Ever since high school I have been the kind of person who likes to join clubs, groups and teams. Living in New York there are lots of organizations to belong to and I certainly have tried out quite a few. Though, now that I am a parent I have less time for club meetings since most of my free time is spent spotting my mini-acrobat at the playground. Luckily, I recently found a group to join that I can participate in from the comfort of my own home, the Daring Bakers.
Today marks my first "reveal" as a Daring Baker. The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and A Spoon. Steph chose the French treat Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. I'll admit, I make a decent pie crust but making puff pastry is a little harder. But, I am always up for a great Naptime Chef challenge and couldn't wait to get started.
As far as challenges go, this was a big one. Making puff pastry is a time consuming process and not one that is very Naptime Chef-friendly. I started making it during my daughter's afternoon naptime and completed it by the end of the day. It definitely put a small damper in my schedule, having to stick around to turn the dough, but it didn't matter since the weather outside wasn't very good anyway.
To finish off my pastry I opted to top it with roasted apples and whipped cream in honor of Apple Mania 2009. I loved the way the tasted mimicked a classic apple pie, albeit with a much more gourmet appearance. I also liked the fact that I could serve this to my husband for the dinner I made to celebrate our anniversary. He agreed that the pastry was delicate, buttery and delicious. Unfortunately my camera was acting strange during my food photo shoot so I didn't get a great picture of the roasted apples stuffed inside the pastry, but you get the idea. I promise to have a repaired camera by the time the next challenge comes along, and, if each challenge is this delicious, we are in for a real treat.
Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough
2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter
plus extra flour for dusting work surface
Mixing the Dough:
Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.
Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)
Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.
Incorporating the Butter:
Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.
Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.
To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.
Making the Turns:
Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).
With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.
Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.
Chilling the Dough:
If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.
The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.
Roasted Apples & Whipped Cream
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 T. powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Cut peeled apples into 6 even slices. Toss with sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and shake off any excess. Arrange on a cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes or until dark brown.
3. Meanwhile, beat heavy cream and sugar in a mixing bowl until thick.
4. Allow apples to cool and serve on top of pastry with whipped cream.