Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Puff Pastry

During my Bloomie's demo, I used Du Four puff pastry, an all-butter puff pastry available for sale at Whole Foods, Provenance Food & Wine and at Fox & Obel. It's an excellent product and great when making appetizers for hundreds. However, when I cook for small groups or for my own family, I'll ordinarily make my own. Contrary to conventional thinking, making puff pastry from scratch is not inherently difficult - it just takes time, albeit mostly unattended time. There are a few secrets. First, use the best butter possible. At Thanksgiving, I made it with an uncultured butter from a Minnesota co-op available (occasionally) from Zingerman's. I used it to make apple tarte tatin - it was awesome. Second, you need to balance keeping the dough as cold as possible with retaining its pliable nature.
Puff Pastry
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3-1 cup water
2 sticks unsalted butter

Combine the flours onto a clean surface in a mound and, with your fingers, make a well in the center. Cut 1 tablespoon from each stick of butter and melt. Put the salt, 2/3 cup water and melted butter into well. With the fingers of one hand, mix the liquid ingredients until the salt is dissolved. Mix in the flours slowly with a plastic pastry cutter – make sure that you don’t break the walls of the well. Mix until well-blended, adding more water as necessary. The dough will be slightly sticky. Cut an “x” ½-inch thick into the top of the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap, parchment paper or a lightly-floured towel and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Tap the 14 tablespoons between 2 sheets of parchment paper into a square ¾-inch thick. Wrap in the parchement until you're reading to move to the next step. Set the flour dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out four arms from the center outward. The final product should be mounded in the center. This is critical to make sure that there is enough of the flour dough to cover the butter without breaking through. Put the butter square on top of the mound. Cover with each of the arms and tap with a rolling pin to seal. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 7-inches wide and 21-inches long. Fold up the bottom third to the center and the top third to meet the bottom seam. Wrap in floured parchment and refrigerate for 30-minutes. Turn the dough a quarter turn to the left and roll out to a rectangle. Make another quarter turn and roll it out again. Refrigerate for a half hour. Give the dough another quarter turn. The dough can now be frozen for later use. Before using, give the dough two more quarter turns. The pastry is now ready to be rolled out and cut.

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