* Note. Colors of pictures are more vivid when clicked on to activate lightbox
One evening after the new year, I had an odd compulsion to make puff pastry. It must have been triggered by this arctic blast that had sent people (me) scuttling indoors and despite the furnace running up my heating bill, my fingers remained ice cold. What better time to make puff pastry, right?
Some flour, some butter – okay, lotsa butter, ice water and icy fingers, you get one of the miracles of pastry. Multi-layered sheets of buttery heaven, how can one resist?
The one disadvantage of making puff pastry is the time commitment needed to produce it. It’s almost unheard of for a home cook to make their own and there are certainly store-bought ones that may be passable, but mastering the art of puff pastry is a worthwhile endeavor, I believe. Then again, there is still the time constraint.
Back in July, Helen showed me how to make rough puff pastry and I was amazed with the results. But you know me, curious to the very end, I wanted to compare them side by side.
I also had some Iranian pistachio that I wanted to use in some dessert. If there are two things Iran is known for, it is for the quality of their pistachio and saffron. I did not have the heart to use it for pistachio paste, after all at 25 euros for 1kg, one must use it wisely. I leafed through “Sweet Seasons” by Richard Leach and found his roasted pear and mascarpone filling. I thought if I infused the cream with saffron, I could use that to fill a millefuielle and then sprinkle some ground roasted pistachios on top. It’ll look pretty…let’s hope the filling holds up.
I also wanted to do a repeat of the peach tart on rough puff pastry but this time use apples which was the original recipe anyway.
Please excuse the abundance of pictures, I thought since it’s already 2010, I should improve my food photography and it takes patience (by not being too tempted by the dessert before good pictures are taken) and lots of practice (playing with different camera settings.)
This recipe for my regular puff pastry comes from by Bo Friberg. We used it in our Daring Baker’s challenge for the Gateau St. Honore and I found this to be one of the best and problem free puff pastry recipe that I have tried.
Regular Puff Pastry
Makes about 2 1/2 pounds.
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (420 gr)
3/4 cup cake flour (105 gr)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (7 gr)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, well chilled (60 gr)
1 1/4 cups cold water (295.5 ml)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (14 gr)
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, well-chilled (405 gr)
Make the dough package: In a large mixing bowl, combine both flours with the salt. Scatter butter pieces over the flour mixture; using your fingers or a pastry cutter, incorporate butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Form a well in center of mixture, and pour the water into well. Using your hands, gradually draw flour mixture over the water, covering and gathering until mixture is well blended and begins to come together. Gently knead mixture in the bowl just until it comes together to form a dough, about 15 seconds. Pat dough into a rough ball, and turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly, and place in refrigerator to chill 1 hour.
Make the butter package: Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon flour on a sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Place uncut sticks of butter on top, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon flour. Top with another sheet of paper; using a rolling pin, pound butter to soften and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Remove top sheet of paper, and fold butter package in half onto itself. Replace top sheet of paper, and pound again until butter is about an inch thick. Repeat process two or three times, or until butter becomes quite pliable. Using your hands, shape butter package into a 6-inch square. Wrap well in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator until it is chilled but not hardened, no more than 10 minutes.
Assemble and roll the dough: Remove dough package from refrigerator, and place on a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, gently roll dough into a 9-inch round. Remove butter package from refrigerator, and place it in the center of the dough round. Using a paring knife or bench scraper, lightly score the dough to outline the butter square; remove butter, and set it aside. Starting from each side of the center square, gently roll out dough with the rolling pin, forming four flaps, each 4 to 5 inches long; do not touch the raised square in the center of the dough. Replace butter package on the center square. Fold flaps of dough over the butter package so that it is completely enclosed. Press with your hands to seal.
Using the rolling pin, press down on the dough at regular intervals, repeating and covering the entire surface area, until it is about 1 inch thick. Gently roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 9 by 20 inches, with one of the short sides closest to you. Be careful not to press too hard around the edges, and keep the corners even as you roll out the dough by squaring them with the side of the rolling pin or your hands. Brush off any excess flour. Starting at the near end, fold the rectangle in thirds as you would a business letter; this completes the first single turn.Wrap in plastic wrap; place in refrigerator 45 to 60 minutes.
Remove dough from refrigerator, and repeat process, giving it five more single turns.Always start with the flap opening on the right as if it were a book. Mark the dough with your knuckle each time you complete a turn to help you keep track. Chill 1 hour between each turn. After the sixth and final turn, wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before using.
Rough Puff Pastry
adapted from Michel Roux courtesy of Tartelette
2 1/4 cups (300gr) all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup (300gr) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon (3gr) salt
1/2 cup (125ml) ice-cold water
Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the butter and salt right in the well and work them together with the flour, using your fingertips, gradually drawing in more flour into the center. When the butter pieces have reached pea sized pieces and the mixture appears grainy, gradually add the ice water and mix until it is all incorporated. Do not overwork the dough. Roll it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes. On a lightly flour work area, roll the dough to an 8×4-inch rectangle. Fold it into three and give it a quarter turn. Roll it into another 8×4-inch rectangle again and fold it in three again. These are the first 2 turns. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate again for 30 minutes. Give the chilled dough 2 more turns, rolling and folding as previously described. The pastry is ready then. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roasted Pear and Saffron Mascarpone Filling
adapted from Richard Leach, “Sweet Seasons”
1/2 cup / 118g roasted Pear puree * recipe to follow
1/2 cup / 118 g mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup / 118 g heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon saffron threads
Bring the cream to a boil. Turn off the heat, add saffron and let infuse for 20 minutes. Strain the cream and chill.
Combine all ingredients for the filling in an electric mixer bowl and whisk until stiff. Refrigerate until ready to use.
*Roasted Pear Puree
5 Bartlett pears
2 tablespoons/ 30 g clarified butter
1/2 cup/ 118 g honey
4 tablespoons / 58 Per Williams liqueur ( I used rum)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Peel, core and quarter pears. Place a heavy roasting pan n hot oven and heat pan for 10 minutes. Quickly and carefully add the butter and pears. Stir and then roast until nicely browned and tender, 10-15 minutes. Add honey and roast until honey begins to caramelize, an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and deglaze pan with liqueur. Once cooled, puree pears in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.
Prepare puff pastry for millefeuille
Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll out puff pastry to 1/16 inch thick. Cut strips of 2” x 9”. Lay on baking sheet and chill for 10 minutes. Put into the oven and lay a baking sheet on top of it. Bake until the pastry is a blonde color, about 10 minutes. Remove the top baking sheet and continue to bake until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes more
When cool, divide the the 2”x9” sheet horizontally into 2”x4.5”. Pipe the mascarpone filling on one strip and put another on top. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.
A Great Apple Tart
Adapted from Inn at Little Washington by Patrick O’Connell
3 tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbs. heavy cream
6 tbs. Southern Comfort
1/3 cup sugar combined with 1 rounded tsp. cinnamon
Take out enough puff pastry to roll out to 1/8 inch thick and cut out 6 4-inch circles. (You can refrigerate left-over puff pastry for 3 days or freeze for a month.)Lay on baking sheet lined with parchment, dock each circle 5 times with a fork and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Cut apples, 1/8 inches thick. In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apples and cook for several minutes. Add the cinnamon and cream. Carefully add the Southern Comfort, averting your face, as it will ignite. Continue cooking until the apples are soft and pliable. Remove the apples and transfer to a plate and cool in refrigerator. Simmer the cooking liquid until reduced in half, set aside as you will use this to glaze the tarts after they come out of the oven.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Remove pastry rounds from refrigerator. Lay apple slices, slightly overlapping. Dust (a lot) the tarts with cinnamon sugar and bake for about 15-20 minutes until crust is brown. Remove the tarts from the oven and brush with reserved cooking liquid.
Comparison of millefeuille innards:
Puff Pastry Notes
The most annoying thing with making the regular puff pastry was pounding chilled butter into form. I always tore my parchment papers. And then, when I was rummaging through a drawer, I found two silicone mats (silpats). I put my butter sticks between them, pounded them and this worked like a charm. You can use your fingers or a stainless steel scraper to form your butter block. I also found a bench brush effective in removing excess flour.
I found that the layers are more refined in regular puff pastry and ragged in the rough puff pastry version. Both taste just as good and are equally flaky, so depending on your time or level of adventure, either recipe should work specially for simple tarts and millefueille where you don’t want your pastry to rise too much anyway.
To be honest, I was not too happy with my mascarpone filling because it did not get too firm. I think my pears were not caramelized enough and had too much moisture in the puree. The flavor was very promising though and I would try this combination again.
For the apple tart, there was not enough glazing liquid. To increase it, I reserved the peelings and core from the apple and boiled it in a little water and adding a tablespoon of sugar. When all the flavor has been extracted, I added this to the glazing liquid and then whisked and reduced it.
This apple tart remains to be one of my favorite desserts to make at home.
*Come back tomorrow for my entry to mactweets as I tackle Pierre Hermé Italian Meringue macaron once more. I also have for you a delicious macaron filling!