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What are the Different Dough Options?


On the surface, bread dough appears simple. Bakers know this is anything but the truth. These are just a few of the many types of bread doughs and pastries you can make at home.

Balls of dough covered with flour ready to be baked.

Bread is a staple of many different cuisines. Sweet memories of making cookies with grandma and memories of pizza for dinner after the big game are common. It all boils down to two simple ingredients: flour and water.

In fact, the dough has a rich history. Nobody actually knows when the dough was first created, but flour-based foods may have been eaten over 30,000 years ago. In those days, flour was simply added to water and then cooked on stones. Of course, it would be thousands of years before people began growing their own wheat. The history of dough would also be incomplete without mention of yeast, which helped dough rise before it was cooked.

Anybody who loves to bake should have some understanding of bread and doughs. Each type of dough offers a different taste and texture, establishing the basis of the world’s most popular meals.

Leavened and Unleavened Doughs

While there are hundreds of types of dough, each one can essentially be divided into two categories: leavened and unleavened.

This is a large leavened dough in a basket covered with a dish towel.

The leavened dough has been fermented, allowing it to rise with the help of yeast, baking powder, or baking soda. One method of leavening is known as the sponge dough method, which involves mixing flour, water, and yeast to allow it to grow.

The dough becomes flakey with the help of sugar, salt, flour, and fat. The dough also becomes leavened with the straight dough method, which involves mixing the ingredients and then kneading. Leavened bread includes dinner rolls, loaves of bread, and pizza.

This is a look at an unleavened dough being flattened by a rolling pin.

Then, there is unleavened dough. These bread dishes don’t rise and are relatively thin. To keep the bread soft, fat is added. Unleavened bread includes pasta, tortillas, crackers, and many pastries.

Pastry Doughs

There are two main types of pastry dough: laminated and non-laminated.

This is a look at a pair of laminated and folded dough.

The laminated dough has been folded over and over again. It also typically uses butter to create layers of air in the dough. Two very common types of laminated dough are puff pastry and croissants. Like non-laminated pastry dough, the laminated dough can be either leavened or unleavened.

A look at a non-laminated pie dough being prepared on the pan.

Non-laminated dough may include butter or fat but does not require folding. The most common forms of non-laminated dough include pie dough and brioche.

Dough Elasticity

The elasticity of a type of dough creates the texture you enjoy. If your dough has less water and more fat, it is going to be less elastic than dough with a lot of water and less fat. You can end up with a bread that is either mealy or flaky.

This is a look at a folded flaky dough covered in flour.

The flaky dough is mixed only briefly, which means the amount of fat in the flour is uneven. The result? Pastry and pie crusts.

This is a close look at the mealy dough of the fruit pie crust.

On the other hand, the mealy dough is crispy and dense. The density is created with the help of very small pieces of fat. The dough does not absorb much water, so it must be mixed longer. Mealy dough is perfect for crispy fruit pies.

Bread Dough

Sets of raw bread dough waiting in line to be baked.

The most popular kind of dough is bread dough, and the reason for this is that it is simple. Bread dough simply requires wheat, water, and yeast. The ingredient is kneaded together, creating an elastic bread. The dough rises before it is cooked, so it is leavened. The leavener can include yeast or sometimes baking soda. To leaven this kind of bread, you typically have to let it sit with yeast so that it rises.

Sourdough Bread

A look at a sourdough starter in a jar next to a baked sourdough bread.

Surprisingly, sourdough is one of the oldest bread. Sour bread has been a favorite for a long time. In fact, it is the oldest leavened bread known to exist. Part of this bread’s unique quality is the fact that it does not contain fat, milk, or yeast-like other bread.

Today, sourdough bread is made with a bacteria called lactobacilli, which is found in the flour. People typically make sourdough bread with a starter, which includes flour, water, and salt.

Sourdough bread is frequently used to make bread bowls. Clam chowder and other soups may be eaten out of these airy bread bowls. There are also a lot of differences between different types of sourdough bread. For example, Danish sourdough is dark and dense, whereas Amish friendship bread is sourdough with milk and sugar.

Rich Dough

This is a pan of rich dough cinnamon swirl pastries ready to be baked.

Like many other types of bread, the rich dough is leavened. It contains eggs along with oil, cream, and butter. The thin dough retains a smooth surface and is often stretched very thin. When the dough is cooked, it becomes quite fluffy, similar to the texture of the cake.

Challah bread is a type of rich bread that you may be familiar with. Cinnamon swirl bread is another rich bread.

Pie Crust

A close look at a pie crust dough with a rolling pin.

Pies are nothing new. After all, people enjoyed pies throughout the Middle Ages, though they were typically full of meat instead of fruit. Today, pies can be savory or sweet with this delicious crust.

To make pie dough, you will need flour, water, fat (lard, shortening, oil, or butter), and salt. Some recipes also call for ingredients like vinegar, baking powder, cider, eggs, and sugar. Certain types of pies call for different types of flours. The way the ingredients are distributed will impact the texture of the pie to be mealy or flaky.

Pate Brisee Pie Crust

A close look at a freshly-baked chicken tart pate brisee.

If you are on the hunt for a pie dough with a mealy texture, pate brisee is a good option. This pie dough is ideal for many dessert options, and it is simple to make with the right proportions of water, fat, and flour. The ingredient list also includes eggs, salt, vanilla, and citrus juice.

This dough is typically used in French cuisine, often to create custard desserts. For example, you would press the crust into a pie tin to create the base for fruit fillings and puddings you intend to bake. Another layer of the crust may cover the filling.

Pate Sucree

A close look at a set of pate sucree crusts for mini tarts.

In French cuisine, pate sucre is a type of sweet dough. Some people call it short dough. It tends to be lighter and more crispy than some of the other pie crust options. It is very buttery and sweet.

Pate sucree is similar to pate brisee in that it contains water, fat, and flour in distinct proportions. It also contains eggs and sugar, which ultimately gives this dough a more cookie-like consistency. It offers the perfect texture for cookies, tarts, and other desserts.

Patee Sablee

This is a coconut pie with a pate sablee crust.

For a crumbly, crispy dessert, sablee dough is a great choice. The dough is made by combining and mixing fat, sugar, eggs, and then flour. The order of the ingredients is important to create the right texture. The sweet dough often uses ground almonds as well.

Patee sablee is commonly used to make cookies, but it is also a pie crust. It is often used to create tarts in French cuisine, and its name refers to its “sandy” texture. It is more like a shell than some of the other doughs on this list.

Puff Pastry

This is a set of freshly-baked puff pastries with berries.

The Puff pastry is a French invention, created by a baked named Cladius Gele, and it can be used for sweet or savory dishes. The dough actually requires a lot more work than some of the other dough options on this list.

The process of making puff pastry involves rolling the dough around the butter. The dough is rolled and folded several times with the goal of creating an even spread throughout the dough. As the dough bakes, the layers become much more evident. The pastry takes on a more flaky texture.

Phyllo Dough

A look at raw phyllo dough.

Phyllo dough, also called filo is quite old, and it is still used for pies today. The thin, light texture creates a unique kind of pastry. These pastries are made by layering sheets upon sheets of phyllo, brushing each with butter or oil before baking it.

This unleavened dough involves a lot of stretching, creating very thin sheets of dough. It is often used for Middle Eastern desserts because it has a rich history stemming from Istanbul. This means you will see phyllo dough used baklava as well as meat pies.

Choux Pastry

This is a set of freshly-baked choux pastries with caramel cream filling.

The history of choux pastry dates back to the 1500s. It was actually invented to honor the marriage of King Henry II and Catherine de Medici in 1540.

Choux pastry is made with egg, milk, butter, and water. Unlike many other doughs on this list, choux pastry includes a lot of liquid. When cooked, choux pastry is very crispy and light thanks to the water evaporating and leaving an airy texture. Often, the pastry is filled with cream or custard, creating dishes like cream puffs and croquembouche.

The unique aspect of choux pastry is that it does not use yeast as a leavener. Instead, it uses moisture inside the dough to steam itself as it cooks. This creates a more puffy pastry.

Croissants

A batch of Croissant dough being prepared for baking.

Croissant dough is not very different from puff pastry dough, with the main difference being some additional yeast. Croissant dough is much more fluffy than puff pastry, however.

If you want to make your croissant dough, you will fold a lot of butter into the dough, creating many layers. Like puff pastry, croissant dough is flaky, light, and tasty. It is often paired with almond paste or chocolate for a sweet dessert.

Brioche

A freshly-baked brioche loaf.

Brioche dates back to the early 1400s, and it was first made in Brie, France. Brioche is richer than some other bread because of the eggs, butter, and liquid it uses.

Brioche is yeast-based and also contains butter and eggs. It is a non-laminated sweet bread, creating a cake-like texture. It is creamy and soft, not crispy or crunchy like some of its similarly tasting counterparts.

Kourou Dough

A close look at a vegetarian quiche with a kourou crust.

Like many other types of dough, Kourou dough is very rich. It has a crunch, dry consistency but also has a lot of flavors. You might find this kind of dough when you enjoy a quiche, pie, or tart.

You can make Kourou dough with butter, eggs, and a small amount of oil. Some bakers also use yogurt and milk to moisten the dough.

Pasta

A close look at the process of making homemade pasta.

Pasta is an overlooked kind of dough. In fact, many people will never make their own pasta at home because it is so easily accessible in stores.

If you do choose to make your own pasta, the dough will be hard at first. It requires a lot of kneading to ensure that the moisture spreads throughout the dough. Once the dough is mixed, it can be rolled or molded to make the perfect shape.

Pasta is made of wheat, eggs, and salt. For gluten-free pasta-lovers, the dough is often made of different types of flour, including rice and legume flours. Once you’ve mixed everything together, you can dry the pasta or cook it fresh.

Enjoy Dough the Way You Want It

The good news about any of these doughs is that once you get the basic science down, you can experiment with flavors and ingredients to create a flavor you love. Any of these doughs can create a rich and delicious flavor, whether you love savory or sweet dishes.

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