November 2, 2013
Croissants become croissants from dough by a near-endless series of repeated folds. Dough is yeast-leavened with a healthy amount of gluten development; the two produce a stretchy texture that encapsulates the produced gas for a expansive volume with a large amount of void space. Normally the gluten matrix would resist expansion during baking, but individual layers are separated from one another by a thin layer of butter. These discrete layers of dough are unable to connect their proteins to one another, and flakes are produced rather than a solid loaf.
What once was a time-consuming process is now streamlined by industrial production. Ready-made dough (often shipped frozen) already possesses the alternating butter-dough layered structure cutting preparation time down to nothing.
Basically croissants are the fast food of the bread world: consistent and quickly produced, croissants may be mass produced and amply available.
This illustration contributed to the production of the video “Gluten in the Baking Process” found here. The video was featured by the good people at Better Engineers, a now-defunct online magazine for engineers and scientists.
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