Puff pastry and Danish pastry


The origin of puff pastry and Danish pastry is thought to be the Turkish baklava. Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire. Filo dough is paper-thin sheets of unleavened flour dough used for making pastries. By adding yeast to the dough, puff pastry becomes Danish pastry.

In Scandinavia and in Denmark in particular, the term “Danish” pastry is not used. In these countries bakers talk about “wienerbrot” which literally means “bread from Vienna”. In French the term used for Danish pastry is “viennoiserie”, again referring to Vienna as the origin of these products. In Austria itself it is called “Plunder”.

We all think that a croissant originated in France. While traditionally ascribed to the French painter and cook Claude Gelée who lived in the 17th century (the story goes that Gelée was making a type of very buttery bread for his sick father and the process of rolling the butter into the bread dough created a croissant-like finished product), the origin of the croissant lies in Vienna. The shape of the croissant is a crescent moon and was first made by the bakers of Vienna during the 1683 siege of their beloved city by the Ottoman Empire. They made a “Plundergebäck” in the shape of a crescent moon to betray the position of the Ottoman army. Years later when Marie-Antoinette (2/11/1755 – 16/10/1793) married the French heir to the throne (Louis XVI) the product became known in France. The shape of the product was that of a half moon or “lune croissante” in French. Hence the name “croissant” in French.

It is important to understand all these types of products (puff pastry, croissant, Danish pastry) are made by creating alternating layers of dough and fat by folding and rolling the dough.

Raw materials and recipes

As with most bakery products, there are as many recipes as there are bakers. Therefore the following recipe is just an illustration of a possible – but excellent – recipe for Danish pastry and for puff pastry.

Levels of ingredients may vary slightly due to the richness desired for the finished product. We must also note that the amount of roll-in shortening used in relation to dough is important to the richness of the dough. Some of the standard amounts of roll-in shortening used per kilogram of dough are as follows:

Recipe Danish pastry



% on flour

% of total


5,000 kg

100,00 %

49,7 %


1,500 kg

30,00 %

14,9 %

whole eggs

0,500 kg

10,00 %

5,0 %


0,500 kg

10,00 %

5,0 %


0,250 kg

5,00 %

2,0 %


0,200 kg

4,00 %

2,0 %


0,100 kg

2,00 %

1,0 %


8,050 kg



roll-in fat

2,000 kg

40,0 %

19,9 %


10,050 kg


100,0 %

Recipe for puff pastry



% on flour

% on total


5,000 kg

100,00 %

43,5 %


2,500 kg

50,00 %

23,5 %


0,050 kg

1,00 %

0,4 %


7,750 kg



roll-in fat

3,750 kg

75,0 %

32,6 %


11,500 kg


100,0 %


Quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. When one looks at a painting, he doesn’t look at the different strokes the artist has put on the canvas or when one listens to a piece of music, he does not listen to the separate notes. No, one enjoys the ensemble of the work. One cannot discuss quality without defining quality for what purpose. This is particularly true for biological materials such as wheat flour. A good quality flour to produce white pan bread is not necessarily good to produce a sugar-snap cookie. Yet to the layman or casual observer all wheat flours look alike.

With regards to the quality of wheat flour not only are there large differences found between bread, cake, pastry, and cookie flours, but differences are also found within each of those types. Taking pastry flour as an example, good quality flour to produce puff pastry is certainly different from that intended to produce croissants or Danish pastry. It is also true that a good quality pastry flour for line 1 in plant A is not necessarily a good quality flour for line 2 in the same plant. Differences in the equipment that make up the line, or even the physical layout of the line, will demand that the flour be different to perform at its optimum. The same would certainly hold for different plants. The variation can be true even if the plants contain the same equipment and have essentially the same layout. The rheological properties of dough are greatly affected by their temperatures. Thus, a plant in a tropical country may need different flour than does the same plant in Scandinavia or northern Canada. It is also true that the relative humidity of the location is important as it controls how much water is lost from the doughs during processing.

Bread flour with protein content of 11,5–12,5% is normally acceptable for the production of pastries. If the protein content is too high the Danish will be tough to eat. Strong flour can be blended with 30% pastry flour to improve extensibility of dough during laminating.

During lamination, the flour must provide the gluten structure to form a strong dough film that is able to entrap the water vapour as it is formed during baking. Good bread flour with a protein content of 11.5-12.5 % and an ash content of not more than 0.5% will usually produce puff pastries of good volume and with a very flaky texture, Flours with higher ash content often lack extensibility during sheeting and make-up. Higher protein levels tolerate slightly more lamination, but may not produce a better pastry.


We have to make a distinction between roll-in fat and the fat that is sometimes added to the dough as such.

The roll-in fat can be butter or margarine at a dosage level of as much as 50 % of flour weight. Fat contributes significantly to the flavour and colour. Butter is preferred but cost and limitations with processing temperature range mean margarine is frequently used.

Butter is an excellent roll-in fat. It is functional and contributes a pleasant taste, aroma, and mouthfeel to the pasty. For good performance, however, butter must be processed within the relatively narrow temperature range of 15-20°C. When butter warms to 21 - 22°C or more, it becomes soft and is absorbed by the dough during lamination.

The fat added to the dough improves dough handling properties and the tenderness of the pastry crumb. It can be butter in butter dough or margarine or vegetable shortening in regular pastry dough. Amount ranges from 8% (lean dough) to 20 % (very rich dough). While the major amount of fat used in puff pastry is the fat “rolled” into the dough (discussed below), a lesser amount (O - 20%, flour basis) is usually added directly to the dough. Dough fat serves to lubricate the gluten structure and facilitates the laminating process. However, good quality pastries can be produced without dough fat. When butter is used as a roll-in fat, then butter is usually also used as dough fat. However, doughs made with a salted margarine or butter may require a slightly longer mixing time than doughs made with regular shortening since salt retards gluten development.

In many bakery products, fat is layered between sheets of dough, and this is manipulated to make a dough sheet consisting of up to 100 alternating layers of dough and fat. Such roll-in doughs include Danish pastry, puff pastry, and croissants. The dough is mixed, divided into pieces of about ten kilograms each, and then cooled to 5 – 10°C in a retarder. The cooled dough is rolled out, two to three kilograms of fat is spread over part of the sheet, and the dough is folded over to cover the fat. The ‘‘sandwich’’ is then rolled out and folded; this is repeated several times, often with a retarding step included to keep the dough/fat mass cool.

The primary goal during the roll-in process is to preserve the structure of alternate layers of dough and fat. There are several important factors to consider in selecting the correct shortening or margarine for such a process. Some of them are: solid fat index (SFI) and plasticity of the fat; complete melting point of the fat; consistency (softness) of the dough; retarder temperature; number of folds given the dough before returning it to the retarder; and proofing temperature. Many of these factors are unique to a given product in a particular bakery, and they influence the specification for the roll-in fat which gives the best final product in that bakery.

The dough for Danish pastry contains higher levels of sugar and water than a bread dough, making it quite soft at the usual mixing temperature of around 20°C. After it is mixed (the gluten matrix is fully developed) it is divided and cooled as described above. The cooling and rest time (during which some fermentation occurs) makes the dough cohesive enough to handle, but if it is over-worked or allowed to warm up too much during the roll-in step, it again becomes soft, sticky, and easily torn. The plastic range of the roll-in fat must be rather broad. The consistency of the fat should nearly match that of the dough across the temperature range, which usually includes the temperature of the retarder (on the cool end) to room temperature or above. If the fat is significantly harder than the dough at the cool temperature, then when retarded dough is rolled out, the fat does not spread into a uniform layer between the dough layers, but is likely to tear holes in the dough sheet.

If the fat is softer than the dough at room temperature, then as the dough mass warms up (during rolling and folding) the shortening soaks into the dough, the adjacent dough layers knit together, and the layering effect is lost. The proper plasticity of roll-in fat requires a relatively shallow SFI profile and stabilization in the ß crystal phase. The latter is particularly important. If the shortening has begun to transform to the more solid ß phase, the additional hardness due to ß crystals will cause excessive tearing during roll-in. The melting point of the fat must be higher than the proofing temperature for the Danish. If the proof box temperature is above the fat melting point, the fat layers turn to oil. This allows the dough layers to knit together to some extent during proofing, and the final product is less flaky than desired. As a general rule, the complete melting point should be at least 5°C higher than proof box temperatures.

A standard all-purpose shortening having a complete melting point of about 45°C usually works well in most Danish pastry production lines. This gives a flaky finished product. Some manufacturers use an emulsified shortening containing 3% monoglyceride, but with similar SFI and melting point specifications. This produces a Danish having a somewhat gummier mouthfeel, which is preferred in some parts of the country.

Croissant dough is similar to Danish dough, although it generally contains somewhat less sugar and water, so it is somewhat firmer at the optimum mixed dough temperature of 20°C. As with Danish, the dough pieces are usually retarded before roll-in is begun. The best quality croissants are produced using unsalted butter for roll-in. The amount used varies from 20 to 35% of dough weight; higher levels give a product that has less volume and flakiness, and is often perceived as greasy in the mouth. The optimum is usually about 25% roll-in fat.

The factors involved in successful processing of croissants are similar to those discussed above for Danish pastry. Because butter has a steeper SFI curve than all-purpose shortening (it is much harder at retarder temperatures) more care is required to prevent tearing the dough as it is being rolled. The melting point is lower than that of shortening, so proofing temperatures are lower than for Danish. Puff pastry margarine is an acceptable substitute, although it does not contribute as much flavour as butter. Since puff pastry margarine has a higher melting point, the proofing may be done at a higher temperature (and for shorter times) if time is a factor.

Rolled-in doughs that contain no yeast (puff pastry) depend upon steam generation in the oven for their leavening. Usually margarine (which contains about 17–20% water) is used for the roll-in fat for these doughs. The water is trapped and held in the fat layers in the dough. It evaporates and expands in the oven, giving an expanded structure to the final product. If the fat portion of the margarine is too soft, the water migrates into the dough during the roll-in step, and the leavening action in the oven is decreased. Puff pastry margarine has a higher SFI curve than all-purpose shortening, and it is some-what more brittle during roll-in. In this case a smooth, continuous layer of fat between dough layers is not particularly desirable. The roll-in process is adjusted somewhat to achieve numerous discrete particles of margarine between the dough layers. These produce somewhat larger voids in the finished product, desirable in a puff pastry.

Whole eggs

Liquid whole eggs not only add liquids to the dough and strength to the baked product, but also contribute to crust colour. Dried whole eggs function as well. Puff pastries prepared with 10% (flour basis) liquid whole eggs develop a better crust colour and require a slightly lower baking temperature than the same products containing no eggs. The egg protein participates in the browning (Maillard) reaction that produces the attractive golden-brown crust colour. The crust colour also helps to mask the greying effect caused by fat crystallization (fat bloom) as the pasty ages.

If higher levels of sugar and shortening are used, the eggs should also be used at higher levels to carry their weight. Eggs are primarily used for structural strength in Danish and may be fortified with whites for added strength or yolks for added tenderness.


In this application, sugar comprises granulated sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Dextrose (glucose) may be used at levels not exceeding 10% of the flour weight. Higher levels of dextrose crystallise as monohydrates, causing the product to become dry and crumbly. However, sucrose and HFCS may be used interchangeably as long as adjustments are made for the 29% moisture content in HFCS.

Sugar affects the dough water absorption. Rich doughs (high sugar content) tend to absorb less water than lean doughs, but they also slow down yeast activity. To off-set this effect, the yeast is normally increased as more sugar is added to the dough. Generally, the amount of compressed yeast added to sweet doughs is about one-third the amount of sugar solids in the formula.


The puffing action in puff pastries involves neither a chemical leavening agent, nor microbiological fermentation as occurs in yeast-raised bread doughs. The puffing depends solely on the significant increase in volume when moisture, turning into steam, becomes trapped between dough layers separated by thin films of fat resulting from the laminating process.

The ability of the “roll-in-fat” to keep dough layers separated primarily determines the quality of puff pastry. During the laminating process, dough layers are reduced to an average thickness of about 0.015 mm. At this thickness, the gluten structure in the dough assumes a 2 dimensional orientation, as compared to the 3 dimensional cell structure in most other doughs and batters. The two dimensional orientation of the gluten structure resembles that of a film and is able to entrap steam during the baking process. This process finally produces the flaky structure in the pastry during the baking process.

Danish pastry on the other hand is a combination of puffing action and fermentation. The processing is composed of the following steps:

  1. dough mixing
  2. dividing the dough in dough pieces or sheets in the case of automated lamination
  3. lamination
  4. make-up
  5. filling and/or decoration: can happen before or after proofing
  6. proofing in case of croissant or Danish pastry
  7. topping
  8. baking
  9. cooling
  10. packaging

We will discuss some of these steps in detail.

Dough mixing

The dough ingredients are all combines and mixed in one stage. As there is still further gluten development during the lamination stage, the mixing of the dough should not be overdone. Doughs are usually mixed until the gluten structure is partially developed; full gluten development occurs when the dough is sheeted for laminating.

Depending on the type of make-up used, production facilities may be confronted with a large amount of scrap dough. The scrap into special baked snack items, or they may get incorporated in fresh doughs. Large operations with automated laminating equipment prefer to add their scrap to new doughs near the end of the mixing cycle. Since scraps already contain the full amount of roll-in fat, there is usually no additional puff paste added for this dough portion. Care must also be taken that the scrap dough contains no traces of fillings because remnants of a pasty filling may cause dark spots to form on new pasty during baking. The basic recipes above should be adjusted for fat and sugar according to the amount of scrap used in a fresh dough.

Alternatively the scrap dough can be made in to some kind of sourdough by adding water and leaving the mixture for 24 hours in controlled conditions of temperature. This procedure improves the taste and the shelf life of Danish pastry.


There are basically 3 methods to make puff pastry and Danish pastry: French method, Dutch method and the extruder system.

In the case of the French method, the roll-in fat is spread or spotted over 2/3 of the dough which previously has been weighed and sheeted into a rectangular shape. The uncovered portion of the dough sheet is folded over half of the fat covered portion and the other half is then folded over the doubled up dough portion. This results in three layers of dough with two layers of fat sandwiched between them. After 20 – 30 minutes rest in the retarder, the layered dough is sheeted to an uniformed thickness of 1,5 – 2,0 cm. The reduction of the thickness should happen slowly and smoothly by using a roller table and should not happen too abrupt.

The dough rest allows the dough to relax and gives the yeast the opportunity to adapt to its new environment.

The dough piece is then given a 3-fold by folding 1/3rd of the dough over the centre section and then the 3rd section of the dough is folded over the doubled up section. The dough should rest again in a retarder for about 20 – 30 minutes. This process is repeated a number of times in order to create more layers. The number of folds vary based on the amount of roll-in fat and can be as much as 264 layers for puff pastry. For Danish pastry 48 to 64 layers normally are sufficient.

Folds and fat layers in laminated dough

number of folds

number of layers

2 x 3 x 3


2 x 3 x 4


2 x 3 x 3 x 2


2 x 3 x 3 x 3


2 x 3 x 3 x 4


2 x 3 x 4 x 4


2 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 2


2 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3


2 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 4


In a second method, the "Dutch system," (also sometimes called the Scottish method) a higher melt point roll-in shortening is combined in the mixer with a semi mixed dough. This method utilizes the same technology as used for mixing pie doughs. The roll-in fat must be firm and is cut into small cubes measuring about 3 centimetres on each side. These chunks are dispersed in the flour before the liquids are added. After all the ingredients are combined, water and eggs included, they are blended together without significant gluten development. The dough is then allowed to hydrate properly for about 30 minutes before lamination. Then, the dough is sheeted out to the desired sizes, folded, and retarded. From here a manual or semi-automated system is employed for the remaining process.

A third method, the "extruder system," has come about with the use of high speed sheeters. In this system, the roll-in shortening is applied to the dough piece by a shortening extruder. The dough is cut, folded into a threefold or four-fold unit, quarter turned, and sheeted again. The dough is retarded for up to six hours, and then it is returned to the make-up line where it is sheeted and folded again. From here the dough is retarded for an additional period of time before the make-up process.

Equipment for continuous lamination is available to laminate pastry dough on a continuous basis. There are essentially two different systems used for incorporation the roll-in fat and two systems for laminating. The products manufactured with this type of equipment are generally intended for wholesale distribution, and their flakiness and size are limited to reduce breakage during shipment.

Since puff pasty doughs become less extensible with increased lamination, most automated laminating lines utilize two reduction (sheeting) and laminating stations positioned in a 90 degree angle to each other to equalize directional stress in the dough.

The roll-in fat is either co-extruded on the inside of a hollow tube of extruded dough or deposited as a continuous layer of fat on top of a continuous layer of dough which is then covered with a second layer of dough. After some sheeting and cross-sheeting the laminated dough is folded in a back-and-forth motion on the slowly moving stacking table. The speed of the stacking table conveyor determines how much each layer overlaps the previous layer and the degree of lamination. The dough can be stacked as high as 15 centimetres without causing problems at the reduction station, where a multiple roller system reduces the stacked dough to the desired thickness of about 1,5 centimetre. Since these rotating rollers move with the dough and the gap between them and the take-away conveyor sections is gradually narrowing from roller to roller, this reduction in dough thickness is rather stress free and allows to obtain products with a regular shape.


After retarding the dough for several hours (or even over-night) the dough is ready for make-up. This happens best at a low temperature (± 15°C). It is again important to reduce the thickness of the dough gradually using a sheeter to avoid rupture of the layers. The flakiness can be adversely affected if the dough is reduced too quickly. Once sheeted to the final thickness (2 – 3 mm) there are a number of ways in which the dough can be made up, including crimping, curling, filling, folding, twisting etc. depending on the desired end product.


Important is to remember that the water activity of the filling has to studied in function of the type of product, the expected shelf life, stability during baking, packaging etc. Water migration from the filling to the dough has to be considered.

The filling should contain sufficient sugar to avoid that they boil (out) during baking.


Proofing is a crucial step in the process. If the dough gets proofed at a too high temperature the roll-in fat may melt and bleed out of the product. As the result the puff will be poor. Over-proofing can cause collapse of the product in the oven. Danish should be proofed at 26 - 29°C with a relative humidity of 65 – 70 % for 60 to 75 minutes. They should be proofed to 2 – 2,5 times their original size.


As for all bakery products, baking time and temperatures are dependent on the type of oven, the size and shape of the product and the type and quantity of the filling.

Danish pastries are usually baked at slightly lower temperatures than equivalent products made from regular sweet doughs. Also, leaner doughs are baked slightly hotter than rich, high sugar doughs. The baking temperature also varies with different oven types. For the same temperature settings, rack and other convection ovens tend to bake hotter than regular gas ovens (reel and travelling tray). Electric deck ovens often bake cooler and require longer baking times.

Danish sweet rolls may be baked at 200 - 210°C in a gas-fired reel oven. Coffee cakes should be baked a little cooler, at 185 - 200°C. Some toppings tend to char easily and require the lower temperatures. The baking times vary not only with the baking temperature, but also with the size of the baked food. A 50 g Danish pastry is usually baked for 15 - 17 minutes at 200°C.


The video gives an idea about the industrial production of croissants (courtesy of Grand Foods Corporation). Left click on the video and open it in a new window.

Trouble shooting


probable cause


butter breaks through the dough

butter too cold
dough too soft
abrupt sheeting

condition the butter before use to 14 - 16°C
reduce the water content of the dough to obtain the same consistency of the butter
use gradual and even sheeting reduction

butter oozes out from dough

butter too warm
dough too warm
dough too tight

condition the butter before use to 14 - 16°C
chill the dough
increase water content

butter melts during proof

proofer too warm
insufficiently laminated

reduce proofer temperature
laminate and fold more to obtain more layers

baked pastries have odd shape

irregular lamination
butter too hard
oven too hot
dough rolled out too thinly

condition the butter before use to 14 - 16°C
bake at 200 - 210°C
use gradual and even sheeting reduction

bakes pastries show fatty patches inside

insufficient lamination
excess roll-butter

laminate and fold more to obtain more layers
reduce roll-in butter

pastry sticks to the sheeting rollers

insufficient dusting
bakery too warm

use more dusting flour during sheeting
work in an air-conditioned room at 18 - 20°C

tough end product

too little fat (roll-in and/or dough fat)
baking temperature too low

increase the butter content
bake at 200 - 210°C

Noël Haegens