some things that one needs to be mindful of.

Butter vs fat/margarine - Although butter gives the best flavor, its difficult to handle at our (tropical) room temperatures where the melting point of butter is way lower than that desired to withstand the lamination process. A good plastic fat/margarine is thus the best option for lamination to give the required feather-light layers with no palate cling.

Sheetability - During this phase of processing the dough, it is very important to avoid overstressing it. Very often reducing agents are added to the dough to improve its sheet-ability.

Lamination thickness - The thickness of each layer must be equal. If the layers are uneven, it will translate to an unevenly risen pastry and the final product will lack the desired texture.

Temperature - It is a vital factor throughout the process of making a puff pastry. A low temperature between 20-25°C needs to be maintained to prevent the roll-in fat from melting or becoming too hard. Even during baking, it is advised to use a convection oven at 175-230°C for different durations based on the nature of the product.

In addition to getting a basic puff pastry right, confectioners also have to think about how they can turn it into a premium and novel product that can appeal to the growing tribe of health-conscious consumers. Over the years, consumers have been initiating the following trends under this diverse bakery segment.

Healthy indulgence

Today's consumers want to walk the tightrope between taste and fitness; they desire food items that are flavourful and healthy and natural. This shift in consumer preference has led to an increase in demand for plant-based and organic puff pastry options. According to the latest research by Délifrance, a global company that produces bakery goods across five continents, 54% of buyers are inclined to purchase plant-based pastries, whereas 62% are interested in organic variants. In India, FSSAI ensures that consumers get healthier products through regulations that brought down the trans-fat content in bakery fats from 5% in the past to less than 3% in April 2021 and finally below 2% in Jan,2021. Companies, such as AAK are providing transferee bakery fat solutions.

Premium snack

Puff pastry has risen above being a regular snack option. In fact, with its numerous sweet and savory variants, it has now entered the alley of premium edible food items. Butter pastry infused with movie popcorn-flavored cream or a colored puff pastry topped with cotton candy or savory pastry topped pork sausages and wasabi-infused mayonnaise – these are some of the latest additions to the list of unusual and innovative puff pastry variations.

Rough puff pastry

Rough puff pastry is a quick method for puff pastry, generally used for preparing pastry to line pies, tarts and prepare a host of items where you want the desired flakiness without being too particular of the pastry volume. Unlike the regular puff pastry, walnut-sized pieces of butter/fat are gently added with the rest of the ingredients to prepare the rough pastry dough and give it an enriching flavor. The flakiness primarily depends on the size of fat retained in the dough during the dough-making process. Also, low-fat variants, which appeal to a healthy audience, are possible with rough puff pastry.

Leavened and laminated

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family) and exposure to the west with ease of travel (baring the pandemic) has created a demand and made the croissant and danish pastry more desirable and familiar to the Indian palate. The challenge is to provide a specialised plastic margarine which will help to create the beautiful crisp crust while displaying the desired honeycomb crumb texture and providing the light-as-candyfloss buttery mouthfeel. The dough is alive with the yeast doing its magic, while the lamination process is similar to puff pastry production.

The growth trajectory of puff pastries will continue to rise thanks to changing consumer preferences and innovative food trends.

The bakery industry today is slowly seeing the rise of dynamic companies such as the AAK group who are willing to offer unique and innovative products that are attuned to changing consumer preferences and culinary trends.

Dheeraj Talreja, President – India, AAK Group

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