It has been over a year. One year and some change. The big question: what happened to 2017? Among other things, lots of vacations (Tokyo! Miami! Italy!), fighting to close the gender wage gap at my old job, calling bankrupt and spending the entire summer finding a new job (sidebar: if you ever want to reach out and talk about being a woman in the tech industry, send me a message—let's break those goddamn glass ceilings!), binge watching tv shows (The Great British Bake Off might have inspired this post), but most of all, just taking some much needed time off.
This first post back is a big one. We're making full puff pastry today, complete lamination and all. You'll find that a quick online search for "puff pastry recipe" yields mostly rough puff recipes, which forgoes the full lamination process in favor of essentially making a pie dough as the base. I however am a fan of full puff to get the most delicate layers possible, but also because it is really not as difficult or time consuming as some of its naysayers would have you believe. Yes, you do have to chill your dough after every two turns to prevent the butter from melting, but you have to do the same with rough puff. That said, I won't try to convince you this is easy, it is definitely more of a day-ahead recipe since homemade puff pastry is best used after an overnight chill, but once it's ready, the possibilities are endless.
Circling back to GBBO, some of the things the bakers were asked to make were so obscure. Like what the dang hell is a religieuse à l'ancienne? Apparently a tower of eclairs shaped like a nun...say what? But I digress. After watching all the episodes available on Netflix, I went and re-watched all the pastry week episodes about three more times, much to Phillip's chagrin ("No more baking show, PLEASE"). Pastry is my favorite because it's mesmerizing how the simple combination of butter + flour + water can make such delicious vessels for anything sweet or savory. Cream horns (teehee) anyone?
In this recipe, I'm sharing with you how to make a puff pastry, but not all the different things you can make with it—this post would be 100 pages long if so. You can see from the photos that some of the things we ended up making were palmier cookies and vol-au-vents, which are apparently a very 1970s hors d'oeuvre that I really want to come back in vogue. I'll provide links to a few recipes that use puff pastry in the notes below. Other than that, enjoy the puff! It's good to be back y'all!
The recipe below makes a double batch of full puff pastry, I like to do it that way because you can always freeze half for easy use in future recipes. Feel free to halve the recipe if you only need one batch though.
The key to any pastry, but especially for puff pastry, is keeping your ingredients cold. So work quickly and calmly. If at any point you sense the butter melting, don't hesitate to place your dough in the fridge to firm up.
Pictured in this post are:
- vol-au-vents I cut my vol-au-vents smaller than the linked recipe, using a 2 & 1/2 inch crinkled cookie cutter, with 1 inch cutouts for the rings. The ones pictured above are stuffed with a store bought smoked whitefish salad and pan fried asparagus.
4 cups (500 grams) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp salt
1 & 1/4 cups water, plus more as needed
2 cups (1 lb) unsalted butter, cold
Make the dough by combining flour, salt, and water in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a large spoon until it forms a rough, shaggy dough. If it's too dry, add more water a tablespoon at a time until the dough mostly comes together but is not sticky. Transfer to a lightly floured counter and knead for 2 to 3 minutes. You don't want to overwork the dough. It should be smooth-ish at this point, but not completely smooth, so don't worry if it looks slightly lumpy. Roughly form the dough into a flattened square, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate while you prepare the butter.
Place the butter on a well floured counter. Pound it with a rolling pin until somewhat flattened. Fold the butter on top of itself and and keep pounding/flattening, sprinkling with more flour as needed so it doesn't stick to the counter or the rolling pin. Once you've repeated the folding and flattening process enough for the butter to be malleable enough to fold over without cracking, it's ready. Take a large piece of parchment paper and wrap the butter in it, forming a 7x7 inch packet. Take your rolling pin and roll the butter out, making sure to fill the corners of the packet, ensuring you get a perfectly even square of butter. Place the butter packet in the refrigerator and chill for 15 minutes, and no more. You don't want the butter to be completely solidified, otherwise it might become too brittle.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it into a 10x10 inch square. Take the butter out and place it in the middle of the dough square, with the corners of the butter pointing toward the edges of the dough. Take the dough corners and fold them over the butter, pinching the seams shut, completely encasing the butter in the dough. Roll your laminated dough out until it is three times the original length. Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter, then rotate 90 degrees so the edges are on the left and right, and the openings are at the top and bottom. Roll the dough out again until three times the length (making sure to always roll in the direction of the openings, i.e. if the openings are at the top and bottom, roll the dough so it gets taller, not wider). Fold into thirds again. You have now completed two turns.
After every two turns you'll need to wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to prevent the butter from melting. You'll need to do four more turns for a total of six turns (729 layers!). More specifically, after your first two turns, give the dough a 30 minute chill, do two more turns, another 30 minute chill, then two final turns.
After your final turn, wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or preferably overnight before using in your favorite puff pastry recipe.