Friday, October 8, 2010

Le15 Tutorials: Puff Pastry


Pâte feuilletée in French, puff pastry is intricately layered, rich, delightfully flaky and has a contentious history (although we don’t care who invented it, as long as it was invented). Primarily a savoury pastry, the dough is versatile and can be used in tarts, vols-au-vent, mille-feuilles, palmiers, and the more commonly found stuffed puffs. This dough is unleavened but similar to croissant dough (which uses yeast) as well the Mediterranean filo pastry.

The drawback, is that its delicate nature means it is difficult to execute. Which is precisely why it is hard to get good puff pastry in the city and therefore worth making it at home. Ultimately, the complexity boils down to the time required and weather conditions: one has to mix almost equal parts of butter with flour in folds, ensuring that the butter does not melt and seep through (the dough won’t rise while baking if that happens).

Pastry dough needs to be layered and you need to incorporate as much air as possible between layers – it is when executing these layers or ‘turns’ that the butter tends to seep through. While the number of layers is up to you, we recommend 6 or 7; anything more may not be able to rise in the oven and anything less may not be as puffy and delicate enough.

So, how do you get around the city’s heat? Ideally – get an air conditioned room and a steel counter to work on. Else, keep resting your dough in the freezer for a short period of time between turns. We’ve come up with a picture tutorial on making pastry dough, as well as an example: a caramelised apple puff. For the turns, you should ideally use dry butter (to help it rise more), available on order at Sante in Bandra (022 6450 1527) but is prohibitively expensive. Else, margarine or even regular butter may work – but the resulting flavour isn’t as rich.

Recipe for puff pastry dough:

250g flour

125ml water

5g salt

35g soft butter

--

150g dry butter for turning

Method:

  1. Create an indent in the flour and salt and add the water to the centre.
  2. Whisk slowly, and add the softened butter in stages.
  3. Finish the dough by hand and let it rest for 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator
  4. Flatten the dough into a rectangle and place/spread the softened butter for turning in the centre such that it can be wrapped around by the dough
  5. (Turning) Sprinkle ample flour on the counter and roll the dough slowly to ensure there are no tears. Make the first turn by wrapping the dough around so it engulfs the butter and is sealed from all sides. Ensure that there is no space for the butter to seep out. Once you make a narrow rectangle, fold inward from each end about 1/3rd of the length of the rectangle. Brush off any excess dough so that there is more air.
  6. (Turning) Rotate the dough by 45 degrees and repeat to start the second turn. Sprinkle ample flour on the counter before each turn.
  7. After all the turns, rest for a half hour in the refrigerator

Recipe for carmelised apple puff:

1 apple, diced

30g butter

2 tablespoon sugar (depending on the sweetness of the apple)

1teaspoon cinnamon powder

Water (as required)

Egg-wash or a thickened milk & sugar solution.

Method:

  1. Melt the butter and add the apples on a slow flame
  2. Add the sugar and cinnamon and a small amount of water. Keep simmering and tossing the apples until they slowly begin to brown.
  3. Keep adding a little bit of water until the apples are soft, brown and sweet
  4. Roll out the pastry dough to about 10mm thickness and, using a mould, make two shapes of equal size.
  5. Apply the egg-wash to the dough and place the caramelised apples in the centre. Seal the edges, apply egg-wash on top and let it dry for 10 minutes
  6. Place in the oven at 210 degrees for about 10-12 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and puffed up.
  7. Gorge.
Mangal Dalal is a freelance food writer with a gluttonous and geeky disposition. You can contact him at (mangal.dalal [AT] gmail.com)

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