You know how they say some things are worth the time you put into them? Let me tell you, puff pastry is one of them.
That smell of butter cooking, those flakes that break when you bite into it, the layers of goodness...
Seriously guys, worth the hours, the effort and the muscles. You have to make puff pastry at home. You just have to. For real. I insist. It really is not so hard, more a matter of patience than anything else. Of all the International Tarting challenges so far, this is by far and large the yummiest one.
Let's talk puff pastry. First of all, very important to weigh ingredients, no cups here, you want to get exact measures. Even more important, work fast and keep things cold. The last thing you want is to melt your butter while you're working with it. Just work fast and if things seem to get too warm, stick them in the fridge for a while.
Puff pastry is made out of two parts. There's the détrempe and the beurre manié. These quantities are for 900 g or 2 lb of puff pastry, which believe me, you're gonna be happy to have.
For the détrempe you're gonna need
150 mL cold water (2/3 cup)
5g salt (1 teaspoon)
350g flour (12 oz)
110g butter (3.8 oz, 1 stick) , melted and cooled
For the beurre manié
375 g butter (13.2 oz)
150 g flour (5.3 oz)
Start by making the détrempe. With a mixer or a wooden spoon, combine the melted butter with the flour and the salt. Then add the water and mix until the dough comes together. Roll the dough until you get a rectangle of 20 cm length, 15 cm width (8x6 in aproximately). Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Now let's make the beurre manié. Cut the butter in cubes and cream it. I did it with a hand mixer, took a while, but just be patient and keep working it until creamed. Just make sure it doesn't get hot and melts. Now add the flour slowly and mix until combined. Here comes the messy part. Grab the 'dough' and roll it to form a rectangle the same size as the previous one. Rolling the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap really helps. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hr.
Here's where the folding process starts. This is a great tutorial to see what things should look like.
Roll your détrempe so it is 40 cm (16 in) long. Place the butter dough at the bottom part of it and fold the détrempe over the butter block as if you were folding a book. Now, place the 'book' so the spine is on your left and roll the dough (if it's sufficiently cold, the butter doesn't spread everywhere) until you get a 40 cm long, 20 cm wide rectangle. Visualize the middle axis of the dough. Grab the lower end and fold it over so it meets the middle axis. Do the same with the top part of the dough. Now completely fold the dough so it looks again like a closed book. You've completed the first double turn. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 1 hr.
After refrigerating, repeat the process so you do another double turn. When you've done your double turn twice, you're ready to do the final rolling. Roll the dough (spine on your left) into a rectangle a little bigger than a piece of paper. now visualize three pieces of the same size and fold them like you would do with a letter. You're done! you have your puff pastry! Your arms hurt and you're tired but you're ready to do wonders with it. If you don't want to use it all at once, freeze the dough well wrapped in plastic.
Now for the crossovers. Roll the dough in pieces of about 20 cm length, 10 cm width (6x3 in) and place whatever you want the filling to be in the center.
Slice the sides of the dough in strips and fold over. Brush with egg and bake at 350 F for about 30 min or until golden on top.
Have a picnic under the sun at the closest park. Or enjoy them at home. Or wherever you want. Bite into them, into those soft flakes and that gooey juice from the berries.
You are gonna eat the last bit of those crumbs. I'm telling you.
About the leftover puff pastry... we'll talk croissants soon.