Monday, April 12, 2010

Rough puff pastry

I have never before made pastry. I know there are chefs out there who laugh with derision at anyone who says this. There are home cooks who insist that you really must make real puff pastry, not (sneer) rough puff pastry. However I am humbly just a little bit pleased with myself for attempting even rough puff pastry (which was plenty challenging enough). It’s not difficult, just a little fiddly and quite time consuming. I tried a recipe from Maggie’s Harvest (by Maggie Beer) – paraphrased below.

450 g plain flour
450 g unsalted butter, chilled (cut into cubes, about 1.5cm)
250 ml chilled water
Pinch of salt (which I forgot)

Clean your kitchen bench. Then dump all the flour onto the bench (you will need to clean the bench again afterward).

Using a pastry scraper (which I don’t own, I used the blunt side of a butter knife, far from ideal) “cut” the butter into the flour. This essentially means, dump a few pieces of butter into the flour, mash/cut them into the flour with the “scraper”, then add a few more. Don’t be temped to use your fingers, this apparently melts the butter and opens a portal to the underworld. Repeat until all butter is used.

When all the butter is combined, add about 180 ml of water and quickly form into a dough. It should be quite firm. Do not “overwork” or let it get warm. Add a bit more water if you are really struggling to make it all come together.

Chill – ie wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge (or the freezer, if like me you are impatient. But this really isn’t a great recipe for the impatient. Unless you are trying to cultivate patience).

Cut the pastry into quarters or in half, depending on how much you need for your recipe. Working with one quarter (return the rest to the fridge/freezer) – roll out between two sheets of plastic wrap or baking paper into a longish strip (the length should be three times the width). This is easiest if you roll in one direction only. Fold in a ‘book fold’ – more pamphlet like (just look at the picture). Turn 90º, repeat. Turn again, repeat. If it starts getting soft, re-chill. After three turns(I may have gotton carried away and turned it four time) wrap up and chill.

(Then pour a drink or make a cup of tea and put your feet up).

To use, roll out the desired quantity of pastry to the desired thinness (again, between sheets of baking paper or plastic wrap - this also makes it easy to lift and drape over your pie tin or tarte tatin).

To cook, make sure you use a very hot oven (I crank mine to the hottest it will go, fan forced at 240ºc). A trick – pre-heat the oven (really, really pre-heat it) and also pre-heat a baking tray int he oven – sit the pie tin on top of the baking tray – it conducts the heat better to the bottom of the tin, helping to make it crispier. Cook pastry for about 20 minutes (maybe a little longer).

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