Tag Archives: puff pastry

You Asked for It: Puff Pastry Certification PP301

7 Jan

You guys know I have polls on my website, right?  Don’t go look right this very second, ’cause maybe they aren’t exactly updated right now, but still.  Anyway, last month, one of the polls asked something along the lines of “What’s the most daunting task in the pastry kitchen?”  Fully one third of you guys–maybe 10 of you–answered puff pastry.  I wrote about puff pastry Long, Long Ago, but apparently the word isn’t out that puff isn’t that big a deal.  So, because I am a Selfless Helper, I will now talk to you all about puff pastry–the ins and outs, the folds, the terminology:  *all of it.

First, here’s a secret:  it is more difficult to make a good pie crust than it is to make puff pastry.  Honest.  Most folks consider making puff pastry a daunting task because it is time consuming.  That it is, but it is not difficult at all.  As a matter of fact, it’s pretty mindless.  You don’t even have to remember how many times you’ve turned the blasted thing–all the directions I’ve ever seen tell you to make marks in the dough after each turn to keep count!

I submit that, if you can use a rolling pin and you know how to Fold Things, you can successfully make puff pastry.

Puff pastry is a laminated dough.  This means that the whole is comprised of layers that are all sandwiched together.  In the case of plywood, you’ve got thin layers of wood sandwiched together with glue.  In the case of puff, you’ve got thin layers of gluten-rich dough sandwiched together with butter.

To achieve the layering effect, you could just roll out ridiculously thin pieces of dough, brush some butter on them, and stack them up.  That’s exactly what you’re doing when you use phyllo dough.  Think of that process as sort of a deconstructed method of making puff pastry.

In order to make true puff (as opposed to rough puff), you take some lean dough (very little, if any, fat) and wrap it around a slab of butter.  Then, you start rolling it carefully so it’s thin enough to fold.  This first rolling starts you off with three layers–the bottom lean dough, the butter in the middle, and the top lean dough.  If, once it’s large and thin enough to fold, you fold it into thirds like a business letter, you’ll have 7 layers:  dough, butter, (dough, dough), butter, (dough, dough), butter, dough.  The doughs are in parentheses because the two layers get mashed into one by rolling.  If you fold both end into the middle and then fold at the middle, you’ll have 9 layers:  dough, butter, (dough, dough), butter, (dough, dough), butter, (dough, dough), butter, dough.  I’m starting to feel a bit like Homer Simpson with all the dohs, so I’m going to stop all of that now.  Suffice to say that subsequent rolling and folding will give you a Very Ton of thin, thin layers of butter and doh.

Most pastry experts agree that classic French puff pastry is made by folding the dough into thirds and rolling it out again a total of six times.  Keep in mind that you can make as few or as many folds and turns as you want, though.  Fewer layers (although we’re still talking over 100) will rise higher but won’t be as flaky and ethereal.  More layers will certainly puff, but not as high.  The classic ideal is that the dough should rise 8x its initial height.  So, if your dough is 1/4″ to begin with, you can expect the height after baking to be around 2″.

Puff Pastry Minutiae That Must Be Addressed
Don’t let the minutiae scare you.  They say that the devil is in the details, but why not be a glass-half-full kind of person and say that God is in the details?

  1. Rule number One for achieving Lovely Lamination is that the consistency of the butter should mimic as closely as possible the consistency of the dough (called detrempe, if you’re fancy).  If the butter is too hard, it will just break up and poke holes in the detrempe.  Rolling out will be Difficult At Best, and you won’t end up with a continuous sheet of butter.  If the butter is too soft, it will just soak into the dough and guish out the sides, leaving you with an overly-rich dough with exactly one layer.  Not good.
  2. Rule number Two:  extra flour is mandatory.  Make sure your rolling surface and the surface of the dough is lightly floured at all times.  This means that you’ll have to keep adding more, a little at a time.  Sticking can tear your delicate layers, allowing even right-consistency butter to guish out.  Since the tough layers (lean-ish dough) are separate from the tender layers (butter), a little more flour isn’t going to hurt anything–you’ll still get an excellent rise.
  3. Rule number Two-A: brush off the excess flour before folding.  See, that’s why this is rule 2A instead of rule 3.  The time that you want the dough to stick is when the dough layers are being rolled together.  ‘Member that (dough, dough) I talked about earlier.  To make sure that those two layers become one, you need to make sure that the surface is as flour-free as you can make it before folding.  They make a keen tool made especially for this purpose, but you can just as easily use a fairly stiff pastry brush or paint brush.  Plus, bench brushes are expensive.
  4. Rule number Three: as you roll, flip your dough over fairly frequently.  Because of friction, the top layer will always roll farther than the bottom layer.  In order to keep the layers even, flip frequently.
  5. Rule number Four:  Chill out.  The refrigeration periods between folding and rolling (turns), allow for the butter to maintain Optimum Plasticity–not too cold; not too hot–and for the gluten formed by all the turning (which is really just a type of kneading) to relax enough to be able to roll out multiple times.  Don’t think you can get away with making more than two turns at a time.  Either your butter will start guishing out or the detrempe will become too sproingy, making it very hard to roll out.  Thirty minutes to an hour under refrigeration will take care of Both Issues.
  6. Rule number Five:  It’s hip to be square.  As much as I love the rustic look of Free Form Baked Goods, puff pastry requires fairly strict adherence to the Ideal Rectangle.  Roll with finesse, and when finesse fails pull gently with your hands, to square up the dough as much as possible before folding.  Keeping the dough square with all the edges meeting up more or less perfectly gives you the maximum amount of dough containing all possible layers.  If you don’t keep the dough square, there will be some areas around the edges that could lack as many as hundreds of layers, causing uneven rising.  This is especially crucial if you want to bake a large sheet of puff, but for consistency’s sake it’s always good practice to Shoot for the Rectangle.

Helpful Tips from Your Friend Jenni

  • If you can find it, use a high protein pastry flour.  You want a lot of protein to develop a lot of gluten.  You want pastry flour because it is finely ground and sifted.
  • For the best puff in your puff, you’ll want to use a “European style” butter with relatively low moisture.  Granted, water releases steam which causes the puff in the first place, but there’s already some water both in the detrempe and in Special Butter.  Using plain old store brand or even name brand Amurkin Butter pushes you right over the edge to soggy.  Plugra is an excellent US-made brand that is widely available and that I’ve had very good luck with.  Regardless, look for a butter with a butterfat content of 82%.  And, no, 80% butterfat isn’t close enough.  That’s what “normal” butter contains.
  • Once you’ve finished making all of your turns, trim off all the edges of your sheet of puff pastry.  If you bake the folded portions, it’ll end up puffing like a book with a warped cover with leaves fanning out only in one direction instead of rising High and Even.
  • If you’ll be using cutters to cut your puff pastry, or even if you’re cutting with a sharp knife, cut straight down rather than twisting or pulling the blade.  You might also have heard of this in directions for making biscuits.  In both cases, the rule exists to keep you from accidentally gluing your edges together and impeding the rise.
  • If you egg wash your puff pastry, be very careful that none of it drips down the sides.  This too can impede the rise.  If you don’t believe me, egg wash a whole piece of puff, sides and all.  It’ll bake up all dome-shaped and stupid.  You really don’t want your efforts to be thwarted when Victory is Within Your Grasp.
  • After you cut your pieces of puff, turn them over before baking.  This will also help with even rise.
  • Chilling the pieces before baking is a Good Idea.  I usually let mine hang out in the fridge on parchment-lined baking sheets for half an hour or so.
  • DO NOT USE a convection oven to bake small pieces of puff.  You’ll end up with Slinkies as the air blows the layers over.  I know; I’ve been there.  Second practicum in one day?  Sure, no problem…
  • To make a classic Napoleon, or just to make a crisp layer of puff that doesn’t puff very much, place a few baking sheets on top of your sheet of puff.  Every fifteen minutes or so, take all the baking sheets out of the oven and push down on the top ones to keep the sheet of puff from rising to Great Heights.
  • If you need to cut puff pastry after baking, a serrated knife is an Excellent Tool.

*So Where’s the Recipe?

I’m not giving one.  So there.  There are tons and tons of recipes out there for puff pastry.  Oh, fine.  Go look at my other Puff Pastry Post.  There’s a recipe there, as well as rules. The rules are the important part, though.  Like so many other Pastry Items, puff pastry is all about technique.  Pretty much the only ingredients are flour, salt, water and butter.  The Magic of the Puff is in knowing how to combine them to achieve the Desired Results.

The Recap

  1. Be Not Afraid.
  2. The refrigerator is your friend.
  3. Keep it nice and square.  Puff pastry is the Anal Retentive Chef’s favorite thing to make.
  4. Do Not Stress.  Repeat:  Do Not Stress.
  5. Don’t forget to pick up your Puff Pastry Prowess Certification.

The Great Search Term Round Up: Volume V. Plus, Shameless Teasers. I Never Said I Was Proud.

31 Aug
In Which we find ourselves at the end of another month, ready to help answer your burning pastry questions.

In Which we find ourselves at the end of another month, ready to help answer your burning pastry questions.

So, guys–I was going to write a lovely Sunday Supper post about some stuff I made from Farmers’ Market Bounty.  Then, I was going to write one about the Ridiculously Good chicken satay we had last night.  And then, I remembered that today is the 31st.  That’s right–the last day of the month.  It’s practically Labor Day, and I swear Memorial Day was just a couple of weeks ago.  For my Hinternational Readers, US Memorial Day and Labor Day pretty much bracket summer.  Holiday Bookends.

At any rate, I’ve shelved the Sunday Suppers ideas for next week, because I remember my end of month Duty:  to comb through the best and worst of my wee blog’s search terms.  And August yielded a Bumper Crop of searches.  Often, I’d find myself yelling to The Beloved, “Hey, somebody actually found me by searching (insert odd/unusual/funny search term here)!”  As always, I have taken the liberty of phrasing in the form of a question, unless the term is so Odd that I can’t figure out how to do that.  Also, I decided not to address any Cool Whip searches this time.  It just makes me So Tired.  And now, without further ado, let’s get down To It, shall we?

Do you know the “is laughing & smiling” birthday song? Why yes, I do.  Becky from Maine taught it to me in college, and it goes like this:

Today is a birthday!
I wonder for whom?
I think it’s for someone right here in this room!
So look aaaaalll around you for somebody who
Is laughing and smiling!
My goodness, it’s you!

I’m not sure of the Actual Tune, so I usually just Recite it as a poem.  You’re welcome.

(This one was actually phrased in the form of a question by the Intrepid Searcher):  What tomatoes do you use for fried green tomatoes? Green ones.

What do you do if your live yeast won’t bubble? I hate to break this to you:  your yeast is dead.  Hold a funeral, and then buy new yeast.   Seriously, they call it “proofing” so the yeast can prove to you that they’re alive by eating sugar and belching carbon dioxide.  So, bubbles=live yeast, because that’s what yeast do.  That’s all they do.  When they don’t do what they do, it’s because they can’t, either because they are too cold or they are dead.

Do you know how to make a cake that doesn’t look like a cake? Yes.

How can I make a Glinda the Good Witch cake? I assume you are making this to celebrate Wicked’s coming to your town.  By all means, you should celebrate such an occasion.  I applaud you.  Might I suggest making a Barbie cake, decorating it with all sorts of froofy white and palest pink frosting, slapping a Big Ass Tiara on her head and giving her a wand.  Then, go to the medical supply store and tell them you need a self-contained atosphere bubble thingy.  Ask if you can get it in pink.  I guess you could also get one of those clear excerise ball things.  Your call.  Anyway, put the cake in the bubble-ball, then hook the it up to a pulley system and make it sort of float in the air and slowly descend to the table.  It will be Awesome (for you, DS).  If you think I’m crazy, I give you the following photos as Proof of Veracity:  here, here and here.

Do you use powdered sweet and sour mix? Heavens, no.  If I need sour mix, I use lemon juice, lime juice and 1:1 simple syrup.  (2 parts lemon juice, 2 parts lime juice and 3 parts simple syrup).  I’ve seen recipes that call for powdered egg white, and I have a bartender friend who swears that he would never NOT put egg white in his sour mix.  It’s a Body Thing.

What went wrong with my pastry? I got nothin’.

Why do my pie crusts leak? Because they have holes in them.  Seriously, a pie crust should be like a bowl to hold tasty items, not a colander to drain tasty items.  If you put your pie crust in your pie plate and it tears a little, just take wee piece and use it as a patch.  Press it on really well.  Yes, working it will make it a little tough, but I’d rather have a Tiny Tough Part of my crust than a colander made of dough.

What kind of tattoos does Adam Lambert have? He only has one:  an Eye of Horus, on the inside of his right wrist.

How is gluten developed in French puff pastry? All that rolling and folding activates the gluten. If you didn’t fold and roll and fold and roll so you’d have tons of layers of Very Thin Dough and butter, you’d end up with the Toughest Pastry in the World. Think of rolling as kneading–that’s how you knead pasta dough, even if you use one of those keen pasta machines.   The flakiness and delicacy of pie crust tart crust is a function of minimal water, lowish gluten flour and minimal mixing.  In contrast, the flakiness and delicacy of strudel dough, phyllo dough and puff pastry are a function of how thinly they are rolled (or stretched, as the case may be).

Why can’t you stir when making caramel sauce? That’s a good question.  I had always heard that you should Never Stir sugar, and I never did because I was terrified that something Bad would happen.  While the sugar is melting and boiling and is still clear, there is a danger of a rogue sugar crystal getting down in the boiling sugar and spawning a ton of little crystally friends.  That’s one of the reasons that they tell you to brush the sides of the pan with water right when the sugar and water starts to boil–it washes those potential crystal-colony-spawning sugar crystals down into the stew where they belong.  Anyway, once the sugar begins to color and it seems to thin out a little, I’ve found that I can stir with no ill effects.  At that point the sucrose has been broken down into glucose and fructose and is well on its way to Being Caramel.  There is so little crystalline structure left lying about that stirring doesn’t Wreak Havoc.  So, my advice and experience says Stir Not While Clear, but once the sugar starts to color, stir in the middle.  Try not to slop sugar syrup up the sides of the pan, because there’s no sense in Asking for Trouble, but give it a stir to keep the color even.  I usually stir with a silicone spatula with the blade parallel to the bottom of the pan, keeping the blade in contact with the bottom.

Do you know the cheesecake boat comedian? Not in real life, but I love that cheesecake boat man bit Kevin Meaney used to do.  “Cheesecake boat’s a’comin’!  Gonna party tonight!”  I’ve just spent fifteen minutes looking for a video of this little gem to no avail.  Alas, I tried.

What oven program is used for making pie? What, you don’t have a Pie Button?  Your oven is obviously Defective.  Go to the store and get a new one.  Make sure it’s the kind with the Pie Button.

Other notable searches for which I got nothin’:

  • How to whip the cream for icing the past
  • running away from fear
  • tattoo backbone
  • green beans filling cakes
  • the cat and the custard cup terrine

Well, I hope you have enjoyed our little Round Up.  If I ever come across a Cheesecake Boat clip, I’m giving it its own post!

Oh, and remember Van Halen pound cake?  Well, I made a Souped Up version–it was Unbelievably Good.  I will share with you the secrets of Unbelievably Good Pound Cake tomorrow.  See you then.

Puff the Magic Pastry

16 Mar
This is why my jaw is so sore.  Libby does not play when she issues a challenge.

This is why my jaw is so sore. Libby does not play when she issues a challenge.

Once again, I have been smacked with the Gauntlet of Challenge.  So, while holding a bag of frozen peas on my jaw, I will attempt to rise to said challenge, one handed.  Read slowly, so I can keep up.

Libby, Wielder of the Gauntlet, wants to know my thoughts on store-bought puff pastry.  And then (the double smack) she would like some Helpful Tips on Making Her Own.

Fine, Libby.  I accept your challenge.  Let me just take some ibuprofen, readjust my Bag o’ Peas, and we’ll get down to it.

First of all, the flavor of puff pastry comes from butter.  As far as I’m concerned, no butter equals no flavor.  Let’s just peruse the ingredient list of the ubiquitous Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, shall we?

  • Unbleached enriched wheat flour
  • Water
  • Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening
  • Gluten
  • Mono- and Diglycerides
  • Soy Lecithin

Um, wow.  Yum?  There’s not even any salt in this stuff.  If you want to use store bought, this is your last choice.

There are three brands of all butter puff pastry that I know of.  One is from Dufour Pastry Kitchens.  It’s fancy and French, but it is available to the retail market in the US, so with some searching, you can probably find it.  The other is a Trader Joe’s product.  In searching around on the Hinternet, some folks say it’s seasonal, and others say it’s available year round.  If you have a TJ’s in your area, hit them up for some frozen, all butter puff pastry.  For those of you who pay for things in pounds, I found a website that sells a Swiss product, Saxby’s Jus-Rol All Butter Puff Pastry.   The website is Ocado.  They deliver, so you can register to see if they’ll deliver to your area.  You’re welcome.

If you can’t find an all-butter puff that you like, or if you can’t find one period, then there’s nothing for it but to roll up your sleeves and make it yourself.  I know–deep breaths, people.  Here’s the thing about puff pastry.  It’s not hard to make (it’s much easier to deal with than croissant dough, for example), it contains only 5 ingredients, and all you need is some space, a refrigerator and some time.

Some Rules to Know

  1. Use the best quality unsalted butter you can find.  You want as much butterfat as possible in the butter.  US butter contains about 81% butterfat (the balance is made up of mostly water and some milk solids), while European butter is contains around 85%.  Check it for yourself.  The Plugra brand, which is widely available here in the US, has a much “drier” feel than US butter.  Why?  Well, you need some water to generate steam to get a good rise, but too much water just makes things soggy and hard to work with.  Believe me, you’ll be much happier if you use a “European style” high butterfat butter.
  2. Through the process of repeated rolling and folding, and with the large amount of water in the dough, you are developing a whole heck of a lot of gluten.  The dough part of puff pastry (the detremps) is actually very tough.  What keeps it from feeling tough in the mouth is that hundreds of tough but thin leaves of dough are separated into layers through the Power of Steam, and a rich mouthfeel is imparted by the butterfat.  Puff pastry is an Extreme Fake Out in this way.
  3. When made correctly, puff pastry will puff up to 8 times its original thickness.  Figure on an almost 2″ rise if you are starting with dough that’s 1/4″ thick. (!!)
  4. If you bake small puff pastry shapes, as for vol au vents, in a convection oven, the air will blow over your little shapes and you will be left with puff pastry slinkies as opposed to cute little shells.  I’m telling you; I’ve been there.  Just turn off the fan for puff, please.
  5. The most important thing to remember when making puff pastry is that it’s much easier to roll the butter and the dough together when both are roughly the same consistency.  If the butter is way softer than the dough (or vice versa), you’ll have a huge mess on your hands.  Keep checking the consistency and refrigerate (or let sit for a few minutes) as necessary to keep the consistencies as similar as possible.
  6. You’ll want to add a fair amount of flour when you’re rolling, but make sure you brush it off completely before folding, or your layers won’t stick together.
  7. Some recipes call for mixing some of the flour with the butter, to make a beurre manie.  I’ve not made it this way, but I would think that it would yield a slightly more tender product since some of the flour would be completely coated in fat, limiting gluten production.

Okay, I think that’s enough rules for now.  Let’s get to it.

Puff Pastry

  • 12 oz. all purpose flour
  • 2 oz. cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 13 oz. unsalted butter, divided
  • about 8 oz. ice water

You will also need:

  • a brush with firm bristles, for brushing off excess flour
  • a bench scraper (just in case)
  • a good rolling pin
  • a pile of extra flour for dusting
  • a bowl of extra ice water
  • plastic wrap
  • lots of room

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and the salt.  Dice 3 oz. (6 TBSP) butter and toss in with the flour/salt mixture.  Refrigerate the rest of the butter.

With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until the whole shebang looks like coarse meal.  Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water, a bit at a time, until you have formed a sticky, shaggy, rather ugly dough.  You might not use all the water, but you might–just keep your eyes on the sticky, ugly, shaggy prize.

Gather up your ugly dough, flatten it into a vague rectangle, and wrap it in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for about an hour or so to give the flour a chance to completely hydrate and to let the butter firm back up a bit.

Take out the other 10 oz (2 1/2 sticks) of butter out of the fridge.  Put it on a large clean work surface and bash it with a rolling pin to soften it.  Your goal is to get the butter pliable and into a square shape about 5″ on a side and about 1/2″ thick (or so).  Use a bench scraper to help shape your packet o’ butter, if you want.

And now, let the fun begin.  I personally find making puff pastry to be a relaxing pastime.  Put on some music, grab a glass of wine, and get ready to introduce dough to butter and make 2 become 1.  Here is a Very Keen Little Video which can help you.  It’s only 20 seconds long, so go take a peek real fast.

See?!  Okay, once your dough has been in the fridge for about an hour, take it out and check to see if the consistency of the butter and dough are similar.  Just poke each one to see.  If the butter is firmer than the dough, refrigerate the dough for a bit longer.  If the dough is firmer than the butter, refrigerate the butter for a little while.  Always keep everything right around a magical 67-68F.  The last thing you want is for your butter to melt all over the place.

Liberally flour your work surface and the dough, and roll until you have a square about 10″ on a side.  Now, roll each corner of the square out into a thinner flap.  What you’ll end up with is a thick-ish diamond of dough about 5-6″ on a side with thinner flaps.  Brush the top of the dough off, and place the packet o’ butter in the center of the thick-ish square of dough.  Fold up one flap at a time to completely encase the butter in dough.  Don’t forget to brush off all the excess flour.  You might need to use a bit of ice water here to get the four flaps to stick together over the butter.  For you visual guys out there, what you should end up with is something that looks like a dough envelope with a butter letter inside of it.  Make sure the butter is all the way enclosed in the detremps (de dough).  If you have futzed about with this for awhile, wrap it in plastic and throw it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Flour your work surface again, and pound the packet of dough with your rolling pin to flatten it somewhat and start to make it a bit bigger.  Roll your dough into a rectangle about 16″X8″.  Work with short strokes up and down the packet until things are nice and pliable.  This will help keep your dough from ripping.  If you do get a tear in your dough, patch it with some flour.

Brush off the surface of the dough very well, then the brush the surface with just a bit of ice water. (This is a Shirley Corriher trick, and she swears that, not only does this help to keep things cold, but that she gets a better rise because of the additional steam.  Try this, or not–it’s here as an additional step, if you want to give it a shot.  It goes against what I say in Thing to Know #1.  On the other hand, Shirley has never steered me wrong.  I’ve not tried it yet.  If you have, I’d love to hear about your results). Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter, being sure to brush off the excess flour.  Keep the edges as square as possible.  Repeat the rolling and folding a second time.  Wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, and mark a “2” on the wrap with a sharpie.  Traditionally, you’re supposed to make finger indentions, but I figure that God made sharpies for this purpose.  Besides, if you accidentally dent your pastry, you might get confused.  If you’re me, anyway.  Throw the now twice turned dough into the fridge for an hour.

After an hour, take the dough out and give it two more turns.  Use the ice water step, or not.  If at any time you feel the butter starting to slide around inside the dough, throw it back in the fridge.  Conversely, if the butter gets too hard, whack it a few times with the rolling pin to help keep it pliable.  After the 2nd (4th) turn, wrap it up, mark it with a “4,” and throw it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, take your dough out, whack it with the rolling pin a few times, and give it two more turns.  Always keep the edges as square and even as possible, and always roll to a 16″x8″ rectangle.  Roll to a finished thickness of 1/4″, and the dough is finally ready to be used.  Hooray!

More Rules to Know

  1. When cutting puff pastry, be sure to cut straight down without twisting, or you might stick some of your layers together and inhibit a nice, even rise.
  2. Flip cut pastry over before baking.  Let cut pieces chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.
  3. Placing a sheet of parchment paper on top of the puff pastry before baking can help you achieve a more even rise.
  4. If you use egg wash, be very sparing, and don’t let any run down the cut sides of the pastry.  The egg wash will glue the layers together, and you won’t get a good rise.
  5. Don’t bake puff with an uncut edge.  It won’t puff, and you will have wasted your time.
  6. If you don’t want your puff to rise (if you’re making a Napoleon, for example) prick it all over with a fork, put a piece of parchment on top and weight it down with a couple of cookie sheets.  Even so, if your dough is particularly ebullient, you might have to take it out a couple of times and, using oven mitts, press down on the cookie sheets to keep the dough flat.

Whew!  I think that’s all I have to say about making puff pastry right now.  Besides, my peas are all mushy.

Later in the week, I might post some Things to Do with Puff Pastry ideas.  I hope this answers some of your puff pastry questions–maybe even some that you didn’t even know you had.  Any other questions?  Please leave a comment, and I’ll see if I can’t help you out.

As Promised: Palmiers for the Holidays

18 Dec
Palmiers--French for Mighty Tasty Cookie

Palmiers--French for Mighty Tasty Cookie

Hello there, again.  As promised, The Joy of Palmiers.  I asked if anyone had any questions earlier, and faithful reader Ashley said that she loves palmiers and fears she might be in a sugar coma from eating them after reading this post.  While not a question, I do appreciate the comment!  Thank you for coming and reading my pastry ramblings, Ashley:)

No other questions?  Right, then, onward we go!  Palmiers are wonderfully crunchy, caramelized pieces of puff pastry that have been rolled in sugar and then rolled up, just so, sliced and baked to make these lovely little French cookies/pastries.  The name means “palm leaves,” but I don’t see the resemblance.

Now, palmiers are very straightforward to make, especially if you use store-bought puff pastry.  I suggest you do, because home made puff, while not difficult, is time consuming and fussy.  Here’s what you do:

  • Have a large, clean work surface ready to go.
  • Sprinkle a fairly thick layer of granulated sugar (or cinnamon sugar–heck, use any spicing you like.  I think cardamom and orange zest is nice, but that’s just me) on the work surface, and lay your sheet of puff pastry on the sugar.
  • Roll over the sheet several times with a heavy rolling pin (or just pushing down kind of hard on a light rolling pin).  You want to thin out the puff pastry and embed a bunch of sugar in the dough.
  • Flip the dough to the other side.  If you’ve rolled all the sugar into the first side of the dough, sprinkle on a bunch more sugar.  Roll the other side the same as the first.  You want the finished dough to be no more than 1/8″ thick with sugar completely coating both sides.  This means your dough sheet will probably be about twice as long as it was to start with.
  • Cut the dough in half–if you’ve got a decided rectangle of dough, cut the short way across.
  • Put one half of the dough aside.
  • Now, let’s pretend (for instructional purposes) your rectangle of dough that is staring at you is about 12″ X 10″.  Place the dough in front of you like a piece of typing paper.  I believe they call it “portrait,” rather than “landscape.”  Fold up the short end of dough nearest you about 1 1/2″ towards the center.  Fold the end farthest from you down about 1 1/2″.  Press these folds down to make them flat.  You can just roll over the whole thing with a rolling pin.
  • You are now looking at a rectangle that is roughly 9-ish” X10″.  Fold the end closest to you up another 1 1/2″. (If you’ve ever seen anyone roll a bolt of fabric, you’ll know what I mean.  If you’ve never seen this, think of folding a paper fan, but instead of alternating the folds, you keep folding in the same direction).  Fold the end farthest from you down another 1 1/2″.  Press or roll the folds down.  You now have a rectangle that’s 6-ish” X10″.
  • Fold the ends of the dough up one more time–1 1/2″ each time.  The folds should meet in the middle.
  • Sprinkle on a little more of the sugar.
  • Now fold the dough in half, so the folds are now on top of each other.  Gently roll the dough with a rolling pin, just to make sure that the folds will hold.
  • If you want, press some more sugar into the outsides of the dough.
  • Slice the roll with a sharp knife into 3/8″ to 1/2″ slices.  Place the slices on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet.  Leave at least one inch between cookies–an inch and a half would be safer, if you don’t want them to stick together.
  • Refrigerate for about half an hour.  This gives the sugar a chance to “get sticky” and it will help keep your palmiers from popping open when you bake them.
  • Do the same thing to the other half of the dough.  Remember the other half?  I almost forgot it, myself.
  • Preheat the oven to 350-375 degrees, F.
  • Bake the palmiers until they are a lovely, deep golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  • Cool and eat.  Or blow on them and eat.

That looks like a long list of instructions.  Let me answer some questions that I am hearing in my head:  No, you don’t have to measure 1 1/2 inches.  Yes, it’s okay to have only 2 folds before they meet in the center.  No, it’s not the end of the world if you have 4 folds, either.  The more folds, the more they’ll puff, so try and make sure to make no more than three folds from each side.  Yes, you can freeze them and bake them when company comes.  Straight from the freezer is fine–they’ll take a little longer, of course.

Sometimes, if you don’t roll your dough thinly enough, press the folds down enough or if the moon is not aligned correctly with Venus, your palmiers will unroll as they bake.  You will end up with crisp, sugary puff pastry circles.  I’ve seen it happen.  It might not happen, especially if you follow the pressing rules and the sit-in-the-fridge rules, but I just wanted to prepare you.  If this does happen to you, tell your guests they are “Les Ronds” or “Les Couronnes” (Circles or Wreaths), and they will be very impressed!

I promised a holiday variation:  well, aside from using holiday flavors (maybe pumpkin pie spice in the sugar would be nice) there is no reason in the world why you can’t roll these guys in colored sugar!  Yay!  Make red ones and green ones.  Make sure to roll the finished dough roll in colored sugar, too, because the outsides will keep the color better.  When you place them on the baking sheet, sprinkle a little more colored sugar on top.  The sugar will caramelize some, and you want your festive colors to shine through.

And that’s that!  I hope you enjoy them.

I Can’t Believe That’s Butter

20 Nov
Make these with a compound butter, and you rule the world.

Make these with a compound butter, and you rule the world.

I’m in charge of the turkey for our pre-Thanksgiving feast on Saturday, so I was making a compound butter to stuff under the beautiful bird’s skin.  Shallot, kosher salt, white pepper, lemon zest, savory, marjoram, flat-leaf parsley and some Old Bay ’cause I love it. (By the way, if you can’t get Old Bay in your area, get it here).  Anyway, it got me to thinking that there is absolutely no reason why we can’t make compound butters for pastry and baking use!

The Following is a Public Service Announcement from Pastry Chef Online:

Think about blending softened butter (real butter, please) with some cinnamon and sugar and using that to top the morning pancakes or waffles? Or, let’s say that lemon shortbread is your favorite.  Go ahead and mix up lemon zest and butter and freeze it in the amounts needed in your recipes.  Next time you make lemon shortbread, get that butter out and you’re good to go!  Here’s my sneakiest idea:  what if you blended butter with some sugar and cinnamon and then used that to make homemade puff pastry or croissant dough?  You could make killer palmiers with the puff, and the croissants would be stupid good, especially if you wrapped the dough around some bittersweet chocolate for pain au chocolats.

End, PSA.  What do you think?  I hope I’ve inspired you, and I’d love to hear your ideas!

An Unconventional Apple Pie for Thanksgiving

14 Nov
Make this "regular" dessert special for the holidays.

Make this regular dessert special for Thanksgiving.

I’m on a caramel kick, now, y’all.  I love chocolate, but as often as not, I’ll choose caramel instead.  I find it very appropriate for the season, too.  It’s the rich amber of autumn and carries the faint bitter edge of burning leaves in the back of the throat.  It is the perfect fall flavor.  Disagree?  By all means, leave a comment.

I was thinking of an easy but arresting spin on apple pie as a Thanksgiving dessert.  Again, no recipe required.  If you slice and caramelize the fruit (see the Tarte Tatin post), you can serve it over some rich vanilla ice cream.  Use a rolling pin to roll a sheet of thawed store-bought puff pastry in cinnamon sugar–both sides.  Cut rounds, or even leaf shapes and bake until golden brown and puffed.  Perch your decorative “crust” atop the apples and serve with whipped creme fraiche sweetened with some brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.  Oh, yum!  It has the elements of apple pie a la mode:  crust, filling and ice cream, but it’s presented in a new way.  Feeling really fancy?  Add some chopped candied nuts sprinkled on top.

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