Puff Pastry Throwdown!

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For this weeks ‘how to bake’ session on BBC Radio Nottingham I have decided to have a crack at puff pastry, and in turn, sausage rolls.

Now most people, Mary Berry included, always seem to tell you to simply use shop brought puff pastry as it’s not worth making your own.  I am here to tell you now that is a lie.  A darn filthy lie at that.

Homemade Puff will always be far more flavourful & will always yield more flaky layers then a shop brought.  Even the best “made with real butter” shop stuff you can find will only use the cheapest butter they can, normally cut with vegetable fat.  This is not good enough for my pies, rolls and other pastry goods!

The first time I made this I used a recipe that used far too much complexity.  Having to wait over night between turns, only rolling in a certain direction and only when the moon was blue.  No wonder people get put off from making it.  I will tell you now that, if this is how you have made it in the past, you are going about it entirely arse about face!

The one take home I had from attending Pastry & Patisserie College is that we home bakers make life far more difficult than it needs to be.  Can you really imagine a restaurant ever making and using Puff Pastry if it were that much of a rigmarole every day?

From start to finish, this should take you no longer than 2 hours.  That’s 6 turns with a 20 min rest in-between each.  You will need to use your fridge for this and the colder it is, the better.

Pastry will keep for a few days in the fridge if properly wrapped in cling film.  If the air gets to it then it may turn a slightly off-white colour but this is not mould, as is often thought, but is in fact a harmless oxidation of the flour.  Once baked you will not see any difference between a fresh dough and one a couple of days old.

Once baked you can use this in any recipe you see fit. It’s amazingly adaptable so can be used for any pie, tart or pasty you so choose or, with a little cinnamon sugar or freeze dried fruit, can be rolled into some beautiful little Palmiers or even a Mille Feuille.

Mille Feuille with Creme Pat & Raspberries

Mille Feuille with Creme Pat & Raspberries

Recipe

250g Strong Bread Flour

15g Very cold Butter

190ml VERY cold water

200g Very cold butter for rolling.

Place the flour into a large bowl and work the 15g of butter in with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the cold water and mix together into a dough.  Be quick when doing this so not to heat up the mix too much.  Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 5mins.

Take the dough and roll it on a floured surface to around 8” wide by 16” long.  Take the rolling butter and cut into thin slices.  Cover two thirds of the dough with butter and then fold into three as per the photo below.  Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for 20mins in the fridge.  This is your first turn.

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Once rested, remove from the fridge and turn 90 degrees roll out again to the same size as above.  Fold the pastry again, this time without adding more butter.  This is your second turn.

Repeat the above, resting in the fridge for 20mins each time, until you have made 6 turns in total.  Now the pastry can be wrapped for future use or is ready to roll for your recipe.

Look at those layers!

Look at those layers!

For my sausage rolls, I simply made a little chutney with some onions, tomatoes and spice which I added to by sausages.  Once wrapped in pastry (about ¼” thick) they were rested in the fridge for an hour before being brushed with egg then baked.

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TIPS

Pastry must be as cold as possible for best results.  Keep your butter in the fridge before use and always keep your dough refrigerated.

In a similar vein, don’t put this pastry (or any pastry) onto hot items.  If you are making a stew for example, wait for the filling to cool completely before wrapping in pastry.  If you don’t, the heat will melt the butter in the pastry before it has time to cook and you will end up with a soggy and disappointing mess.

I would not recommend the use of marge in place of butter for this recipe. Margarine (or any other butter substitute) will not set hard enough so you won’t achieve the signature layers that you desire.  If you wanted to be extra filthy, you could probably use lard in place of butter.  Ummmm, meaty.

You must make sure to turn your pastry 90 degrees between each turn.  If you don’t then you will simply mush your layers together and will lose all your hard work previously done.

Try not to touch or manhandle the pastry before cooking too much.  Each time you touch it you will risk squashing your layers together and will lose the flaky finish.

Try not to cover your dough in too much flour when rolling and brush off any excess when folding.  Too much flour will create hard layers in your final product and can weigh the dough down.

Don’t worry if any butter seeps through the dough, especially on the first couple of turns.  Simply cover the butter with a little flour, brush off the excess and continue as normal.  This will prevent the layers sticking to each other.

Once you have perfected this, you will be ready to try a more advanced yeast risen variation used in Danish Pastries and Croissants.  I will leave that for the next episode though!

Happy baking!

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