“Making Dough: Recipes and Ratios for Perfect Pastries.” By Russell van Kraayenburg. 2015. Quirk Books. $24.95

Russell van Kraayenburg’s “Making Dough: Recipes and Ratios for Perfect Pastries” would make a fine addition to any aspiring pastry chef’s recipe collection. The 208-page cookbook focuses on the science behind making 12 master pastry doughs, namely biscuit, scone, pie, shortcrust, sweet crust, pâte à choux, brioche, puff pastry, rough puff pastry, croissant, Danish and phyllo dough.

Much thought and testing has gone into educating the reader about what makes for a great pastry dough, including the pairing of various flours and ingredients; the ratio of those blends; the requisite tools; the right way to measure; and sundry methods of mixing and working dough.

Most of the recipes include a photo, and an abundance of “how to” illustrations help the baker execute the recipes with more confidence.

This cookbook is filled with useful information, literally from cover to cover. The front inside cover lists the master doughs as well as recommendations for the types of pastries you can use them for. A chart on the back cover offers conversions for measuring ingredients by weight and volume, helpful because the book’s recipes list ingredients by weight. There’s even a chart listing oven temperature conversions, which is handy if you want to give the book to an overseas friend.

The first chapter, especially, is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the particulars of turning out good pastries.

The main recipes in “Making Dough” often include companion recipes for making the components that are called for in the ingredients list, such as homemade strawberry jam for the Bakewell tart or marshmallow filling for the iconic chocolate-dipped moon pies. For people who truly wish to bake from scratch, rather than using store-bought options, it’s a nice touch.

Most recipes add suggestions for using other fillings, toppings or ingredients to transform the sweet into something else.

I was contemplating making croissant or brioche dough when I spied a recipe for homemade Pop-Tarts. I loved brown sugar cinnamon Pop-Tarts as a kid, and I had always wanted to make my own. Since a nor’easter was brewing, making this a snow day, I figured there was no better time to make good on that desire, while also celebrating my inner child.

The recipe was easy to put together, and the shortcrust-based dough rolled out like a dream.

I opted to fill half of my tarts with brown sugar filling and half with raspberry filling. I paced in front of the oven like a caged tiger waiting for the tarts to bake. Nearly 20 minutes later, I nearly burned the roof of my mouth because I just couldn’t wait for them to cool. They were so good!

Bakers should be aware that the texture of these tarts is different from the commercially processed, individually packaged toaster treats you ate as a child. The crust is tender, crumbly and flakier than the original, and it gets even better the next day. I chased them with a glass of ice cold milk.

I found this cookbook to be a great tutorial on pastry making and plan to revisit it often to perfect my skill. I gained a better understanding of how pairing different types of flour (by protein content) with varying ratios of fat and liquid create different dough textures. And knowing is half the battle.

Homemade varieties of Pop-Tarts include brown sugar cinnamon frosted, left, and raspberry. The recipe offers eight filling options and suggestions for experimenting with your favorite flavor.

Homemade varieties of Pop-Tarts include brown sugar cinnamon frosted, left, and raspberry. The recipe offers eight filling options and suggestions for experimenting with your favorite flavor.

HOMEMADE POP-TARTS

Recipe from “Making Dough: Recipes and Ratios for Perfect Pastries” by Russell van Kraayenburg.

Yields 9 Pop-Tarts

SHORTCRUST BASE:

The book gives instructions for mixing by hand and by machine. I have included only the machine directions here.

8 ounces (1 cup) bread flour

8 ounces (1 cup) cake flour

1 teaspoon salt

9 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 eggs, lightly beaten

In a large stand mixer bowl, add flours and salt. Using a flat paddle attachment, mix a few seconds to thoroughly combine flours. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the bowl.

Mix on medium-low speed, until butter is broken into tiny chunks and mixture resembles course sand. Add the egg and mix until dough just comes together, with a few large chunks with many smaller chunks.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into two. Lightly knead it a few times, just until dough holds its shape. Shape each half into a flat, 1-inch thick rectangle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or parchment. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.

TARTS:

2 pounds shortcrust base (double the recipe)

8 ounces (1 cup) filling

1 egg, beaten

8 ounces (1 cup) sprinkle icing (see recipe)

CINNAMON-BROWN SUGAR FILLING:

6 ounces (3/4 cup) light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and reserve until ready for them.

SPRINKLE ICING:

Recipe tester Deborah Sayer added ½ teaspoon cinnamon to the icing to elevate the flavor of the Brown Sugar Tarts. Be sure to watch frosted tarts carefully in a toaster, as the sugar topping burns easily.

8 ounces (1 cup) powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon egg white

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and frost tarts after they have cooled.

This image from "Making Dough" illustrates how to cut a 9" by 12" rectangle of shortcrust dough into nine 3" by 4" Pop-Tart shells. The recipe is doubled to make tops and bottoms.

This image from “Making Dough” illustrates how to cut a 9″ by 12″ rectangle of shortcrust dough into nine 3″ by 4″ Pop-Tart shells. The recipe is doubled to make tops and bottoms.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

To make the shortbread, lightly dust another large sheet of parchment paper with flour and roll out one of the shortcrust doughs into a 9- by 12-inch rectangle; stop to dust the dough and rolling pin lightly, as needed, to prevent sticking.

Using a straight-edge ruler and a paring knife, create nine (3- by 4-inch) rectangles by marking the short side of the dough every three inches and the long side of the dough every four inches. Lay a ruler atop the dough, connecting marks from top to bottom and, using a pizza cutter or pastry wheel and the flat edge of ruler as a guide, cut down the length of dough, repeating at the next mark to divide dough into three long 3- by 12-inch sections. Use a ruler to connect marks and cut the dough crosswise to create nine sections total.

Use a thin, wide metal spatula to lift and transfer the pastry onto the lined baking sheet, leaving space between. Roll out and repeat with the second rectangle of dough.

Place about 1 ounce of the filling on each of the tarts on the baking sheet and brush the outer ½-inch of shells with egg wash, top with remaining nine shells and press around outer edge of each to seal filling in. Using a fork, gently press tines along outer edges to further seal.

Brush each tart top with egg wash. Poke a few holes into top to allow steam to escape. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tarts are light golden brown.

Cool, before icing. Spoon a bit of the icing over the center of each of the tarts, using the back of the spoon to spread the icing out to within ½-inch of the edges. Allow to harden a few hours before handling. Store in a plastic bags or sealed container.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 8:09 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2017 to correct the amount of butter required for the shortcrust base.

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