Puff Pastry Party Time!

When I posted those vol-au-vents, I knew I would have to write about the hell that is homemade puff pastry. This is not an exaggeration. There is much swearing in the kitchen as is, but none so much as when I make puff pastry. Below is a step-by-step tutorial of how to make puff pastry as taught to me by my friend Alice.

There are a lot of food blogs out there that describe how to make puff pastry and a lot videos as well. I have read and watched several of them, and it would be hard to credit them all. I suggest you watch a video or two before you embark on this quest. Or you could just go out and buy a box of the frozen stuff.

A few last notes:
- Make sure there is a lot of coverage from the detrempe envelope. You don’t want it to barely close over the butter packet or else the butter may squirt out.
- The first turn is always the hardest; I can never roll it out long enough to do a double turn. The butter is thick and resistant, but persistence pays off and don’t feel bad if you have to whack it a few times. If it’s lumpy and a little leaky, don’t sweat it. The dough will become more pliable over time.
- If the butter leaks out,you can dust it with a little flour to prevent it from sticking from everything.
- A pastry scraper is your sidekick, your BFF, your partner in crime.
- Alice has an unusually long chill time (2 hours between steps), but many other blogs will advocate a much shorter chill time (15-30 minutes). If you do try a shorter chill time, please let me know how it is.
- Incorporating flour into the butter packet is also not universal practice, but I’m assuming that mixing a little flour in makes for a smoother, more cooperative butter packet. I could be completely wrong.

Some of the pictures are from my most recent ordeal, but most are from 2011.


Puff Pastry
ADAPTED from Bakery Bites
[About 2.5 lb dough, 20 mille-feuilles, 20 vols-au-vent]

INGREDIENTS FOR THE DETREMPE (dough that is not the butter packet): 15 oz AP flour, 2 oz of very soft butter, 1 C water (+/1 depending on humidity), 5 g salt (2-3 large pinches)

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BUTTER PACKET 1 lb of very soft butter, 4 oz flour

Alice says that the key to a good puff pastry is in gently preparing the detrempe. Place the flour on your (large) work surface and make a well in the center. Mix 2 oz butter, salt, and 1/2 C of water in the well with one hand and incorporate only a very little flour to form a very smooth paste. This step will take some time, don’t rush it. Add in the remaining 1/2 C of water into the paste and mix well.
By incorporating the flour slowly and gently in the beginning you ensure that gluten will not develop in the detrempe and make the pastry tough or shrink when you roll it. If your arm feels like it will fall off, you’re doing it right.

Starting from the outside of the flour mound sweep the flour towards the center and into the butter mixture. With your fingers only gently lift and sprinkle the flour and butter together repeatedly to incorporate. Do not wash your hands, instead add a little more flour to rub off the excess dough back into the detrempe. The mixture will be crumbly at this point.

With a plastic pastry scraper scrape from the bottom of the dough and fold back inwards towards the center, pressing the dough firmly to help it form. Continue doing so until the dough holds together into a ball.

Quickly “knead” / work the dough in a circular motion 3-4 times. At this stage the detrempe should be smooth and not spring back when you press a finger into it. Set the dough aside while you prepare your butter packet.

Mix 1 lb of soft butter with the 4 oz of flour until smooth. Form the mixture into a square (about 6×6″) on 1-2 reserved butter wrappers.
making the butter packet

butter packet
Take the detrempe ball and with a rolling pin roll 4 opposite corners into a diamond shape (large enough to envelope your butter packet). Place the butter packet in the center of the detrempe on the diagonal and fold the corners over the butter to wrap the packet inside – like a letter fit inside an envelope.
open envelope

butter packet and envelope

sealed envelope
Make sure the butter is well sealed inside by the detrempe & not sticking out. You can gingerly press it down so it’s easier to roll out later. Some people attempt the first turn at this point, but those people have hearts far braver than mine (or a cold marble slab). Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in fridge for at least 2 hrs or better yet overnight.

Take out your chilled dough and set it on a lightly floured counter. Bang the dough lightly with your wooden rolling pin to soften up the butter inside. Avoid such firm thrashing that the butter breaks through the detrempe.
rolled out
Begin to roll the dough, pushing it into a long rectangle. For a single turn the dough needs to be about the single length of your rolling pin. For a double turn roll the dough to 1 1/2 times the length of your rolling pin.

For most puff pastry recipes you’ll want to make a total of 5-6 turns (rolling and folding of the dough to create thousands of layers). There are two methods – the single or double turn. 1 double turn = 1.5 single turns

The double turn is quicker to complete and works just as well. Some chefs will complete 2 single turns and 2 double turns for a total of 5 turns. I complete 2 double turns each round for a total of 6 turns. The only trickery to rolling puff pastry is needing to rest and chill the dough for at least 2 hours between every 2 turns (either single or double).
single turn
Single turn – Fold the rectangular dough into thirds like a letter.

Double turn – Fold the bottom and top short ends of your dough towards the center of the rectangle. Fold the top half over onto the bottom half so you have 4 layers of dough in a thick square.

Turn your packet of dough 90 degrees so that the raw edges of the dough are pointing towards your belly and opposite you. (In other words the folded edges of the dough face to the sides). Repeat rolling the dough into either 1 or 1 1/2 rolling pin lengths and complete the turn with a single or double turn.

Wrap and chill the dough for 2 hours or more.

Complete 2 more turns.

At this point the dough can be folded one last time (unrolled) and frozen up to 1 month well wrapped. Thaw in the fridge to use.

OR Continue with your recipe.

Chill the rolled-out pastry for several hours before baking to ensure that the gluten relaxes and the pastry will not shrink in the oven.


Walnut Jam Tart

raspberry walnut jam tart
Rest in peace, food processor. I did not mean to break you.

For a few glorious months, I had a food processor and it was a beautiful thing. I no longer regarded cold butter with dread. A few pulses, a whirling of blades, and voila! Scones, pie crusts, done!

So it is with great sorrow that I inform you that this recipe is quite impossible without a food processor, unless you can obtain walnut flour or meal. I have heard of almond meal and hazelnut flour, but never walnut flour. Please let me know if you do.
Continue reading

Caramelized Almond Tart

almond tart
As I don’t trust myself to make a positive first impression, I often bring a baked treat when meeting new people. Usually, it works out. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Once I went apartment hunting with a box of cookies, they took the cookies, but didn’t want to become my roommate.

This caramelized almond tart is an old staple, but I tend to underestimate how much time it takes. The dough has to be chilled, allowed to come to room temperature, and then frozen to prevent it from falling. I’ll let you in a secret. If you don’t care about falling crusts, you don’t have to freeze it. However, chilling it the first time allows the dough to come together. It’s too crumbly otherwise and won’t roll or press out properly. If you’re making this in one sitting, give yourself three hours. If you’re going somewhere else, up the time to four. The tart has to cool a while before transport. I don’t know if moving a hot tart has any adverse effects to the tart, but it sure does to your hands. Continue reading

Blueberry Vol-Au-Vents

A friend who’s opinion I value tells me that I have to write an intro paragraph. For many food blogs, I regard the first few paragraphs as a foofy nonsense so I’ll try to keep this short. Vol-au-vents are traditionally savory, but I wanted an aesthetically pleasing puff pastry with a cream cheese filling. If I had a cupcake tin, I would have made pinwheel danishes. If I had a larger baking pan, I would have made danish crossovers. But alas, I do not. Continue reading

London Coffee Tour

exchange alleyI’m a huge fan of coffee, not so much for the taste, but the countless college papers and late nights it has gotten me through. I won’t describe myself as an aficionado, because I don’t appreciate the individual terroirs of differing regions (Sumatra, Bali, Ethiopian, etc.), and most of the nuance is drowned out by a healthy dose of milk and often sugar.

This trip to London is the first vacation where I have plan things, as my previous vacations involved my sister, a rabid planner, or I was taken around by a local. So, how does one take a stab at a new city that has more than a thousand years of history? Continue reading

Chocolate Pudding

ADAPTED from 101 Cookbooks

INGREDIENTS: 2 eggs, 6 ounces / 170 g of dark chocolate chips, 4 tablespoons water, 4 tablespoons fine grain sugar, 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, fine grain sea salt

DIRECTIONS: Separate the whites and yolks of the eggs. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold very stiff peaks. Continue reading