Saturday, January 06, 2007

729 Layers

Update January 2008: I've posted here about another puff pastry recipe.

Overcoming Intimidation
When I was 15, I met a baking apprentice who was only a little older than I was. I was fascinated, and one of the first questions I asked was, "isn't it hard to make puff pastry?" (pâte feuilletée). Not that I had tried making it myself, but at the time I already loved reading cookbooks and had read all about the time-consuming process.

It has taken me almost 25 years to finally try to make one myself. To celebrate la Fête des Rois (Epiphany?) the French way, we need a galette des rois. This is a puff paste cake with a layer of "frangipane" (almond cream) in the middle, as well as a "fève" (small porcelain figure) hidden inside. Whoever gets the fève is crowned king or queen for the day.

First Test
So far I've only made the puff pastry (the galette is scheduled for tomorrow), but I was itching to test whether it would indeed swell up into layers of buttery dough. So I made a quick batch of cheese puffs: I rolled out a small portion of dough about 2 mm thin, brushed it with egg wash, sprinkled it with grated cheese and cut it into thin wedges. Then baked it at 180°C for 15 min.

The miracle happened before my eyes in the oven: the thin, limp little slips of dough puffed and puffed and puffed, till most of them fell over onto their sides, having grown taller than they were wide. Success!

Is It Worth the Trouble?
The only thing is... they taste good, but not "oh my goodness I'll never be able to buy frozen puff pastry again" good. I'll give my final verdict tomorrow based on the galette. But in the meantime, I'm delighted I overcame my fear of puff pastry. And it was fun to make.

My 2 Cents on How to Do it
The recipe I used was a combination of this source and this one. As they are in French, I'll provide some basic instructions in English below, but look at the step by step photos on the second source to learn how to roll out and fold the dough.

It really wasn't very hard or time-consuming at all (sorry, no process photos). I'm amazed. I started last night around 7pm, making the "détrempe" (the flour and water paste) and letting it rest for 2 hours. At about that time I took the butter out of the fridge so it wouldn't be too cold. Then around 8pm I put the butter in a plastic ziploc bag and banged it up with the rolling pin to make a malleable square. I put it back in the refrigerator for half an hour? Then around 9 pm I folded the square of butter into the dough, rolled the package out and folded it in thirds, turned it, then rolled it out again, folded it, wrapped it in plastic and went to watch TV for 2 hours. Around 11 pm I took the dough out of the fridge, rolled it out, folded it, rolled it out and folded it again, wrapped it and put it in the fridge. This morning I let the dough warm up about 20 minutes, then rolled it out, folded it, rolled it out and folded it for the last time. End of story. If my math is correct, since each fold creates 3 layers that's 3^6=729 layers of dough...

Recipe: Puff Pastry
Source: Frais!
I'm only giving ingredients and basic instructions here. To view a step-by-step process, have a look at Mercotte's great illustration.

- 180g cold water
- 14g salt (too much. I used 10g)
- a few drops of white vinegar
[This was inspired from Mercotte and other recipes, it lets you spread the making of the dough over several days with no alteration of the flour]
- 60g soft butter
- 150g cake flour ("type 45")
- 250g all purpose flour ("type 55")
[I used Swiss Zopfmehl and Weissmehl, not sure if that was a good substitution]
- 340g cold butter

Dissolve the salt in the water. Add vinegar. Mix both flours with the 60g butter and the salty water. Knead until you get a soft ball that doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl.
[I had to add some water. Careful you don't overknead for fear of toughening the dough]
Flatten this dough (slash it with a knife to break its elasticity, as Mercotte suggests), wrap it in film and store it in the fridge for 2 hours.
Take out the butter to soften it somewhat. Beat the butter in a plastic bag or in film so that it becomes malleable. The ideal temperature of the butter to roll it with the dough is 14°C.
Roll out the dough in a square (see pictures in the Mercotte post), place the square of butter in the center, wrap it, then roll into a long rectangle, about 60cm by 20cm. Then fold it in thirds, as described in the post.
Make sure you chill it thoroughly every two folds, and fold it in all six times.

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By the way, the apprentice answered that no, puff pastry wasn't that hard to make, and brioche is a lot harder. I guess that'll be the next challenge!

* * *
Recap of all puff pastry-related recipes on this blog:

Puff Pastry recipes
- Traditional pâte feuilletée (This post)
- Pâte feuilletée inversée

Recipes that use puff pastry
- Galette des rois or Pithiviers first post
- Galette des rois second post and third post
- Palmiers (particularly good for using up the precious scraps of dough)
- Cheese straws or puffs (see above, under "First Test")
- Caramelized puff pastry (pâte feuilletée caramélisée)
- Fig and goat cheese tartlets
- Lemon millefeuille

1 comment:

Mercotte said...

Effectivement c'est une réussite, je suis contente que tu aies vaincu tes appréhensions ! bravo