Remember your first bite of puff pastry? It could have been a gâteau millefeuille, the razor-thin “thousand leaves” shattering cleanly with every forkful of silky vanilla cream. Or maybe it was a vol-au-vent tart, crisp and light, yielding a savoury filling of smoked eggplant and yogurt.
Better yet, how about those cronuts?
As one of the most indispensable building blocks in a pastry chef’s arsenal, the versatility of puff pastry is matched only by its complex nature. True, the primary ingredients are simple: fat, flour, and water. But the ratio and handling of these ingredients give us the full spectrum of airy tenderness to brittle flakiness. The end result of repetitively rolling and folding and turning and rolling the dough yet again is to create a "pâté feuilletée" which means "pastry made leaf-like." Each of these "leaves" consists of a layer of flour separated by a layer of fat. When the pastry bakes, the moisture in the fat creates steam, causing the dough to puff and separate into many layers.
The traditional baking fats of choice have been milk fat (butter) for its rich flavour, and animal fats (lard, tallow, etc.) for their structural performance in creating a delicate flaky pastry. However, milk fat and animal fats are high in saturated fat, which has been linked with heart disease. Modern health concerns and dietary needs have led to the popularity of plant fats (vegetable oils), most of which have low levels of saturated fat and high levels of heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Plant fats also have the advantage of being suitable for vegans and easily meeting kosher/halal standards.
Puff pastry needs cold – cold kitchen, cold work surface, cold hands – especially with the use of animal fats. The low melting point of animal fats are often a challenge to both commercial and home bakers. The roll-in fat needs to be solid enough so that it will not soak into the dough layers, yet soft enough to spread evenly and not tear through dough. Shortening, a solid fat made from vegetable oils fulfils these needs and has been favoured for its higher melting point, resulting in consistent firmness and kneadable flexibility at higher temperatures.
Recent innovations in baking fats have led to shortenings which are functional over a temperature range of 10 to 32.2°C, eliminating the waxy mouth feel often associated with high-melting fats. Shortening has also been criticized in the past for containing high amounts of trans fats which develop due to the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils. Consequently, modern shortening has been reformulated to contain negligible amounts of trans fats or even none at all. Non-hydrogenated shortenings (zero trans fat) are achieved using palm oil, a natural semi-solid at room temperature.
The danger of palm oil is its high saturated fat content. But this only refers to palm kernel oil which comes from the nut or seed of the palm fruit. Carotino shortening and baking fats are made with red fruit palm oil and pressed from the crushed fruit pulp of the red palm, just as it is with olive oil. Palm fruit oil is low in both saturated and polyunsaturated fats compared to palm kernel oil which is higher in saturated fats. One tablespoon (15ml) of Carotino oil has 120 calories, 14 grams of total fat (2 grams of saturated fat, 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 8 grams of monounsaturated fat), similar to olive oil.
Replacing commercially available baking fats with Carotino also introduces a host of benefits into the finished product. Red palm fruit oil has the highest amount of naturally occurring carotenoid content per serving. Carotino shortening contains about 45 mg of natural carotenoids per 100 ml (of which about 39% is α-Carotene and 60% is β-Carotene) and 50 mg of tocopherol/tocotrienol (Vitamin E) per 100ml.
The relatively high carotenoid (pro-Vitamin A) and tocopherol/ tocotrienol (Vitamin E) content is a unique property of Carotino shortening. These natural antioxidants not only increase the shelf life of baking products but fulfil important functions in the body by acting as scavengers of the damaging oxygen free radicals that play a role in cellular aging, atherosclerosis, and cancer. The addition of canola oil also gives Carotino the benefits of heart-friendly Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
A United Nations study focusing on fortifying baking goods with β-Carotene to combat Vitamin A deficiency found that products baked with Carotino shortening had a constant and uniform level of β-carotene content throughout as compared to standard shortenings fortified with synthetic β-carotene. The researchers were also pleased with the colour that Carotino imparted to the baked goods.
Carotino’s signature orange-red colour comes from naturally occurring carotene antioxidants in red palm fruit oil. As a result the neutral taste and vibrant hue of Carotino shortening gives finished baked goods an appetizing golden colour and sheen. Choose Carotino baking fats today for all your pastry needs with the confidence of added health benefits and the promise of flaky tenderness.
Recipe: Carotino Kaya Puff
1. Benadé A.J.S. The potential of red palm oil-based shortening as a food fortificant for vitamin A in the baking industry. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, The United Nations University, 2001;22.
2. Gisslen, Wayne. Professional Baking. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
3. O'Brien, Richard D. Fats and Oils: Formulating and processing for applications. Washington D.C.: CRC Press, 2008.
4. Scrimshaw NS. Nutritional potential of red palm oil for combating vitamin A deficiency. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, The United Nations University, 2000;21.
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