I am so excited! I made puff pastry at home! Albeit something which goes by the name Mock Puff Pastry, it still made me do a little jig and my heart puffed with joy! The puff pastry most of us are familiar with, is layers of flaky pastry with a savory or sweet filling we get at bakeries. The thought that this is something which can be made at home to be stored and put to such versatile use is new to me. Thanks to blogging again! How do just four ingredients like butter, flour, salt and water metamorph into flaky layers? Got to be something of a challenge to achieve!
When I first checked recipes for puff pastry, it was one made by the Daring Bakers, Michel Richard's recipe from the book Baking With Julia. With breathtaking results, this one yields 2 1/2 pounds (1 kg plus some) of dough and is made in a food processor. I was not very sure if I could do this with a hand mixer and get similar results. Puff pastry not being exactly as simple as baking brownies, what if I try it without a food processor and I do not get even passable results? Going by the accounts of the DB members, a good number of people made it a couple of times before getting it right. And in my opinion, halving and quartering recipes won't work for puff pastry - at least if you are doing it for the first time or unless you really know what you are doing.
A couple of quick and easy recipes needed sour cream as an ingredient and again, I was not sure if yogurt would be a good enough substitute in this particular recipe. Sigh! And then I came across this recipe called Mock Puff Pastry in Alice Medrich's Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-The-Mouth cookies, which does not need a food processor or sour cream or a stand mixer and yields a modest amount of pastry. Perfect!! I am glad I did not miss this recipe in the book, as its easy to, because this recipe is given in the last few pages under the chapter "Components'.
The recipe involves mixing cubes of chilled butter, flour, salt and ice cold water, forming a barely cohesive dough. This needs to be rolled into rectangles of specific dimensions, chilled in the fridge and then re-rolled as directed. Chill again for a couple of hours and your puff pastry is ready to use! As Alice says, its hard to imagine and quite intimidating at first, to see the mass of flour and butter you are expected to roll out into pastry. Its fun and easy and the results will delight you she says. You could use this for baking tartlets, palmiers and other fancy stuff, within no time at all. Aye, aye!
Before we move any further, I must confess, that though the results really pleased me and was appreciated by folk around, I kick myself for slipping at the first step - could this have been even better? Is this as good as the intended result? Very definitely, this is very much a matter of better results with more practice. I made this twice, once when I thought I had baked a complete disaster, but turned out decent enough to eat. Second time, with a couple of lessons learnt, but a new mistake done!! In spite of this, the outcome was flaky, crisp, pastry! Which gives me hope that making good puff pastry, although, mock, is not very far off... And of course, I can't wait till I get this per..rfecct before I share this with you.
Sharing my experience, I think some pre-planning and careful execution, can surely make this easier and leave less room for error. One of the very important things is the temperature of the butter when you actually use it. Cutting the butter into cubes well ahead of time (previous day or at least 4-5 hours ahead) and refrigerating it can help. Do not freeze or pop in the freezer for some time (as I did), or it will be a wee bit hard and you won't be able to roll the dough easily. Keep the cubed butter in the fridge till you are all ready. Cut the butter into 1/2 '' cubes and chill (not chill and cut just before you use as this may cause it to soften). You may think of this as funny, but I took the half inch part quite seriously. Take no chances!
The water needs to be ice cold and you mean business here. Keep the measured quantity of water in the freezer an hour or so before you make the pastry. You don't want to measure later and find that you are short of water. You want very very cold ice water, but not ice. Adjusting the temperature of the water when you are making the pastry may make your butter softer and the dough more prone to tearing.
And remember, you need to be quick as you work with the dough throughout. This will help keep the butter and the dough cool, easier to work with.
Things you will need:
A 14'' scale
A large, wide bowl
A large metal spoon
Aluminum foil - a large sheet or plastic wrap. (this needs to be big enough to wrap a 10'' sq pastry in)
A big rolling pin
A flat plate (10'' sq or more ideally, I used my 9'' sq tin)
A plastic file or a thin, flat, clean, plastic table-tennis bat kind of thing or a stiff piece of cardboard (to lift the rolled dough)
A print-out of the recipe right next to you, so that you can read it as you work.
Space in your fridge to house a 10'' sq..
Ingredients: I have weighed the ingredients
All purpose Flour - 1 3/4 cups - 220 grams / 7.875 oz
Salt - 3/4 teaspoon -
Butter, unsalted, cut into 1/2'' cubes and chilled - 227 grams / 2 sticks / 1 cup
Ice cold water - 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (if needed), keep them in separate bowls
A lot of flour for dusting the counter
Procedure: Mise en place. Clear the counter, clean, wipe dry, you need lots of space. No extra water or coffee here please, we can't risk spillage when you are engrossed in rolling the dough. Kids away please - at school preferably. Mark a rectangle of 8 by 16 inches on your counter (using a non-toxic crayon) , the 8'' side facing you. This will help you roll the dough to this dimension. Elongate the sides and mark a little away too. Once the counter is covered with flour, you can't probably see where the mark is!
Now ad verbatim from the book, some bits from me. Sift the flour and salt and put it in a large, wide bowl. Then add the chilled butter. With a large metal spoon, stir until until the butter bits are separate from each other and coated with flour. Separate the butter pieces with your fingers if needed.( I had to). Drizzle in most of the water (from 1/2 cup) and turn the mixture gently with the spoon till the water is absorbed. Lift the mixture to one side with the spoon and pour the remaining water onto the flour in the bottom of the bowl. Stir and lift the mixture until there is no longer any dry flour left at the bottom of the bowl. Add the extra 2 tablespoons of water one tablespoon after the other if necessary. (I used the extra 2 tablespoons both the times) The mixture will be loose and shaggy, literally a bowl full of butter chunks coated with damp flour amid damp raggedy pieces of dough. Do not over mix or let the butter get soft.
Now dust your counter heavily with flour. Flour your rolling pin. You need to keep dusting the work area and the rolling pin as you work if you need. (At any point of time, if you need to flour the counter, lift a part of the dough, just enough to flour underneath if needed, don't try to lift the dough completely off the counter as it will tear) . Scrape the mixture on the counter and shape it into a rough rectangle (using your hands) Press and roll out the dough to a rectangle 8'' by 16'' inches, the narrow 8'' side facing you. (Try to roll as evenly as possible. The mistake I did here was my butter was a bit too hard as I had popped it into the freezer for some time and then put in the fridge and this made rolling the dough tough. So I gathered the dough again and rolled. Ms.Alice will not approve of this, am sure! And at this point I was very very convinced that I have ruined the show again) You will see distinct pieces of butter and loose pieces of flour in the dough. Run the flat plastic file or cardboard under the dough to detach it from the counter. Fold up the bottom third of the dough and top third of the dough down over it to make a new rectangle about 5 1/3 by 8 inches. If the dough is not cohesive enough to fold without significant breakage, slide the file folder to help you lift and fold with minimal breakage. (Dust the counter and rolling pin again if needed. In case, there is any butter sticking on the counter, scrape it off with the bench scraper).
Rotate the dough a quarter turn (now you will have the narrow 5 1/3 '' side facing you) , there may still be loose bits, roll it out again to 8 by 16 inches. By now the butter will have somewhat softened and the dough should be more cohesive, but it may still be breaking at the edges. This is OK. Using the file again, fold the bottom up and the top down to make a rectangle of 5 1/3 by 8 inches (same way as you did above). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (I used foil) and (place it carefully on the plate or back of a square tin) and chill for 2 hours.
Clean and scrape the work surface if needed to make it smooth again. Mark a dimension of 8 by 20'' on the counter. Lightly flour the surface and the rolling pin. Working rapidly to keep the dough cool, unwrap the dough and roll it out to a rectangle 8 by 20'' inches. Fold the bottom edge up to the center and the top edge to the down to the center. (the edges will meet). Now fold the new top edge down to the bottom edge (there will be four layers of dough in a rectangle of 5 by 8''). Flour the dough and the work surface, rotate and repeat the last rolling and folding steps. Now flour the dough and roll it into a 10'' square. You could brush off any excess flour. Wrap securely with plastic wrap or foil and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. Freeze for longer usage.
Whew! I think this is easier done than said !! Before I sign off, I think of this as a good attempt, but don't you think it would have been even better if I had not slipped at the first step? There is certainly room for improvisation in terms of handling and rolling the dough evenly, getting consistent results every time. Any insights from puff pastry veterans most welcome! For puff-pastry newbies like me, its simpler when you do it, so don't shy away reading this very lengthy post! Am sure, if you follow the directions to the T, your pastry will be better than mine in terms of texture. You can be sure of updates for this post as I make this make more attempts.
For now, this space will see a couple of recipes using puff pastry as the base, at last!!