Frozen Puff Pastry

Share your comments...

Puff pastry is fun to make from scratch—for me. But I’ve been doing it for thirty years. For those less experienced (or short on time), there is nothing wrong with buying ready made puff pastry. But BEWARE! It is not ready to use straight from the store. It should be defrosted slowly in the refrigerator overnight. The layers of butter and dough are delicate, Unfolding and rolling it out too soon will cause cracking, which will screw up the puff-potential.

Onion Jam Allumettes

Share your comments...

These little morsels will be the talk of your holiday cocktail party.  the sweet-salt balance is subtle enough to compliment everything from champagne to your most complicated mixological concoction.

Allumette is the classic term for strips of puff pastry. The word means matchstick, but these are certainly not meant to be that thin. Aim for creating small, thin, bite-sized rectangles.

Ingredients

2 ½ pounds red onion, peeled, cut in half, and sliced thin

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt—try Halen Mōn, flor de sal, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with shitake or truffles.

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

¼ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 red wine vinegar

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight (See the Frozen Puff Pastry in Techniques)

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add onions, reduce heat, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the onions begin to sweat and soften. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until they begin to color—about 30 minutes.
  1. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, the bay and thyme. Cover and continue to cook another 30 minutes.
  1. Add sugar, wine, and vinegars. Increase heat and bring to a boil, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to as the liquid reduces, and the onions are creamy and sticky.
  1. Cool mixture, then transfer to a plastic tub and refrigerate. (If you make a large enough batch, you can sock some away for use throughout the year—it only gets better with age!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat it with pan spray. Whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Open the defrosted frozen puff pastry into a rectangle and rollout slightly, to flatten. You don’t need to reduce the thickness too much—it should be about ¼ inch thick. Brush the surface with the egg wash. Set it in the freezer for 5 minutes so that the dough stays firm when cut.
  1. sing a pastry wheel (aka pizza cutter) cut the chilled, egg washed puff pastry into ½ -inch-wide by 3-inch-long strips. Place them on the prepared baking sheet, about ½-inch apart. Top each wih a small dollop of onion jam, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Chill again for 5 -10 minutes. Bake until golden and puffed, about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan as necessary for even browning. Cool slightly, then arrange on a platter and serve.

 

Lamination

Share your comments...

puff turn
The secret to puff pastry is in the lamination. Laminated dough is dough with alternating layers, tightly compacted. In the case of puff pastry, the layers are dough and butter. Without these layers, there will be no puff. The key is in the butter.

Butter contains a large amount of water. When the butter hits the heat of the oven, the water evaporates into steam, and the steam pushes the dough layers up. It is the same principle employed in biscuits and pie dough (the cut-ins), and pâte a choux (cream puffs). Behold the power of steam!

Single and Double Turns

To get those many layers, butter is encased in dough and the entire mass is rolled out into a sheet. Then through a series of rolling, folding, and refrigeration, the layers increase to several hundred. Throughout this process, known as turning, The dough and butter should remain cold, but not so cold that it becomes brittle. This determination can only be made by the cook, as refrigerators, kitchens, seasons, and parts of the world all vary in temperature.

The basic turn is called a single turn, and it is essentially a business letter fold. The dough is rolled into a large rectangle. That rectangle is divided visually into thirds, and each end folded toward the other.

For the double turn the dough is divided visually into four columns. The edges are folded in to meet in the middle, then the entire dough is folded in half, like closing a book. (It is sometimes brilliantly called a “book turn”.)

Throughout the process, remember that refrigeration and flour are your friends. Work quickly to keep the dough cold, and have patience.

Problems may arise if the rolling squeezes some butter out of the dough and onto your counter. It is not uncommon, and easily remedied. Just douse the butter with flour, tuck it back in, and pretend it didn’t happen. (“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”) Try not to roll over that spot again, fold it inward on the next turn, and let it chill to solidify.

Patience grasshopper.

Palmiers

Share your comments...

pal
OK puff heads. Now that you have made your own puff pastry, it’s time for palmiers. This is a simple technique. The dough was the hard part.

Sometimes called elephant ears, these flat, crisp, cookies are loaded with buttery goodness.

You might sometimes find these pastries filled with cinnamon sugar or some other creative variant. This is all well and good, but it is not authentic and therefore I shun it. Of course what you choose to fold into your Palmiers is your own damn business.

Watch these carefully. They are thin and can burn quickly with all that sugar. Rotate the pan as necessary to promote even browning. Be sure to cool them completely before you dig in, to give them a chance to fully crisp up (and to prevent third-degree lip burns, brainiacs.)

INGREDIENTS

1 sheet of puff pastry, rolled 18X24 inches, and 1/4 inch thick
3-4 cups sugar
1 cup simple syrup

  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and with a rolling pin roll into an 18×24 rectangle. Cover the entire surface generously with 2 cups sugar. With the rectangle in front of you horizontally, divide it visually into 6 even columns (I like to draw the lines into the sugar). Fold the outer edges over at the first mark, then again into the center so that the folded edges just meet. Top with more sugar and fold in half like a book, so that you have created a palmier log. (It’s similar to a double-turn, but with one extra fold.) Chill at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Slice the palmier log into 1/2-inch heart shaped cookies. Dredge each cookie generously in sugar, and space cookies 2-inches apart on prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes until dough begins to set, then flip with a spatula and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Cool completely before serving.

Commencing BAKERY JURY …

Palmiers fatThese are ludicrously fat. These would not be crisp, but soft like a cinnamon roll. Plus they look like Jr. Bird Man spectacles, and not palm leaves. C-

palm chocWrong and Wronger. Both are overcooked, but the one on the left could pass as chocolate. A mean trick to play on someone. D

palmi-c

It looks like this one tried to unfold itself and escape off the pan. Alas the temp was too hot and it perished. Improper folding has turned this into the letter “C” . Coincidentally, the same as it’s grade. C

palm nut

 

 

This clever cook tried to jazz these up with a layer of Nutella. A valiant effort, but a goopy filling and inadequate oven time has rendered them undercooked, un-caramelized, and frankly, kinda gross looking. C-

 

coockies

 

BOOOOO! Not caramelized. BOOOO! D

palm dip

 

NO! These are not biscotti. You may not dip. Also, not caramelized. A double whammie. D+
Palmiers wrongiers

 

 

Good God! Red sugar? Shoot me now.  F

palm burnt

 

 

Overcooked and under-folded. I think this baker was drunk. C- (Plus detention)

 

 

(For a good looking palmier, see the top of this recipe!)

Puff Pastry (Pate Feuilletee)

Share your comments...

puff pastry(1)
Last week I gave a Puff Pastry lesson to a couple friends, and it reminded me of how much I love making this dough. Yes, it is a major pain in the butter. But there are few recipes that are ultimately this rewarding to make.

I don’ care what anyone says. There is a HUGE difference between frozen store-bought puff and homemade. First, store bought is usually made with highly processed butter-flavored vegetable shortening. Even if you couldn’t tell the difference by taste (which you can) you’d recognize it by the film it leaves in your mouth after you eat it. (I agree… disgusting.) I prefer cooking with butter for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is an animal fat that melts at body temperature. Vegetable-based fat needs a higher temperature to melt, and therefore lingers on the palette like teenage girls at the stage door after a Ke$ha concert. (Note to self…change spelling of name to Le$lie.)

Once it’s made, puff pastry can be frozen in sheets and stored for weeks. Nothing beats being able to whip up cheese straws or palmiers from a piece of homemade puff when those unexpected guest drop by. (Although beware. Once you start being impressive at a moment’s notice, expectations go WAY up.)

This recipe has two components: a butter portion and a dough portion, which then get folded or “turned” together. (See Lamination if you need help turning.) It also needs a few hours of attention. But it’s worth it! Next time I’ll give you some brilliant recipes for showing off your puff. (That is not a euphemism.)

INGREDIENTS

Butter Block (butter portion):

2 lb. 3 oz. unsalted butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 oz. kosher salt
8 (3/4) oz. bread flour

METHOD

  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixer with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth and lump free.
  2. Scrape out onto a a sheet of parchment or plastic and form into 12″ square. (It will be about 1-2 inches thick.) Wrap up and chill while Deutremp is being made (no more than 30 minutes). (This stage can be done by hand with a sturdy spoon.)

INGREDIENTS

Deutremp (dough portion):

16 fl oz. water
1 oz. kosher salt

6 oz. cake flour
1 lb. 6 oz. bread flour

3 oz. unsalted butter, softened

METHOD

  1. Combine water and salt in a mixer (I just use the same butter-block mixer … don’t bother washing it) with a dough hook and stir briefly. Add flours and butter and knead for 8-10 minutes. (This stage can be done by hand if you enjoy that sort of thing.)
  2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and form into a smooth ball. Cover and rest 10 minutes. Then roll the dough into a square, about 2-inches larger than butter block. (To get it into a square, cut a large “X” in the top and press each quarter of dough that pops open down towards the table. These will start forming the corners of your square.)
  3. Place butter block on top of Deutremp “on point”, which means the butter square is set down as a diamond on top of the dough square. Wrap Deutremp over butter like an envelope, completely concealing butter.
  4. Roll into large rectangle (the size of a full sheet-pan), and proceed with the first double turn. Chill 30 minutes and repeat for a total of 4 double turns, resting 30 minutes between each. After the final turn rest the dough 30 minutes, then roll out to 1/2-inch thick sheet for use or for storage in the freezer.
Top