Summary: Puff pastry is considered one of the hardest pastries to make. However, it’s is one of the nicest to eat. The thin layers of fluffy pastry separated by air makes this a light pastry that is comfortable to eat. It can be used for a verity of dishes, from savory sausage rolls to sweet custard pies. Over the next few blogs, I’m going to share with you some of the things I cook with puff pastry. Now don’t be put of by my introduction. Yes, puff pastry is difficult to make the traditional English way. However, I have a cheat. There’s a quick and simple method of making puff pastry that has served me well. I’ve even had occasion to teach it to chiefs in a 5 star restaurant. So Here is my quick and easy puff pastry recipe.
- 200 g Flour 200 g Butter or Lard (or both mixed)
- 100 to 150 ml of chilled water
- 1 egg for brushing
To get this to work, everything must be cold. There is no point doing this on a hot summers day as the butter will go soft and you’ll just get an oily, greasy, heavy pastry with no puff and no crispness. So before you do anything, get the butter, bowls and knifes into the freezer and chill them for at least 30 minutes. Running your hands under the cold tap to chill your fingers might help. Open the window and let the cold air into your kitchen.
When making this you have the choice between butter or lard or half and half of each. Lard has a reputation for being unhealthy but then butter is not exactly good for you either. Really this is a recipe you do for taste not for health. Lard will give a better texture than butter. Because lard melts at a higher temperature than butter, it will alter the cooking and make the pastry fluffier and crispier. That said, butter tastes nice. Half and half give a compromise. Do not use margarine, or easy spread butter. You want hard butter for this dish. Anything else will just make a greasy splodge.
Now handle the butter as little as possible. You want it to stay cold. Take the butter out the freezer and grate it into a bowl with a large cheese greater. Try not to touch the grated butter with your fingers as it will clump together and melt. Add the flour to the bowl along with the butter. Without touching with your hands, use a sharp knife to cut the flour in the butter. It should be a cutting action not a stirring action so that the flour coats the butter without the butter sticking together.
Using a table-spoon, add a 3 spoon fulls of water to the flour/butter and cut through again to mix. Add another 2 spoons of water and again cut through to mix. Repeat with another 2 spoons and possibly another 2 again. You will have to judge just how many spoons of water to use. You are looking for the point where all the dry flour has gone and turned to dough but not so much as to make the pastry soggy. The least amount of water that you can get away with is best.
The bowl will still be full of crumbly bits and not sticking together. Use your hands to press the dough into a ball. Try to work it as little as possible to get it to come together. You must be able to see lumps of butter within the dough. That lumpy butter is the essential part for making the puffy pastry work. Place the dough onto a floured worktop and roll to bout 1cm thick. Fold in half and roll again. Fold once more and roll again to the thickness required for your pie. Probably about 5 mm thick. Place the dough into the fridge to firm up for about half an hour. If you want to keep the dough for a long time. It freezes well in this state and can be kept in the freezer until needed.
After the dough has chilled, take out of the fridge, roll and cut to the size you require and place onto your pie or into your dish. Brush the outside of the pie with a beaten egg. This will give it the nice golden brown colour when cooked. Cook according to your pie recipe but as a rough guide, gas mark 5 or 190°C for 15 to 20 minutes.
Diet type: Vegetarian
Meal type: dinner
Culinary tradition: English
Puff pastry photo by Taylor Gabriela
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