Now there’s a title that gets your mouth watering eh? It may not be the most sexy title ever but knowing when fat melts makes a big difference not only when you’re baking but also when you’re buying baked goods.
Case in point let’s examine one of the most ubiquitous of holiday convenience foods; Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets.
Ingredients: UNBLEACHED ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR, WATER, VEGETABLE OILS (PALM, SOYBEAN, HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED), CONTAINS 2 PERCENT OR LESS OF: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SALT, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, SOY LECITHIN, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, TURMERIC AND ANNATTO EXTRACTS FOR COLOR.
Regardless of the implications of sketchy ingredients, the fat in their product is the biggest difference between Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry and homemade puff pastry or a high quality premade.
Melting Point and Freezing Point
I learned something today, so I want you to suffer along with me.
I’m sure we can all had basic elementary school science and can agree that a freezing point is the temperature that a liquid turns solid.
It is only colloquially, however, that 32 degrees fahrenheit, the freezing point of water, is referred to as freezing. Actually all liquids have a different freezing point. Hang in there, it gets worse.
Scientifically, freezing doesn’t mean super cold. To oversimplify it, because butter is actually a complicated emulsion of water, milk solids, and milk fat as opposed to a single liquid, the freezing point, or temperature that butter is solid, is a range but about 82 degrees fahrenheit.
And guess what, the melting point is also 82 degrees.
Freezing point and melting point are the same thing. Because that makes any sense right? No wonder I was a liberal studies major.
The freezing point where a liquid is solid and/or the melting point where a solid is liquid is the fine line where a tiny bit colder and it will be solid. Anything warmer and it will be liquid.
Why this is important
Since your body temperature is 98 degrees, when you eat something that’s made with butter which has melting point of 82 degrees you get a wonderful flavor and texture of yummy buttery goodness.
When you have a baked good that’s made with a fat with a much higher melting point i.e. the hydrogenated cottonseed oil with a melting point of 117 degrees that’s in Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, it won’t melt in your mouth. You’ll have that ever so slightly weird feeling of something coating your tongue. That is unmelted fat.
Why on earth would anyone use anything but butter? It’s the reason most people, and by people I mean large conglomerate food companies, do anything; money. Butter is expensive.
You can only ever have two out of the three, Fast – Good – Cheap
Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry – Fast and Cheap
Dufour Puff Pastry – Fast and Good
Homemade Puff Pastry – Good and Cheap
Dufour can be hard to find, but worth it if you’re doing something special. It is made with 100% butter and is about $10 for a 14 ounce package so just short of a pound. I have found it at Central Market in Texas and Central Market in Seattle, Washington so it’s available in high end grocery stores.
Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets are available in just about every grocery store everywhere. A package is about $4 and is about 17 ounces so it’s just over a pound.
I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t use Pepperidge Farm but it’s worth it to compare your options and see which texture and flavor you prefer. Sometimes, or all the time, it might be worth it to go to the expense of Dufour or trouble of making your own.
If you’d like to read more, PJ Hamel writes a blog for King Arthur Flour and has written an excellent article about how butter and shortening perform in pie crust. She specifically goes into flakiness and texture. It’s a good read.
Cheesy Bacon Pinwheels – Recipe Coming Soon
Don’t miss my upcoming article on nearly instant appetizers you can make with puff pastry during the holidays. Subscribe to my email list below.