Rosie Hawthorne’s recipes: Puff, the magic pastry

By on November 28, 2017

Puff pastry is a magical thing. Also known as pâte feuilletée, or leafy pastry, puff pastry is a classic French pastry dough. I like to think of it as the queen of pastry doughs.

It’s a “laminated” dough, meaning a layered dough, made with flour, water, and lots of butter. It contains no leavening agents; its puffiness is produced solely from steam.

Puff pastry begins with a block of butter wrapped in dough. Then it’s rolled out and folded in an exact series of turns until you get alternating layers of dough and butter.

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When the dough is baked, the water content from the butter layer steams and pushes up successive layers of dough. The steam is trapped between layers, creating air pockets between the layers. Fat from the butter is absorbed into the layers and the layers cook, creating the crisp texture, a golden-brown color, and a delectable buttery flavor. The layers expand and, voila, the pastry puffs.

I’ve made puff pastry and it’s labor-intensive and time-consuming. It is not an undertaking for the faint of heart.

In making classic puff pastry, a block of butter is wrapped in a basic dough. This combination is rolled out and folded into thirds, in a series of turns. Generally, 6 rolls, folds, and turns are made. If you do the math, that’s 3̿⁶, or 3x3x3x3x3x3, or 729, layers of butter.

Now, if you’ve already thrown up your hands and screamed, “Enough!” not to worry. You can buy frozen puff pastry. However, there is one caveat — look at the ingredients list on the package. Look for butter.

That’s how I came across Dufour puff pastry at Fresh Market, which is the only market I’ve found selling this brand. In labeling food products, the ingredients are listed in descending order of weight.

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Dufour pastry’s first ingredient is USDA Grade AA butter (as it should be!), followed by flour, water, salt, and lemon juice.

Another popular brand of puff pastry’s ingredient list reads, “wheat flour, water, vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup …” That, my friends, is not puff pastry. You don’t want that. Dufour brand is the best you can buy at the stores. Period.

Now that you have your pastry, what can you do with it? There are both savory and sweet applications. In the savory court, you can make beef Wellington, pot pies, cheese straws, palmiers, and empanadas for starters. On the sweet side, puff pastry is wonderful for tarts, beignets, croissants, Danishes, and any number of fabulous dessert offerings.

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I have a trio of puff pastry offerings for you — appetizer, entrée, and dessert — to cover all bases. Please enjoy.

For appetizers, I recommend these delightfully rich crab puffs – perfect for holiday entertaining.

Rosie’s Crab Puffs
(Makes 24 puffs.)
1 sheet of Dufour puff pastry, halved
Rosie Note: Thaw out pastry overnight in refrigerator. When working with pastry, always keep it cold. I use a chilled marble cutting board to work on.

To make the pastry cups:
Take one thawed 9 ½ x 15-inch sheet of Dufour pastry, halve it into 9 ½ x 7 ½-inch sheet, and then roll it out on lightly floured surface until it’s roughly 13 ½ x 8-inch. Cut sheet into 24 squares and press squares into lightly buttered mini-muffin tin. Prick bottoms with a fork. Chill while you prepare crab meat.

To cook, bake in a 375° oven for about 14 minutes, turning halfway, until pastry is golden brown.

For crab meat:
½ lb. crab meat
2 oz. unsalted butter (I prefer Plugrá, from Fresh Market.)
2 oz. Brie cheese
2 TB lemon juice
2 TB dry sherry
Parsley, chopped
Chives, chopped
Paprika

Melt butter and cheese in a small sauce pan, whisking until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and sherry. Gently add crab meat, being careful not to break up lumps. Heat through.

Top each puff pastry with a scoop of crab meat or you can slice the pastries in half and mound the mixture on each. Sprinkle chopped chives, parsley, and paprika over top and serve.

For my entrée, I’m going with a classic favorite – pot pie. And I’m giving you options. You can go with pig pie, cow pie, or both! Since I’m cleaning out the freezer, I’m using both a slice of pork loin and a Denver steak cut for this dish. You could use Boston butt or pork chops for the porcine, or flank, round, or skirt steak for the bovine. Your less-expensive, tougher cuts work well here since the meat is going to be initially browned and then simmered in liquid, ending up fork-tender.

Rosie’s Pig/Cow Pies
About 1 pound of meat, cut into ½-inch cubes
Enough flour for dusting the meat
4 TB unsalted butter
4 TB peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 32-oz. carton beef broth
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 TB cumin
1 TB chili powder
1 TB oregano
2 TB yellow cornmeal
1 can corn, drained
1 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives

Dufour puff pastry sheets

Toss meat cubes in flour, shaking off excess. Heat 2 TB each oil and butter in large skillet over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown half the meat. Transfer to a bowl. Heat remaining oil and butter and brown the other half. Transfer meat to bowl.

Add in onions and sauté over medium heat, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add garlic, tomatoes, and beef broth and stir, scraping up the goodie bits. (That’s where the flavor is.) Return meat to pan and add seasonings. Stir well to combine. Set heat to lowlowlow, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally for about 1 ½ hours.

Add cornmeal and cook over medium low, stirring, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in corn, peppers, and olives.

Spoon mixture into small ramekins. Top each ramekin with a cut-out puff pastry circle. Brush with egg wash and bake in a 375° oven for 10-12 minutes, or until puff pastry is puffed and golden brown.

If you like, you can make empanadas. Simply roll out the puff pastry sheet, cut into 4-5-inch squares, fill with meat mixture, fold over, and seal. Brush with egg wash and bake 12-14 minutes, until golden.

For dessert, you can’t go wrong with this simple, yet impressive, show-stopper – Puff Pastry Apple Roses.

Puff Pastry Apple Roses
1 sheet Dufour puff pastry
2 apples
2 TB sugar
2 TB brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

2 TB apricot preserves
1 tsp water

Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

Prepare apples:
Core apples and cut in half vertically. Cut paper thin slices of apple and immediately place in bowl of acidulated water to cover. (Squeeze lemon juice into the water. This keeps the slices from browning.) Microwave apples in water for 3-4 minutes so the slices are pliable. Drain and pat dry when ready to use.

Roll pastry sheet out on a lightly floured surface until you have an 8 x 16-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into 3 strips. Roll strips again until they’re about 19 inches long and cut in half.

Mix apricot preserves with water and nuke for about 1 minute. Brush mixture on each strip.

Layer apple slices, overlapping and peel-side up, along top third of each pastry slice, with skins sticking a little out of the strip. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon mixture over slices. Fold up bottom third of pastry. Starting at one end, carefully roll the dough up, keeping apple slices in place. Seal edges and place “roses” in buttered regular muffin tins. Brush with melted, unsalted butter. Keep refrigerated until ready to bake.

Bake in a 375° oven for about 40 minutes. Check tops and if apples start to brown too much, cover with foil. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Now that you have the basics, I hope you’re inspired to go ahead and experiment with puff pastry. Be inventive. It’s up to your imagination. Go forth and create!

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