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Originating in France, they call Puff pastry, Pâte Feuilletée or leafed pastry because of its many leaves or layers. Puff pastry is the king of pastries -- crisp, buttery, flaky and especially light. It is used to make a variety of creations including croissants, Napoleons, Palmiers and Allumettes. Since Puff Pastry doesn't contain sugar, it makes a perfect wrapping for various savory and sweet foods such as meats, cheese and fruit. It can be made at home or purchased from the supermarket in the freezer section as ready-made.
Puff Pastry is a laminated dough, like Danish and Croissants. except it contains no yeast (or chemical leaveners). There are two portions to Puff Pastry - it begins with basic dough called a détrempe (pronounced day-trahmp) that is rolled out and wrapped around a slab of butter, called the "butter block." The dough is then is processed through its many "turns" or folds (each series of rolling, folding, and turning) and lengthy rests to distribute the butter evenly in sheets throughout the dough. All types of laminated dough contain butter or butter with shortening which has a leavening effect and produces a flaky consistency after baking.(Flour can also be added to the roll-in.) The rolled-in butter creates the distinct layers that contribute to these unique dough types.
SARAH SAYS: The average puff pastry is given a minimum of 6 turns or folds, has 729 layers. & turns gives the dough 2,187 layers!
Puff pastry contains no rising agent but steam from moisture and air expanding in the heat of a hot oven, rising to about 8-times its original height; that is, a quarter-inch thickness of puff pastry dough will blow up to 2 inches high! When puff pastry bakes, the pastry sheets puff upwards and outwards, and separate into many layers, where they bake into thin, fragile crispy and buttery layers of pastry delight. The unique flakiness comes from the laminated dough process by folding fat into the dough; folding, rolling and turning through manipulation. The moisture for steam comes from the dough itself and from the butter (20%). Any trapped air present created from manipulating the dough also expands when heated. The pressure is contained within folded dough layers because the fat layers are sandwiched in between.
For baked Puff Pastry to be a success, the oven must be well-preheated and hot when it is placed inside. Butter is an excellent heat conductor and quickly turns any moisture in the dough to steam and heats the air. The super-heated steam also helps to dry the layers of pastry and help set its flour starches quickly. The pastry layers hold as thin sheets because of the way in which its gluten is developed.
QUICK PUFF PASTRY
Quick Puff Pastry, which uses the shortcut method called rough puff, blitz and half pastry, is a way to abbreviate the longer process of making puff pastry, although it does not rise as high. However, it tends to distort less and is tenderer. It is ideal for crisp, buttery pastries and crusts, cheese straws, and cream horns, or use it as a crust for tarts, quiches, and pot pies.
The technique to make is a cross between classic puff pastry and basic pie crust, all with the goal of distributing bits of butter throughout the dough. The secret to success is to work quickly to keep the butter from melting. The butter is cut into the flour as if making a pie crust and then a scant amount of water is added and combined to make a smooth, workable dough. The dough is then processed through a quick series of "turns" (each series of rolling, folding, and turning) as you would for the classic recipe, although not nearly as many. The dough is not rested in between, making the process quicker.
Chausson aux Pommes: It is a classic and is usually found at almost any patisserie across France. It is made with a puff pastry crust much like a croissant and filled with chunky, apple-sauce like filling. They are best when served warm and there is just something so delicious about the flaky pastry against the soft, gooey apple filling that makes these an all-time favorite treat.
Kouign Amann: The name, pronounced kween ah-MON, derives from the Breton (French) words for cake ("kouign") and butter ("amann"). It is a round crusty cake, made with dough containing layers of butter and sugar folded in, similar in fashion to puff pastry (laminated dough) albeit with fewer layers, and is more rustic in appearance. The resulting cake is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough (resulting in the layered aspect of it), leaving a sweet, buttery center and with a crisp caramelized sugar coating.
Mille-feuille: This pastry’s name literally translates as “thousand sheets” and is a pastry made from several layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling (usually pastry cream, whipped cream or custard). Every patisserie in France will have its own version of this pastry, including differently flavored creams and topped with different icings. You will typically find mille-feuilles topped with drizzles of chocolate and a light vanilla icing.
Napoleons: A traditional Napoleon is a French dessert made from layers of puff pastry spread with a vanilla pastry cream. The top of the rectangle or triangular shaped sweet is drizzled with chocolate and or dusted with powdered sugar.
Palmiers: Palmiers are crispy and delicate leaf-shaped cookies made from puff pastry. They are made by rolling out pastry dough, sprinkling it with sugar and then folding it several times. The two sides of the pastry are then rolled inwards to meet at the center and the cookie is baked until crispy and caramelized. These are the perfect balance of crispy and flaky and always see to be just sweet enough.
Tarte: The French answer to American pies, you will find a huge variety of tartes in all shapes and size with all kinds of fillings. They are usually made with a thin, flat layer of puff pastry and then are topped with fruit. You will sometimes see a layer of custard in between the pastry and the fruit, but French tartes are always open faced. One of my personal favorite is an apple tart, which usually manages to have the finest slices of apples layer over the pastry. You will find tartes of all sizes and fillings and you can almost never go wrong with a well made tarte.