Puff Puff Pastry My Friends!

Apple Danish Made with Puff Pastry

I never really did much baking before the last five years. I loved to cook. I just didn’t know much about baking.

It wasn’t until the Food Network turned chefs into celebrities, that I got interested in learning how to bake. Chefs on these shows  were making sandwiches or other dishes with this amazing looking bread.   I would ask the television, “Where did you get that bread?” I never got a response. I certainly wasn’t seeing that scrumptious looking bread in any of the places I shopped for food.

I decided to take a field trip to the book store in search for a bread baking cook book. What I found was Flour by Joanne Chang, not a bread baking cook book. It does have a few bread recipes in the back of the book for which I truly adore and often use.

It was love at the turn of the first page.  Her stories are so fun to read. Her recipes are full of flavor. She actually became my mentor. Joanne did not know it and probably still doesn’t. Flour became my Bible.

I poured over the book and read every page a hundred times. I learned a lot about baking and use what I learned to build on my own creations. Joanne describes every step with vivid detail. I still tug on my ear lobe when making bread to determine if my dough is ready for the next step. (Get the book, you will see what I am talking about.)

My Signed Copy of Baking with Less Sugar

My darling husband, Michael, found out Joanne Chang was going to be in D.C. promoting her new cook book, Baking with Less Sugar. Without hesitation, I packed up the family and we took a trip to this adorable little kitchen store in Washington D.C. called Hills Kitchen.

She was so nice and even retweeted my tweet about meeting her. EEK! (Follow her on Twitter @jbchang) I went total geek when I met her but was too nervous to ask for a picture. I didn’t want to be rude. I should have asked for the picture.

My babes, Me and a Cherry Blossom the Day We Met Joanne Chang

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about  puff pastry.

It took me a long time after purchasing this book to actually make the puff pastry. I was intimidated. Plus, puff pastry is also available in the freezer section of the grocery store. Convenient!

Bread! Bread is the reason I took my chances with puff pastry. I refer back to my earlier statement about the bread on those cooking shows. If baking my own bread tastes better than what I find in the store, then the same rules of logic should apply with puff pastry, right? And if I took the chance to make my own bread, why not puff pastry?

It’s true, home made puff pastry is far superior than the stuff in the frozen section of your local grocery store. Believe it or not, it doesn’t take that long to make. Are you ready to make some quick puff pastry courtesy of Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Boston, Massachusetts?

Quick Puff Pastry:

Active time: 20 minutes

Inactive time: 2 hours

IMPORTANT: If you don’t have a digital kitchen scale, I highly recommend purchasing one. Baking is a science and this kitchen tool is totally worth it. You will also need a rolling pin, measuring tape (unless you have a good eyeball for measurement), and a stand mixer with a paddle for this recipe.

2 1/2 cups (330 grams) of unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (60 grams) of cake flour

1 1/4 tsp of kosher salt

4 Sticks (454 grams) of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch  cubes

1/2 cup (120 grams) of ice water

Measure out all your ingredients. It is a good habit to get into for any style of cooking or baking unless you are a “live by the seat of your pants kinda person.”

Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Added Cake Flour to the Mix
Kosher Salt
Ice Water and Chilly Unsalted Butter

 

 

 

 

 

If you have the digital scale, place the mixing bowl on the scale and tare* the weight. Add the  all-purpose flour to the mixing bowl, tare* again. Add your cake flour to the mixing bowl, tare* again. Add the kosher salt to the bowl.

*Tare is to adjust the weight of a container to read zero on a scale. A digital scale will allow you to tare the weight to zero between each ingredient. This reduces the amount of dishes you will have to wash and you’ve measured each of your ingredients accurately.

Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and scatter over top of the flour.  On the lowest speed, pulse the mixer on and off for about a minute. Continue on low speed, pour in the ice water and mix for 10-15 seconds until the dough looks shaggy and rough.

Butter is in the Bowl!
Lima Bean Sized Butter Pieces

 

 

 

 

 

Dump the shaggy, rough dough mixture onto a well floured surface. You will notice in the picture I used a silpat* mat. I use this for measurement purposes. The dimensions are perfect for eyeballing measurements when I roll out this dough.

*Silpat is a silicon baking mat that creates a non-stick surface on any baking sheet.

Shaggy and Rough Looking Dough
Dump Dough on a Well Floured Surface

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pat the dough (Nice Dough!) into an 8 x 8 inch square.

8″ x 8″Square
8″ x 8″  Square
15 “x 8″Rectangle Scored into 3 Vertical Parts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roll out the dough from left to right. You want a 15″ x 8″ rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.

Brush any loose flour off the dough. Score* the dough into thirds. Lift the left third of the dough and fold it over into the middle. Brush off extra flour and repeat with the other side.

*Score the dough means to make shallow cuts in the dough.

 

Turning the Dough
Turning the Dough

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll the dough into an 18″ x  8″ rectangle. Repeat the scoring, folding, rotating and rolling out the dough into an 18″ x 8″ rectangle for a total of four times.  This is called “turning the dough.” Flip the dough over a few times so both sides of the dough receive the same kinda love from the rolling pin.

 

Time for a Nap!

After the last roll out, Place the dough on a baking sheet and wrap it with plastic wrap. Tuck the plastic wrap underneath the dough. Kinda like you’re tucking in a child ready for bed. Refrigerate the dough for an hour but no more than two hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn the dough two more times.

Your puff pastry needs one more nap before you are able to use it. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it revel in splendid slumber for one more hour.

At this point, you can cut the dough in half. You should have about two pounds of dough. Use for a number of delicious creations right away or keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Time for the Freezer!

TIME SAVER ALERT: Puff pastry freezes very well. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and foil. Stick the dough in a freezer bag and label the bag. Freeze the dough for up to a month.

Let’s say you choose to freeze your dough for later use, great. The night before you need it, pull the dough from the freezer and transfer over to the refrigerator. Follow the directions for your favorite puff pastry dish when using this dough.

What are you waiting for? Go bake with puff pastry!

Things you can do with puff pastry:

1. Enjoy puff pastry for brunch topped with your favorite danish filling. I am a cheese danish kinda gal.

2. Use baked squares of puff pastry as a topper for chicken pot pie. Thank you Rachel Ray for this little nugget.

3. Empanadas, Por Favor! Use this dough as a package to hold any type of empanada filling, sweet or savory. (Keep reading, you will see my recipe for chicken empanadas shortly.)

4. Think flatbread. Use this dough as a vessel for some of your favorite toppings. How about sauteed mushrooms and red onions topped with flakes of parmesan cheese and drizzled with a balsmaic glaze? Yes, please!

5. Twist up the dough like a breadstick! Top them with your favorite hard cheese before baking. Who wouldn’t like a flakey, buttery puff pastry cheese stick served with dinner?

6. Warm, melty, tart, baked Brie with raspberry preserves wrapped in a flakey, buttery puff pastry crust. Ooh, Yeah!

The PUFFabilities are endless.

CHICKEN EMPANADAS:

Chicken Enchilada Empanadas with Creamy Green Rice

Active Time: 30 minutes

Servings: about 9-10 empanadas

1/2 of the puff pastry dough

2 cups of grilled shredded seasoned chicken

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt to taste

Your favorite enchilada sauce (Store bought or home made will work here. You need enough to coat the chicken but not drown it.)

1 cup of Queso Fresco (Crumbly cheese you can find in the refrigerated section of some grocery stores. I can always find it at Shoppers.)

1 slightly beaten egg

Chipotle lime creme (See the upcoming “Football, It’s Game Time” post for the recipe. I seriously put this SH*T on everything.)

Chopped cilantro and sliced scallions for garnish.

I have the ingredients ready to go. Now, what?

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle powder, garlic powder and salt in a small bowl. Rub the dry mixture all over the chicken. Let rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator while you heat up that grill.

ADVANCED PREPARATION TIP: Grill your chicken up to three days in advance. You can heat up the enchilada sauce and the chicken together on the day you will plan to make these flakey bundles of joy.

Grill the chicken and let rest for a few minutes before you stick a fork in it. You wouldn’t want all those lovely juices to run all over the place. Shred the chicken with a fork and coarsley chop the chicken. Throw all that delicioulsy grilled chicken into a bowl and toss around with the enchilada sauce of your choice.

Meanwhile, roll your pastry dough into a  12″ x  12″ square. Cut out 4″ rounds of dough.

ADVANCED PREPARATION TIP: Cut out the dough rounds up to two days in advance. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.

Use a pastry brush to apply the egg wash around the edges of the pastry rounds. Fill each round with a heaping 1 1/2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture and a sprinkling of the queso fresco.

Bring one side of the dough over the chicken mixture and press down on the edges of the dough. You can use a fork to further press on the edges to ensure your edible packages are sealed. Poke a small hole on the top of each precious packages. This will ensure they don’t burst open at the seems during baking.

Place each package of goodness onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until empanadas are golden brown. Top with the chipotle lime creme, cilantro and scallions.

Time to Eat!

Try these BERBERE HAM SPIRALS made with this homemade puff pastry recipe. Find out how to make them from the Ladie’s Night Post: Berbere Spirals, Jerk Chicken and Plantains post. 

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