How glad I am to write about puff pastry again. Since the last post about it (vols-au-vent) two years ago, I have made it puff pastry many times. That first time was nerve-wracking, with a few failed attempts along the way, but then after a few tries it all came together and then the lightbulb goes off and you realize that it isn’t difficult at all, just time consuming. While I will never judge anyone for using store-bought puff pastry, I use it myself in a pinch, there is a deep-rooted sense of satisfaction when you open the oven door and pull out a tray of perfect, flaky pastry that you made yourself.I’m not kidding.
The October Bakers Challenge was hosted by Suz from Serenely Full and she chose a French , though “wildly popular in Morocco”, dessert called mille-feuille, which translates into” cake with a thousand sheets”. It is a very elegant looking dessert that is absolutely delicious. All of your friends will love you for making this. Trust me on this.
This makes a pretty large quantity of puff pastry, but I find this recipe perfect for two reasons.
1.) It is actually easier to handle a large piece of dough
2.) Since this is such a labor of love (time consuming labour intensive), isn’t it easier to freeze half (up to 2 months) for the next time you need it?
This makes enough for three 11 x 17 pieces. I know this seems like a lot, and it is, but the few times I have made mille feuille in the past year it has been requested for a crowd, so this was perfect. You can easily cut the pastry down to fit the size pan that works for you. When doing this it is best to roll out the entire dough to about 1/8″ inch, cut off what you need, then roll the rest up in wax paper and freeze.
While I used to do the “diamond on the square” technique for making puff pastry, I have switched to a much simpler method.This is since discovering the amazing book “Bourke Street Bakery”. I have found their recipe/method to turn out perfect every time.
4 3/4 oz ( 135 g) unsalted butter, diced and chilled
4 1/2 Cups (675 g/1 lb 8 oz) all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon (20 g) kosher salt
1 Tablespoon (20 ml) vinegar, chilled
10 1/2 oz (300 ml) water, chilled
1 lb (500 g) unsalted butter, for laminating, chilled
Take the 4 3/4 oz cubed butter out of the fridge about 20 minutes before starting, so it is soft but still cold
In a large food processor, place the butter, flour, and salt together and pulse for about 30 seconds, or until it is crumbly and has a fine sand texture. Combine the cold vinegar and water and pour into the bowl, pulsing until the dough comes together into a ball. Take the dough out, pat it into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Placed in the fridge for 30 minutes (or overnight).
Take the other one pound of butter and place it between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Gently pound it with a rolling-pin into a 8 x 8 inch square. What I usually do is start between 2 pieces of wrap and then as I’m getting closer to the 8×8 I switch to a piece of parchment paper folded in half. You can use the folded inside edge to get a clean line on the one side of butter and then use a bench scraper push the other edges in place. Watch this video for good demonstration of this. Once you get your 8×8 square place it back in the fridge until your dough is ready to use.
Take the dough out of the fridge and lay it on a lightly floured counter. Roll it out to 8 x 16 inches. Place the chilled 8×8 butter square at one end of the dough and fold over the other to cover it. Firmly pinch the edges together to completely seal in the butter. Turn the dough 90 degrees and begin to roll the dough out in long, even strokes. You want to end up with a 8 x 36 rectangle. Try to only roll in one direction to help promote lots of layers. I roll on one side then swivel the dough and continue rolling on the other end. Be patient, this takes a few minutes.
Once the dough is 8 x 36, fold the two short ends into the middle to meet, then fold it once again like you were closing a book. Dust very lightly with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. congratulations, you have just completed your first turn!
Step 4, 5,6
Repeat the folding process 3 more times, turning the dough 90 degrees each time. Every time you finish a completed fold you must place the dough back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling again. Myself, I complete 2 turns then place the dough in the fridge overnight and complete the next 2 turns the following day. You can do it all in one day, but you cannot skip the resting/chilling time between turns. This is crucial for relaxing the gluten and keeping the butter cold so you will end up with gorgeous, flaky, mile high pastry.
After the completed 4th folded turn, you now must wrap up your pastry and chill it overnight.
The next day….
Okay, now your pastry is ready to use! Yeah!!! Take the dough out and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you begin rolling it out.
2 Cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the seeds of one vanilla bean
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
Whisk together the corn starch, egg yolks, and sugar; set aside
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk (and vanilla seeds, if using) until it is hot and steaming, but not boiling. Take the pan off the heat.Very slowly, and whisking constantly, pour some of the hot milk into the egg mixture (this is called tempering) then pour this back into the hot milk (keep whisking!). turn the heat to medium low and place the pot back onto the heat. Whisk the mixture until it thickens and begins to slightly bubble; simmer, whisking, for one minute.
Pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. If using vanilla extract, stir in now. to prevent a “skin” forming on your custard, you can either place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface or dust the entire surface with confectioners sugar. Let cool to room temperature then place in the fridge to cool completely.
Baking the pastry
preheat your oven to 400 F. You will need two 11 x 17 baking pans (or 2 baking pans the same size)
Line one baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out your dough to 1/8″inch into a 11 x 17 rectangle. Cut the pastry into 3 equal pieces (drag the knife through as opposed to straight down- this can ruin your lovely layers) and place side by side in the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Place another sheet of parchment paper over the top and then the other baking pan on top. This will prevent the layers from puffing up too much. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the top tray and parchment, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. You might need to gently pull the 3 pieces apart.
Lay down one sheet of puff pastry. Cover with half of the pastry cream, spreading it as evenly as possible. Now take another piece of pastry and place it over this, pressing down gently. Spread the remaining pastry cream over this layer and finally top with the remaining piece of puff pastry.
2 ¾ cups (660 ml/ 12⅓oz/350gm) icing sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 large egg whites
½ cup (2¾ oz/80gm) dark chocolate
To make the icing, whisk 2 egg whites with 2 teaspoons lemon juice until lightly frothy.Whisk in about (2 cups) of the icing sugar on a low setting until smooth and combined. The mixture should be thick enough to leave trails on the surface. If it’s too thin, whisk in a bit more icing sugar.Once ready, immediately pour over the top of the mille-feuille and spread evenly. I found that I didn’t quite need all of the icing. Still working quickly, pipe a row of thin chocolate lines along the widest length of your pastry sheet (see below). You can make them as far apart/close together as you like.Take a sharp knife and lightly draw it down (from top to bottom) through the rows of chocolate. A centimeter (½ inch) or so further across, draw the knife up the way this time, from bottom to top. Move along, draw it down again. Then up. And so on, moving along the rows of chocolate until the top is covered in a pretty swirly pattern.
As I have mentioned before, we have a monthly dinner supper which I host every month (it’s easier and I enjoy it). The menu this month:
Pear and endive salad with blue cheese and pecans
Roasted butternut squash risotto
Pineapple infused napoleons with sauteed fresh pineapple
To make this dessert, I cut the pufpif pastry into small rectangles before baking and I did not place another baking sheet on top. I wanted these to rise to the heavens. I had in my pantry some freeze dried pineapple, which I ground into a powder with the grinder. I then stirred this into some pastry cream. I then mixed up some whipped cream and slowly added this to the pastry cream to lighten up the whole mixture. OMG this was so good!! This was then piped (using a star tip) between the layers. I then diced up some fresh pineapple and sauteed it in a pan with brown sugar and rum. this was served on the side. Deluxe!!!!
Puff pastry video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg-ybzGok3U Mille-feuille/Napoleon video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGQCWuKU7Co Vegan puff pastry: http://veganbaking.net/pastries/718-puff-pastry Gluten-free puff pastry (plus a chocolate mousse & raspberry mille-feuille): http://www.tarteletteblog.com/2010/04/recipe-gluten-free-puff-pastry.htm… Vegan pastry cream: http://vegandad.blogspot.co.uk/2011_08_01_archive.html