I've always been a pretty big fan of puff pastry (well-made, all-butter puff pastry). It's a very versatile dough to have around, it freezes exceptionally well, and there is no proofing involved, so you can pretty much just prepare it however you like, and when you are ready to bake, it is also. However, the problem(s) with puff pastry, are finding one that actually tastes what puff pastry is meant to taste like (hard to find here in the midwest), and if you actually manage to accomplish that, not spending a ridiculous amount on it. the mainstream brand you will probably come across most often is pepperidge farm, and I'm sorry to say that it not only sucks, but uses a lot of margarine, not butter.
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching PBS, and stumbled across an episode of julia (please, please, please, click here and watch this!), where Michel Richard and she were making puff pastry. the old school way. all butter. all the time. it was a revelation. it seemed so easy, it was exactly what I had been looking for. so, in true latestDish fashion, here we go (I could jut assume you all watched that video link, but just in case...)
After you have combined your flour and salt with the water (in your food processor) and made a rough dough (the dough ball will clean the sides of your processor), knead it a few times (on a floured surface), and slash the top like this so the dough will be easier to roll out and work with.
cover it with a damp kitchen towel and move on to making your butter block. lay a large piece of plastic wrap down on your work surface and line up the sticks of butter(straight out of the fridge, very cold) so they are close together. make sure that your plastic piece is big enough, the butter is going to spread out quite a bit. And please, people, use real butter. don't even try to use margarine or anything of the sort. butter is real. real is good for you, in moderation.
Had a rough day? Stressed out? well, lucky you! this is the part where you get to smash the butter together with a blunt object (hooray!). all joking aside, you really have to lay in to this stuff. don't be afraid to commit and connect here. picture your arch nemesis, or the DMV, or the cable company. Whatever foe you choose, just remember to follow through, don't want any damaged countertops here. you want to end up with a uniform rectangle here, like below. you shouldn't be able to see any gaps in the lineup where the butter was touching.
now, roll out your dough into a sort of rounded square shape. this dough is great because it has fairly low gluten formation, and rolls out like a champ. really fun stuff to work with. you can see that I left it thicker in the middle, because that is where my butter will rest, and the edges of the dough will be folded over the butter, making it thicker on the edges. It also sort of acts as a little insurance so that the dough won't rip in that area.
lay your butter in the middle of the dough and then fold the edges over the butter completely sealing the butter square and leaving you with a uniform rectangle.
flour your work surface and the dough again, and roll out into a long, vertical rectangle, like below. I don't have an exact measurement for you guys here, but I would say that it is prob close to 24 inches or so ( basically the width of my counter top). once that is done, use a pastry brush to brush off excess flour, and fold like a business letter. (this process is known as lamination. it is used in several doughs and that is what gives us all the buttery, flaky, layers of goodness. We do this at work with the croissant doughs also). We are going to do this a total of 6 times.
bring the bottom third up to the middle
and then fold the top down to meet the edge of the bottom third
you should have a nice square at this point. even if it is a bit wonky, you can use a pastry knife or your hand or whatever to kind of square it back up (it just makes for easier rolling as you go). Rotate the dough so that the seam is running vertically, and repeat this process one more time, and then wrap in a damp towel, and set in the fridge for 30 min to harden the butter. (this step is crucial! do not skip it, or your dough will not turn out.) After the 30 minutes are up, roll out and fold again two more times and then back in the fridge for another 30 minutes. then, after those 30 minutes have passed, repeat the two turns one more time. It sounds like a lot of work but trust me, it's not. it takes maybe 4 minutes to do each two turn process. do some house work during the fridge rests or exercise, or whatever. It's basically like making a soup or stew or something that you occasionally have to check on and should be no reason to deter you from trying this excellent recipe.
this is just a pic of me brushing off the extra flour, to enable maximum rollage.
this is my dough after the second rest and fold process. I still have one more fridge rest to go and two more turns (or folds, if you prefer) to make but I made indentions to show how many times I had rolled out and folded it up to this point.
this is a just a shot to show how much this dough puffs up after baking. It was probably rolled out a little thicker than a pie crust would be.
this is a shot of the inside of that same trial piece. I can only tell you that it is the most flaky, buttery, piece of goodness that you will ever eat.
I wanted to make a sweet treat with some of the dough, so I decided to try my hand at making palmiers. I wasn't sure how to make them so I just did a quick search and this is the first thing that came up. Might not be the best video, but I did like the technique of brushing the pastry with water and then dipping it in sugar. made a nice caramel crunch.
this is another pic of an apple tart that I made at thanksgiving with the same dough. ridiculously easy. It was from a martha stewart recipe.
Basically, the whole point of this post is to encourage you guys to make this dough. Yeah, it seems like it is a little daunting at first, but just break it down step by step and it is not bad at all. really easy actually. It's really nice to have something in your kitchen repertoire that can be used for everything from a crust for a tart to a flaky little dessert. Being a good cook is all about versatility, and I can't think of many things that could be more versatile than this. give this process a try and I promise that you will never go back to the mass produced versions.
Puff pastry dough (ala Michel Richard) (once again, it would be in your best interest to watch the video link above!)
1 pound pastry flour (however, I took julia's advice and used 4 oz. cake flour, 12 oz. All Purpose Flour, because that is what I had on hand)
1.5 tsps salt
1.25 cups water.
combine all this in food processor and pulse to make a rough, dough ball.
you will also need 1 pound butter.
for steps and process, follow the pics and directions above.
Good Luck! and happy holidays, hope you make this dough and enjoy it as much as I have:)
DISH recommends: Video.pbs.org. I love pbs. I recently got the pbs app for ipad and it is so cool. it downloads all the shows from the week and you can sort through and pick whatever you want to watch. i don't have cable so its a really cool way for mames and I to get our pbs on. however, this website is pretty cool too. I wasn't sure I'd be able to locate that video of Michel and Julia, but a quick search led me to this site. looks like the same deal (lots of julia vids here). check it.