Now that we are not vegans, we again eat tremendous quantities of butter every week. I began to ask myself "Why in the world are we not eating some of that butter in the form of puff pastry?!"
I've wanted to make puff pastry for some time now, but had not actually undertaken it until a few months ago. Becky has made it before, and is a very dedicated lover of the stuff. Now that I've made two batches of it, I'd say its a worthwhile thing to do at home; not all that much harder than making and preparing a pie crust from scratch.
Puff pastry is a laminated dough, constructed by creating by surrounding a layer of butter with lean pastry dough (the detrempe), then multiple iterations of rolling out and folding over to get the power of exponentials working for you in creating lots of layers.
I used 450g of Kerrygold butter to start.
This butter is has excellent flavor, and is unusually plastic even at low temperatures, which is helpful in the puff pastry process. The butter blocks were floured a bit, then rolled out mildly between plastic.
The recipe I used was from Joy of Cooking, and Buster helped me mix the detrempe in the food processor, as I do with pie dough.
We dumped it out
then rolled it out between plastic wrap.
The butter went on top
and was enfolded by the rolled out dough.
This package was then rolled out to prepare for the first "turn" or set of lamination folds.
I folded in thirds, with 7 turns total, which resulted in 2187 layers (=3^7).
The dough goes in the fridge for an hour between turns. At the end, I divided it into four portions and froze 3 of them for later.
For the first test, I sliced the rolled out piece into ~30mm wide strips and baked them at 400C until they looked done. The pastry puffed up tremendously, so I actually pulled each strip apart to make a napoleon sandwich. These tasted great, but next time I decided to look up how other people get their layers of baked pastry so uniform looking.
With the next 1/4, I mostly followed the directions at the Joe Pastry blog. After rolling out, we pricked the pastry with a fork prior to baking:
Then we trimmed the edges
Of course the trimmings don't go to waste, with the help of some cinnamon and sugar!
Next we baked it between cookie pans at 200C for about 20 minutes.
Then took the top pan off and baked for another 5 minutes, which unfortunately burned the *&#$ out of the pastry. Maybe it was rolled too thin? Argghh!
While the pastry was baking we prepared the filling. The previous day we had made a batch of custard pastry cream, also from Joy of Cooking. We took an equal volume of fresh cream (supplemented with some creme fraiche since we were short on cream) and whipped it up in the kitchen aid.
The pastry cream was combined with the whipped cream to make a lighter filling.
Even though the pastry was pretty burned, we were not about to let it go to waste, so we made up our little napoleons with the filling, freshly sliced strawberries, and some of my mom's tart blackberry jam.
Final cutting was after filling, which tended to squish the filling out a bit.
This was quickly eaten up, despite its shortcomings.
Unfortunately this was the last of the first batch of puff pastry (Becky had used 1/2 the batch to top a steak pie) so I couldn't have another shot at napoleons to try to correct my shame until I made another batch.
I did this within a few weeks, but I added a bit too much water to the detrempe so it was too soft and allowed the butter to break through too easily. Consequently, the pastry came out tougher and not as delicious as the first batch. Still edible, certainly.
For fruity napoleons try #2, I resolved to pay more attention to the pastry after removing the top pan, this time after only 15 minutes at 200C.
But it started to burn literally one minute after I took the top off. Grrr!
We prepared these with the same fillings, but tried to cut them prior to filling.
These had an issue of the filling getting squished out when you tried to eat them or cut them with the fork. I guess I need to go to multiple layers with less filling in between.
Once again, even though they were not perfect, there were no leftovers.
Clearly I still need work on my napoleon skills. Even partially successful efforts yield tasty results though.