Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An Epiphany: It's time to make puff pastry

La  Fête des Rois is the French celebration of Epiphany (a/k/a Three Kings Day or the day your true love sends you twelve drummers drumming). At La Fête one eats Galette des Rois. I haven't made a Galette in a few years. If you want to join me in making one you'll need to start soon; L'Épiphanie is this Thursday, January 6. You need to source some good butter and allow enough time to make the puff pastry. (This is another one of those Yes You Can! posts.)

Puff pastry is one of the first things I made when I became an apprentice in the sweet kitchen. Just weeks into a job for which I held no credentials my boss told me she was going to teach me how to make it. I was beyond thrilled. I snuck off to call my husband to share my excitement. Oh, I was such a rube - I thought I was going to make phyllo dough.

The first thing to know is that making puff pastry involves some down time. On Day 1 you make the détrempe (the dough that is folded between layers of butter) and prep the butter layer. On Day 2 you do the rolling which turns the two into mille feuille, or 1,000 layers. This is achieved by the basic act of a series of folds - five, to be exact - each fold quadrupling the number of layers.

So...good butter. European butters have a higher butterfat content - and lower water content - making them a better choice for puff pastry. I picked up a pound sized block of Plugra and recommend you do the same. If you're  in Chicago you can find Plugra at Treasure Island. Trader Joe's used to carry it at a much better price but hasn't had it in awhile.

Once you've got your butter in hand you're ready to start. Day 1 is very short and simple. Follow the first part of the recipe and meet me back here for Day 2.

Puff Pastry
Print recipe only here

Makes about 3 pounds of puff pastry

INGREDIENTS
3 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
1 T plus 1 t salt
2 ounces cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 to 1 1/4 cups ice water

1 pound unsalted butter, best quality, ideally in a solid one-pound block.

METHOD - Day 1
Prep butter
Remove butter from fridge and cut lengthwise into two slabs. Line up the slabs on a large sheet of plastic wrap and form into a square, pressing the edges together as close as you can smush them. It should look like this:



Wrap with plastic wrap, leaving some room for the butter to stretch into. Then take a rolling pin and beat the heck out of the butter package, really solidifying the butter into one thin square, about 1/2-inch tall and about. You can use the pin to roll the butter out, too.



When you've got to about 7x7 and about 1/2-inch tall, retire it to the fridge overnite, wrapping it in an extra piece of plastico if the first piece ripped anywhere.

Make the détrempe
Fill a 2-cup liquid measuring cup with ice and water. Reserve.

Combine flour and salt in a mixer using the paddle attachment.

Add the 2 ounces of cold, cubed butter and mix until the butter has disappeared into the flour. With mixer running at a low speed, slowly add 1 cup of the ice water. If you need to add more water to make the dough come together do so, but go slowly. The moisture content of flour can differ. Sometimes you will need more water and sometimes you won't. The idea is just to watch the bottom of the bowl and add water VERY SLOWLY, adding just until it comes together in a large clump or two. The détrempe should be soft but not sticky. If it is a little sticky, don't worry. It will absorb some moisture overnite and you can always work more flour into it on Day 2.

Bring the détrempe into a looose, lumpy ball and place on a piece of plastic wrap. Using a large knife or bench scraper, cut a # into the dough, like this:




Then, wrap the détrempe well in plastic and retire it to the fridge overnite.

Bonsoir!

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