Friday, November 18, 2011

Whole Foods Friday: Fun with Puff Pastry

For information about Whole Foods Friday, see the tab at the top.

Sure, you can buy puff pastry, but where's the challenge in that? If you bring appetizers to a party and you say that you made the puff pastry, people will be wowed by your talents. Puff pastry is time-consuming. Some might say that it's difficult.

This version, however, is pretty easy. It's not real puff pastry, but no one needs to know that.

You can also make the appetizer recipes with store-bought puff pastry. People will still think you're a genius.

Faux Puff Pastry

1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup room temperature water
1 tablespoon sugar
11 1/4 ounces (2 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold salted butter
1 stick cold unsalted butter

Put the yeast, water and sugar into a medium bowl and stir to combine.

Put the flour and salt into your food processor, and pulse to distribute the salt. Cut each stick of butter into tablespoon-sized piecesf. Put all of the pieces into the food processor with the flour and pulse about 10 times to distribute the butter and break the chunks just a little. You don't want small pieces as you would for pie crust; larger chunks are preferable.

Add the flour and butter to the liquid in the bowl, and fold gently with a spatula until all the flour is moistened and it is well combined, being careful not to break up the butter. The butter should still be fairly hard at this point. The dough will be very wet; don't worry about it. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The mixture can be used the next day, or kept refrigerated for an additional day if you aren't ready for it. When you are ready, flour your work surface generously, and have more flour standing ready. Turn the dough out onto your work surface, sprinkle some additional flour over the top, and form it into a rough square.

Working quickly, roll the dough out to an approximate 16-inch square. Because it's so wet, it should roll easily, but it might be a bit sticky. Add flour as needed on top and underneath to keep it from sticking. Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter.

Then fold it in thirds again, to make a square.

Keep the work surface lightly floured, just to keep it from sticking. You shouldn't need as much as before. Do the same roll-and-fold two more times. You should be able to do this fast enough that the butter won't get too soft and squishy - it should still feel hard when you roll over it with the rolling pin. If the butter does soften, put it in the fridge and continue once the butter has firmed up again.

After the last fold, flatten it a bit, then wrap it loosely in plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator for at least an hour, or up to three days - I actually like it best when it's been in the fridge for at least 8-10 hours.

The dough will rise a bit while refrigerated, so if you're storing it for longer than just an hour or two, it's advisable to put it in a plastic bag, just in case it outgrows your plastic wrap - you don't want the dough to dry out.

So now you've got dough. 
What are you going to do with it?

Here are some recipes to get you started. I'm sure you'll think of more.

Speck and Emmentaler Puff Rolls

1/4 batch faux puff pastry dough (or regular puff pastry*)
Speck or prosciutto
Emmentaler cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough to about 6x9 inches. It should be less than 1/4 inch thick. If the edges are terribly uneven, trim them as needed, but save the scraps. With one long edge facing you, lay the slices of speck on the dough, covering the surface, but leaving about 1/2 inch uncovered on the far side. Top with a small amount of the cheese - just a bare sprinkle or slices shaved with a vegetable peeler.

Loosely roll up the dough jelly-roll style and pinch to seal the seam. Cut the roll into 9 1-inch pieces and put them on the prepared baking sheet cut-side up. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the dough feels soft and puffy rather than firm. It won't rise much, but it should feel soft - about 45 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees until nicely browned, about 15 minutes.

If you had any scraps left, cut them into bite-size pieces and cook them along with the rolls. They make nice party nibbles - or snacks for the chef.

*If you're using store-bought puff pastry, follow package directions. You won't need to roll it out much for this recipe - it's almost thin enough as-is. Cut the sheet to size, then roll it gently so it's a bit less than 1/4 inch thick.

Apricot Walnut Cups

1/4 batch faux puff pastry (or regular puff pastry*)
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup apple pie liqueur
6 dried apricots
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the pastry to about 6 inches square. It should be about 1/4 in thick, or slightly less. Square off the edges, if needed, then cut it in three strips horizonally and three strips vertically, so now you have 9 squares. Fit the squares into small muffin cups or similar small vessels (I used a pan with square holes).

Or, if you prefer, you can bake them flat. Dock the bottom of the dough to keep it from rising and set aside until the dough feels puffy rather than hard - about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Put the cider and apple liqueur in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until it has reduced by half. Chop the apricots into a medium dice and add them to the pan. Cook, stirring as needed, until the apricots are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick, sticky glaze. Add the walnuts and stir to combine. Take the mixture off the heat and reserve until needed.

When the pastry feels puffy, the centers may have risen - push them down to flatten, and dock again. You want to be able to fill these after they are baked. For added assurance, you can put a small piece of parchment in each cup and put a few pie weights in each.

Bake until the cups are nicely browned, about 12 minutes. Removed them from the pans. If you have any that have risen too much in the center for them to be filled, just indent the pastry to make a space for filling. This filling is sweet, so you don't need a lot of space for it.

If you had any scraps left, cut them into bite-size pieces and cook them along with the rolls. They make nice party nibbles - or snacks for the chef.

Fill the cups with the filling - about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*If you're using store-bought puff pastry, follow package directions. You won't need to roll it out much for this recipe - it's just about thin enough as-is, so just cut the sheet to size, and if you need to roll it gently to flatten the creases, don't get too carried away.

Puff-Wrapped Asparagus

1/2 batch faux puff pastry (or regular puff pastry*)
1 bunch asparagus
Eggwash (1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water) optional

Cook the asparagus using your preferred method until it is just cooked through. Then drain off any liquid and set aside to cool room temperature on a rack or paper towels so they dry thoroughly.

Meanwhile, roll the pastry out so it's about 1/4 inch thick, or slightly less. Square off the edges, then cut the pastry into enough strips so that you have 1 strip to wrap each asparagus spear. My bunch had 21 spears.

Beginning at the cut end of the spear, wrap each spear in the puff pastry strips, just up to the beginning of the tips - you want those poking out after these are baked. If more shows, that's fine. If there is extra dough, cut it off.

Put the spears on your baking sheet, leaving a bit of room  between them, with the spears facing the center of the pan - this will avoid having those tips overcook. Depending on how many pears you have - and how large they are - you might need 2 baking sheets to keep them from being overcrowded.

For a prettier finish, brush the pastry with eggwash.

Bake at 400 degrees until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*If you're using store-bought puff pastry, follow package directions. You won't need to roll it out much for this recipe - it's just about thin enough as-is, so just cut the sheet to size, and if you need to roll it gently to flatten the creases, don't get too carried away.

Red Pepper Hummus

All that butter in that puff pastry needs to be balanced with something a little more healthy, don't you think? And I can't think of much that's healthier than hummus. Okay, sure, you've got oil, but it's healthy olive oil. And most of it is beans. Chickpeas, actually.

The other really great thing about hummus is that almost everything is optional or easily interchangeable with something else. If you have a can of chickpeas, you can whip up a batch of hummus any time you want it. And if you don't have those chickpeas - well, I've seen white bean hummus, too. Traditional hummus includes tahini, which I never have on hand. Peanut butter, on the other hand, is always around. it's gotten to the point where I don't consider peanut butter a substitution any more, since it's what I usually use.

1 15-ounce can chickpeas
2 fire-roasted piquillo pepper
2-4 tablespoons tahini or peanut butter
2-4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt - or to taste

Blend everything in your food processor or blender. You can also use a stick blender. Start with the minimum amounts of each, and add more to taste. If you're planning on using the hummus as a spread on cracker or more solid chips, you can make it much thicker and use less oil. If you want something more like a dip, use more oil to thin it out. Blend until it's the consistency you like - some people like it silky smooth, while other prefer more texture. It's really up to you. Taste it and add more salt if needed.

Substitutions:
  • Instead of chickpeas, you can use white beans, or really any canned beans you have on hand. The color will be different, and the flavor will be slightly different, but if you need a dip in a pinch, use what you have on hand. If you've got plenty of time to plan ahead, you could use cook some dried chickpeas or other beans.
  • If you don't have fire-roasted piquillo peppers, you can use fire-roasted red peppers (from a jar or the salad bar). You can skip the peppers, if you prefer. 
  • For the tahini, if you don't have peanut butter you can use almond butter or any other nut butter. Nut allergies? Sunflower butter or anything you use as a peanut butter substitute will be fine. You could also add a drop or two of toasted sesame oil. Or skip this entirely.
  • Instead of lemon juice, you could use another citrus juice or use lemon-flavored olive oil for one tablespoon of the oil you use. If you don't have anything lemon-flavored, you can skip it.
  • Garlic can be omitted, or you can use garlic oil for one tablespoon of the oil you're using.
  • Instead of olive oil, you could use another oil, or use a flavored oil instead of a plain oil.
Puff pastry

8 comments:

Yuri - Chef Pandita said...

Great ideas in this post! Love the asparagus, they look so pretty :)

Lauren said...

great post! can't wait to make my own faux-puff dishes!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Yes, p. pastery is a LOT of work. This method looks just fine and seriously less intense. Is this your own creation, Donna? I am seriously impressed and I cannot wait to try it. Got you loud and clear about keeping it COLD. I think you're on to something important here and many thanks. -Craig

Anonymous said...

Is there a simple way to print just the puff paste recipe, not the 18-20 page string? Thanks. -Craig

Donna Currie said...

Craig, highlight what you want to print, then go to your browser's FILE menu, select PRINT and then choose PRINT SELECTED. In theory, that should work just dandy, but there are so many combinations of browsers, operating systems, and printers that sometimes you get weird results. If the formatting is all odd, then highlight, copy, and then paste into Word or something similar. There should be an easier way, but printing from the web is always dicey.

Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray said...

So impressive!!!

2d to 3d said...

Puff is always my favorite fast food. With seeing this different kinds of puff pastries, I am really amazed. I really impressed with the way you acknowledged us.

bateaux rc said...

I love puff pastry. I often takes it when I am going outside. This is sounds little different but nice puff pastry. Hope I would make it.

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