Baking as a whole has been something I have not only grown up with but have grown to love if not develop a passion for. Baking and this can go for cooking as well brings me joy and excitement. When I try something new or being able to bring a smile to a friends face when I present them with baked goods. My love for cooking really hit full swing in my junior year of college and boy did my roommates love that! We had weekly dinners and breakfasts together. I honestly have an either album on Facebook dedicated to our roommate fun and it ended up just being all the food I made.
Life moves on and so does my love for baking. Now, if you don’t know me you wouldn’t know that I am slightly obsessed with English literature, words, places, the whole thing and with that comes the Great British Bake Off. I have watched MANY cooking shows in America: Ace of Cakes, Cupcake Wars, Cake Wars, Top Chef, and the list could go on. Yet, this show, the people, judges, challenges was everything I could possibly want from a ‘reality’ competition show.
If I have lost you on my way across the pond let me give you a brief summary: Twelve amateur bakers are on a quest to be named the Great Britain’s best baker. Over the course of ten weeks, the contestants will be judged on their skills at making cakes, breads, pastries and desserts of all kinds. The whole set up of the show is much more relaxed than in America. Mary Berry one of the original judges is known for loving a strong drink, Paul Hollywood has the most intense blue eyed stare that you only ever want a handshake of approval from him. The hosts are two comedians that push the limit with some PG 13 comedy. Go check it out on Netflix- it is a great show to binge watch on a rainy day with the door open and an endless cup of coffee.
Bake to the brief: puff pastry. Everyone has seen it used in restaurants and in the frozen section of the grocery story where you can pick up two sheets in a box. It seems to be a known fact that puff pastry is hard to make or its a figment of my imagination and I have put it on a pedestal out of my reach. I mean who hasn’t done that with something in their life? So with the quarantine situation going on I am challenging myself to do more off my baking bucket list. Where to begin? A cookbook.
This cookbook is very important to me I found it walking through one of the knick-knack stores that sells everything from plates, chairs, to bath soap. I picked it up and didn’t want to leave without it but I couldn’t justify the price of the cookbook. So Josh being Josh ordered it for me online and it arrive to our apartment a week later without me knowing. Now if you watch Gourmet Makes on Youtube then you will know the chef Claire Saffitz. If not I would highly recommend anyone who loves cooking and not just baking to go check out their youtube page. The magazine, Bon Appetit, has really created a content hub of great videos that are entertaining as well. Yet, again I am ramblin’ on not about puff pastry. What I am try to get to is this cookbook was written by the French cooking and pastry school she attended.
I was standing at my island cart about to begin this recipe and I can tell you for a fact that I was nervous. I just wanted it to be perfect even though I had never attempted it in my life! So here goes nothing, baking is one of those things you can follow the recipe to a T, but the moment it is in the oven it is out of your hands. As I read over the instruction for maybe the fifth or sixth, honestly 20th time sounds right. One of the things I am learning is you got to get yourself a scale for measuring out everything!
Here I have set up my scale to grams, premeasured out ingredients of the dough minus the butter to distribute, and the flattened butter slab. Trying to figure out how to:
- Flatten a stick and half of butter into a rectangle shape without melting it.
- Not getting it stuck to the surface of the island
- Not letting it get to hard or soft while I worked the rest of my dough.
It is important for the butter to be the same elasticity as the dough when folding it in. There are three ways you can make a puff pastry dough.
- Classic Puff Pastry: which I do. Meaning you wrap a piece of butter in dough and the proceed to roll and fold it out multiple times.
- Quick Puff or Rough Puff: where you well out the flour and put the chunks of butter in and roll it out that way.
- Inverse Puff Pastry: more similar to the classic except it is a large flour butter dough and then a small ‘bread’ dough. You will fold the butter around the dough instead of the other way around.
At this point in the process the dough is made and the butter is chilling. You must have cool butter or else it’ll squidge out and that’ll ruin the layers you are trying to develop with each turn. So as the instructions says: form into ball and cut crisscross pattern into it.
After a little rest for the dough to build up gluten, it is time for me to get rolling and folding! The most important and slightly daunting step. You will see that I am using a marble rolling pin that has been chilled in the fridge for some time. Before I had this I would chill an empty olive oil or wine bottle for rolling out dough. Like I stated previously the dough does better cold. A good number of chefs and restaurants have a marble table for this type of pastry work to keep everything chilled while working. You can also chill a plastic cutting board in your freezer and use that as your surface for rolling. I tried that off camera and it worked really well!
The process goes: roll out dough until it is roughly 24 inches long, trying to keep the dough edges as rectangular as possible. Place butter in and then fold dough down over like you are tucking it in for bed. From this step you will roll it out again to 24 inches. You will fold the dough in a tri fold similar to a brochure. Left ⅓ of the way in and the right ⅓ of the way in covering the previous fold. Roll out to 24″ and fold again. You should, even after the first roll and fold see butter scattered throughout the dough.
You will repeat this process in sets of two and then cling wrap it and pop it in the fridge for about 40 minutes. You can chill it in a freezer for half the amount of time if you are in a pinch for time.
With each turn: rolling out to 24″ then folding like a brochure and repeat. You are creating layers of butter in between dough. That butter with help cause air pockets and rise for your dough when it is being cooked. You should do on average 5 turns for a standard puff pastry. The more or less turns will determine a lot of how to dough reacts with heat and if you add anything to the recipe.
Here is my dough, 5 turns, and ready to be used. If you are making this in advance, which is what I was doing, you can store it tightly wrapped for up to four days. This can also be frozen and stored for about two weeks. The whole process was fun and enjoyable and not nearly as hard as I was expecting it to be. For sure a recipe I am going to memorize and be able to whip out at a moments notice. Especially if those unexpected guest show up for a weekend brunch you can pop this out and make something look extravagant! I would highly recommend in your time at home trying something like this: what you thought you didn’t have the time for or that would be a big challenge and see how it goes. I haven’t felt this good on quarantine as I am right now making pastry. It is the small things that bring us joy and happiness, so go find yours.