100 Techniques

Technique #73: Laminate Pastry the Easy Way

 It's all about how you handle the butter.

Published Aug. 20, 2023.

This is Technique #73 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master. 

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Flaky pastries such as croissants get their rich flavor from butter. But butter is also the key to creating their signature texture.

Knowing how to handle the butter properly means all the difference between flaky, multilayered delights and dense, heavy blobs. Read on to learn more about this vital technique.

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What Is Laminating?

Traditionally, in the intense process called lamination, you must press many sticks of butter into a large, flat block that is warm enough to be pliable yet cool enough not to melt as you work with it.

You mix the dough, wait for it to rise, punch it down, roll it out, chill it, sandwich the cold butter block into it, roll it out again, fold it up into thirds, chill it—and then repeat the rolling, folding, and chilling again and again. 

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Laminating Pros and Cons

Laminating creates multiple alternating layers of dough and fat that get thinner and thinner and increase exponentially with each set of trifolds. In the oven, the butter melts and steam fills the thin spaces left behind, generating rise and creating hundreds of striated flaky layers.

But even describing it is exhausting, and at any number of stages things can go wrong awry.

How to Get the Benefits of Laminating, Minus the Butter Block

We found that in many cases, we could skip the butter block entirely and streamline the dough folding when it comes to making laminated pastries. Instead of the butter block, we found other, lower-lift ways to incorporate cold butter into our laminated doughs—like grating or slicing.

Grating butter is so easy that we created a French-inspired yet still all-American biscuit recipe using this technique alongside a simplified folding-and-rolling method. Just five folds of the dough, with no resting in between, produces to-die-for flaky, buttery biscuits.

Here's how to make tall, sumptuous biscuits using grated butter instead of a butter block.

Another recipe where we've applied this easier laminating technique is Morning Buns. This all-American treat is made with croissant dough, putting them out of reach for actual morning eating. To remedy that, we devised a simpler croissant dough by tossing slightly larger pieces of sliced chilled butter with flour in a plastic bag to coat it, then rolling to spread the butter into large flakes distributed evenly in the flour.

Instead of the traditional trifold with multiple rests, we just roll the dough into a cylinder, flatten and roll it into a rectangle, roll the rectangle back into a cylinder, and cut it into individual buns for baking. Voilà meets aha.

Step by Step: How to Laminate Pastry the Easy Way

Here are the steps to our easier laminating method. The exact dimensions of each step might vary based on the recipes, but the key steps remain the same.

Step 1: Prepare the Butter

Coat frozen butter sticks in flour mixture, then grate floured sticks on large holes of box grater directly into flour mixture. Toss gently.

Step 2: Assemble Dough

Add buttermilk and fold with rubber spatula until just combined. Transfer dough to floured counter, dust with flour, and using floured hands, press into 7-inch square.

Step 3: Roll Out Dough and Fold

Roll dough into 12 by 9-inch rectangle with short side parallel to counter edge. Starting at bottom edge, fold into thirds, using bench scraper to release dough from counter. Press top of dough firmly to seal folds.

Step 4: Fold and Repeat

Turn dough 90 degrees clockwise. Repeat rolling into rectangle, folding into thirds, and turning clockwise 4 more times, for total of 5 sets of folds.

Step 5: Roll Out Dough and Chill

Roll dough into 8½-inch square about 1 inch thick. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic, and chill.

Step 6: Trim and Cut Dough

Using floured chef's knife, trim ¼ inch from each side of square. Cut dough into 9 squares and arrange 1 inch apart on baking sheet.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Want to test out your newfound knowledge of laminating? Try it with these recipes.


Morning Buns

Decadent cinnamon buns meet flaky croissant pastry.
Get the Recipe

Ultimate Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

For layered, ultraflaky biscuits, you’ve got to know when to fold them and when to hold them.
Get the Recipe

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