Monday, January 19, 2015

Puff Pastry and Pear Feuilletés

I have a box of puff pastry sitting in my freezer.  It's a good brand, no preservatives or additives that I can't pronounce.  And it's expensive too.

It all starts here...

Pound and roll your butter into a block

Wrap that block up tight and get it cold

I bought it because I wanted to try it and I thought it would be nice to have in a pinch.  But it's still there and I can't bring myself to use it.

Roll your dough out into a big circle
Place your cold butter block in the middle

I feel like I should make my own because anything store bought would be a baking abomination and a lie--like not making your own pie crust.  And I realize this is especially ridiculous with puff pastry because at the very least it takes a full day, from dusk til dawn, to make--it's a process.

Envelope the block by folding the edges over it--like an envelope...

Pinch the edges together to seal them

Nevertheless, I went forward and made it for the third time in my life and documented it.  I used Bouchon Bakery's recipe which might take a little longer than most recipes I've seen.  I love this cookbook but it's one of those where almost every recipe is extensive and time consuming.

Roll the block out into a very large rectangle

Trim the edges square and place the trimmings somewhere in the middle
Fold it into thirds--like a letter

You must read through it thoroughly to understand exactly how long everything is going to take.  The puff pastry recipe is no exception.  But I suppose it's worth it because it does work miracles in the end with an extremely flaky and buttery result.  

Wrap it tight in plastic wrap and chill it

One annoying problem I've had with making puff pastry both in the past and during this project was making sure the butter didn't start re-surfacing during the rolling process.  I tend to keep the dough pretty cold and try and work as fast as humanly possible but I still end up seeing some of the butter smear on the surface of the dough.  I don't know how to avoid this.

After it's chilled for a couple of hours, roll it out into another large rectangle
Trim the edges square, tuck in the trimming, fold into thirds--this is the second "turn."  You'll do this at least 3 or 4 more times...  Chill, roll, fold, chill, roll, fold.

I've used both high quality butter and mediocre brands.  It always happens.  The only thing I can think of to do is to try harder to keep it cold and work even faster.  Or, at the very beginning of the process when you first place the butter block on the dough and fold the dough over it, you are supposed to pinch the four edges of the dough together.  Maybe the pinches don't hold and that's the beginning of the end.  So perhaps I'll try overlapping the dough edges at that stage and hope that the seal won't break.  I'm not sure if that is even the root of the problem but it's worth a shot.

I planned on using the puff pastry to make another recipe from the Bouchon Bakery book--pear feuilletés.  

You poach the pears in a white wine syrup and then let them soak in that syrup for a day or so--I did for about a week.  Then you cut out your pastry, pipe a bed of almond cream onto the bottom crust, spread some sweet wine soaked pears on top of that and then cover it with the top layer of pastry.  

Puff pastry--turned 6 times--ready for use

It's fairly simple and undoubtedly fucking delicious.  The only hard part I encountered with them was using the lattice cutter.  

I had never used one and was excited to.  

I purchased one just for this endeavor.  But it wasn't exactly easy.  It didn't always cut all the way through the dough and the dough would stick to the lattice cutter often.  

So the dough had to be really really cold in order to get a decent lattice cut.  

Since my parents were over for a nice dinner that night and I was making the pastries after dinner, I didn't have much time to keep chilling the dough for every pastry.  

So I made due and in all honesty they all looked a little unique and interesting still.  I wasn't too upset but I definitely want another go at that lattice cutter.

Recipe for puff pastry:

-400g (4 sticks) unsalted butter
-225g (3/4c + 3T) water
-25g (1T + 2 1/2tsp) white wine vinegar
-500g (3 1/2c + 1T) all purpose flour
-10g (1T + 3/8tsp) kosher salt
-50g (1.7oz) unsalted butter melted but cooled to room temp.

To make the butter block, take your 4 sticks of butter and line them up side by side on top of a piece of parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap.  Place another piece of whatever type of paper or wrap you are using  on top of the butter.  Using a rolling pin, use a combination of pounding and rolling the butter until it sticks together and you have one giant thing of butter.  Essentially you can mash it all together in anyway you like because you are just going to use the rolling pin to roll it into a block.  At this point you are just trying to get the four pieces of butter to be one cohesive block of butter.   Once the butter is "one" then roll it into a 6x8 inch rectangle that is smooth and of equal thickness throughout--it might help to throw some flour on the butter block while you roll and form it.  Wrap the butter block tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.  

For the dough, first combine the water and vinegar together in a small bowl.  Then, using the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour and salt.  With the dough hook attachment, mix the flour and salt on low speed for about 30 seconds.  Then add half of the vinegar/water mixture and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.  Add the rest of the vinegar/water mixture and mix on low speed for another 30 seconds.  Next, slowly add the melted butter into the mixture and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together in the middle of the bowl.  Stop the mixer.  The dough should feel tacky but not really sticky.  Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for several minutes.  It won't be completely smooth.  Form the dough into a ball.  Place it into a lightly greased medium sized bowl. Using a sharp knife, score a large 1/2 inch deep "X" into the top of the ball of dough to help it relax. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. 

To encase the butter block in the dough, roll the dough out into a 12-13 inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Place the butter block in the center of the circle and fold the edges of the dough over the block.  Pull each edge of the dough together at the center of the block and pinch the edges together to seal them--there should not be any butter exposed.  Everything should still be pretty cold at this point. If it's not, put it in the fridge to chill until it is nice and cold again.  

Now that the butter is encased, the first turn is ready to happen.  Using a rolling pin start from the center of the block and roll the encased butter dough rectangle into a 24 inch long by 9 inch wide rectangle. You will want to continually rotate and flip the dough while you are rolling it to make sure it doesn't stick to your work surface.  Again, if the dough becomes too warm, transfer it to a parchment lined baking sheet and chill it for about 15 minutes.  Once you have your rectangle trim the edges square. Take the trimmings (make sure the layers of the trimmings are running in the same direction as the dough) and place them in the approximate center of the rectangle.  Now, fold the rectangle into thirds as though you were forming a letter.  Turn the block 90 degrees so it resembles a book.  Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it on a baking sheet and then into the fridge to chill for 2 hours.  This completes the first turn.

For the second turn, you'll do much the same as for the first turn.  Remove the block from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface.  Roll it into another 24 inch by 9 inch rectangle.  Trim the edges square if they are rounded and tuck the trimmings into the middle of the rectangle--again making sure that their layers are running in the same direction as the dough you just trimmed them from.  Fold the rectangle into thirds like a letter again.  Turn it 90 degrees--like a book--wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill for another 2 hours.  This is the end of the second turn.

You will do this same process for 3-4 more times.  After you are done with all of your turns, let the dough chill for at least an hour before using or you can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in an air tight container to freeze until ready for use.

For the pear feuilletés:

Poached pears

-150g (1/2c + 3T) sauvignon blanc
-300g (1 1/4c) water
-100g (1/2c + 1T) granulated sugar
-1 vanilla bean split
-2g (3/8tsp) fresh lemon juice
-3 small pears--I used Bartlett

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, water and sugar.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and then the pod itself.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely.  After the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Let the mixture cool completely. When it is cool, remove the vanilla bean pod and discard.  Peel the pears and cut them into 1/2 inch cubes (the cookbook instructs you to use a melon baller to do this instead but I didn't have one).  Submerge the pears into the wine sugar syrup/poaching liquid, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.

Almond cream

-73g (1/2c + 2 1/2tsp) almond flour/meal
-7g (2 1/4tsp) all purpose flour
-73g (2 1/2oz) unsalted butter at room temp.
-73g (1/2c + 2T) powdered sugar
-1 large egg

Using a small bowl, run the almond flour through a fine mesh sieve to break up any lumps.  Add the flour and whisk to combine.  Set aside.  Place the room temp. butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Then, using the paddle attachment beat the butter on medium high speed until it is light and has the consistency of mayonnaise.  Stop the mixer and sift in the powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on medium and beat for about 3 minutes until the butter/sugar is light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer to low and add the almond/flour mixture in 2 additions scraping down the bowl between additions to make sure you are incorporating everything.  Lastly add the egg and mix on low until fully incorporated--30-60 seconds.  Remove the bowl from the mixer, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 4 days.

To prepare the whole feuilletés

Egg wash

-1 large egg
-1 tsp cold water

For the egg wash, in a small bowl whisk together the egg and water well.  Set aside.

Line the backs of 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Take your chilled almond cream out of the fridge and let it come to room temp.  Take your very cold puff pastry from the refrigerator and cut it in half.  Wrap the other half back up and place it into the fridge.  Lightly flour a large work surface.  Roll out the one half of puff pastry into a large 11x16 inch rectangle.  If it gets too warm and starts sticking to your work surface then place it back in the fridge to chill for a few minutes.  Once it's rolled out, place it on one of the parchment lined baking sheets and then back in the fridge.  Do the same exact thing for the other puff pastry half.  Now, using some sort of a 5 inch sized cookie cutter (the cookbook uses a 5x3 inch pear shaped cutter but I couldn't find one like that so I used a simple 5 inch circle cutter), mark 6 light indentations--not cutting all the way through at this point--on one sheet of the rolled out puff pastry.  Brush the egg wash around the edges of each circle.  Next place your room temperature almond cream into a piping back and, using a plain 1/2 inch tip, pipe the cream onto each of your 6 circled indentations leaving a 1/2 inch border all around.  Then divide the poached pears equally between each circle.  Remove the second rolled out rectangle of puff pastry from the fridge and cut it into 6 equal rectangles--big enough to drape over each pear topped circle. If you are using a lattice cutter now would be the time to use it--if not you can skip it and cut out any sort of design you want on the top piece of pastry.  But for the lattice, roll it on each of the 6 rectangles.  Then lightly pull the sides apart to form the lattice.  Drape each rectangle over each circle.  Using the circle cutter, cut through each layer and lightly press the edges to seal.  Brush the egg wash over each pastry and place them on a right side up parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 1 hour before baking.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Bake the pastries for 30-35 minutes rotating the sheet pan halfway at about 15 minutes into baking.  Once done, cool the pastries on a rack to cool completely.

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