Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dough adventures - Puff Pastry

Why go through the trouble of making one's own puff pastry when there is perfectly great frozen dough sold at every market's freezer section?  I do ask myself these questions occasionally, and the simple answer is "I must be nuts!"
Let me tell you, making laminated dough at home is not for the faint hearted.  First, you actually see how much butter goes into any type of puff pastry and that alone can ruin anyone's life permanently.  I, for example, will never be able to look at my beloved croissants the same way.  Obviously I knew how puff pastry is made, I KNEW, there is a lot of fat in every bite, but knowing and seeing with your own eyes are two different things.
Second and this is the good part, if you have bottled up anger, had a rough day or week, ready to kill someone, you can work all of those emotions out for the price of 1 lb of good butter and some flour.  No therapy required!  Because by the time you are done rolling ice cold dough for the umpteenth time, using every ounce of your upper body strength and some very foul language. Trust me; you will not have much strength left to feel any anger toward anyone or anything other than that dough.
And third, when you are done and you see the golden layers that puff up sky high in your oven, it is all worth it.  So my ultimate wisdom out of this experience is... if you are going to make puff pastry at home, make a lot at once, freeze it, so you do not need to go through all the rolling, punching, folding, re-rolling, re-cooling, etc... Too often.

Basic Puff Pastry is non-sweet, non-yeasted dough; it is great for tarts, simple pastries, and some of the savory dishes.  It uses the "Laminated" method of incorporating lots, lots and lots of butter to make all those nice layers puff up.  This dough can also be used to make croissants, however it will need to be 'turned" (folded) many more times to achieve the airiness and amount of layers needed.  Same laminating concept can be used for Danish dough; however the basic dough recipe is very different incorporating yeast and eggs.  One of these days, I will post the Danish version.

Basic Puff pastry.

This is a basic proportion making 2 decent size sheets of pastry.  This recipe can be multiplied or divided as long as you keep to the same fat to flour ratio.

1 lb of all purpose four
1 lb of butter (European style butter is best as it tends to be drier)
1 tbs of salt
1 tbs of lemon juice
1 to 1 1/2 cups of ice cold water

In the food processor or using your hands combine all the flour, salt and about 10% of the butter until the mixture looks like a course corn meal.  Add the lemon juice and begin adding Ice Water a little at a time, stopping as soon as the dough comes together into a ball.  It may take 1 to 1 1/2 cups depending on the moisture level of your butter. 

Gather the dough on the floured board and knead it for a few seconds ( no need to develop any gluten), form into a disk, wrap in plastic and set in the fridge while you work on the butter.

At this point your butter has been sitting out of the fridge for about 10-15 minutes, correct?  Flour it lightly, place between 2 (or more) sheets of plastic and begin pounding with a rolling pin until flat (about 2 cm) square forms.  Feeling better about your day already, are you?
At this point feel the temperature of your butter with your hand, if it still feels very cold, you can keep it on your counter, while you work on the next step, however if the butter is feeling a little warm, place it back in the fridge.  During the entire process you need to make sure that your butter or dough does not become warm.  If the butter begins to melt, (inside or outside of the pastry), you will end up with a greasy mess instead of layers.  When in doubt, put it back in the fridge.  It will not make your job any easier, but will ensure a nice, flaky "puff".

Take out the dough disk and roll it to a square that is larger than your butter square by at least 2 inches on each side.

Place the butter square inside the dough square and fold like over each corner.  Make sure the seams are sealed.

You will have a nice little package.

Roll out the dough with the butter inside to a rectangle approximately 9 by 17 and tri-fold like a letter.
This is the first "turn".  Now you will need to do a minimum of 6 turns for flaky galette dough or many more if you are looking for a croissant type results.

At this point I like to let the dough rest overnight in the fridge wrapped in plastic.  The next day, take it out and split into two even pieces.  It will make your life a little easier when trying to roll it thin.  Roll each piece out to about a 9 by 17 rectangles and tri-fold again, and again, and again.... do you feel those arms burn yet?
You can get 3 to 4 turns on each piece of dough before it becomes too warm.  You will need to work quickly though.  If you feeling that the dough begins to stretch, rather than roll and starts sticking to the bard or the rolling pin, it is getting too warm.  Fold it, wrap it in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 min or better yet, a few hours.

At some point you will reach the desired number of turns.  You may get there by truly achieving your goal layers, or simply by giving up, cursing the day you decided to embark on this journey or a running out time ( all this turning and cooling does take a few days).  Keep in mind that a galette, can have as few as 27 layers, which is only 3 turns but Croissants may require 6 to 10 turns and Danishs up to 12 turns or more.

Use the dough immediately or fold it, and store it in the freezer wrapped in the freezer safe zip top bag for up to 3 months.

Even though it is a lot of trouble, I promise, you will never buy puff pastry again.  There is something immensely satisfying about creating all that buttery, flaky goodness all by yourself.

Now, what do you do with the mountain of all this pastry dough?  Stay tuned....


Anonymous said...

I loved the intro!!! I must try the get it out onto a dough thing! Oh, and I'll definitely stay tuned for some other useful tricks;-)

anna said...

Wow, you must really like cooking to go through all this trouble for this dough. I just go to the store and buy a perfectly rolled out dough and make any pie in an instant. But when I used to live in Tashkent I've seen my friend go through this process many times and I know how long and tedious it is. Major points for the effort!!!

P.S. Great writing btw:)))