How to, Pastry, Puff pastry

Sourdough Puff Pastry

Don’t let this weird experiment fool you: this is just another puff pastry tutorial. I just wanted to see how sourdough starter might affect things, and I was pleasantly surprised!

Incorporating sourdough starter into classic puff pastry lends a light tangy quality that both offsets and compliments the rich, buttery pastry. And while making puff pastry can involve a time commitment, it freezes beautifully for later use.

This recipe and method is adapted from King Arthur Flour’ Classic Puff Pastry. If you’ve never made puff pastry before, I highly recommend using their recipe to start.

Sourdough Puff Pastry

Lean dough:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp butter, chilled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fed sourdough starter
  • 3/4 cups cold water

Fat dough:

  • 1 lb butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup flour

Puff pastry is made from rolling two pastries together: a lean dough and a fat dough.

Step one – Make the doughs:

To make the lean dough, combine 3 cups of the flour with the 4 tbsp of chilled butter and the salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is like cornmeal. Dump into a bowl. Add in the sourdough starter and cold water. Mix until it comes together as a dough, adding a little more water if necessary.

Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes to develop the gluten. Wrap the dough in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To make the fat dough, combine the pound of softened butter with the remaining 1/2 cup flour until smooth and homogeneous. On a lightly floured surface, pat into a square or rectangle shape – roughly 8-inches in length/width – wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Step 2 – Roll the doughs together:

Remove the lean and fat doughs from the refrigerator. Roll the lean dough into a square roughly 12-inches on each side. Place the fat dough in the center of the lean dough, and fold the lean dough around it, completely covering the fat dough.

Step 3 -Turn one:

Pat with your rolling pin and roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 20 inches x 10 inches (roughly). Fold the dough back on itself in thirds (like a business letter) or in fourths (like a wallet):

Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Steps 4 – 9 Turns two through six:

Remove the dough, roll into a 20 x 10 rectangle. Fold in thirds or fourths. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Complete a total of 6 turns. If the dough has stayed cold, you may be able to complete two turns at once, cutting down on refrigeration time. When in doubt though, be patient, and make sure the dough stays well chilled. Rushing is no good for the dough and no fun for you.

Here, I sliced the dough in half since I’ll be using the two halves for different purposes in the future. You can see the lamination created by the layers of butter and flour:

Finish:

When the sixth turn is completed, refrigerate the dough for one hour or overnight. At this point, the dough may be shaped and turned into croissants, pain au chocolat, breakfast tarts or anything you like. It can even be frozen for later use. Let it thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. If you’re unsure of where to start, Alton Brown has a great guide and recipes for pain au chocolat and croissants.

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Apple, blueberry, Bourbon, Fruit, lemon, Pastry, Pie

In 2017 Give Pies a Chance

I am not one to bake pies, but I’ve been asked to bake some for a dear friend’s wedding in June of next year. And I do enjoy a challenge…

I’m using a pie crust recipe that uses vodka. If you haven’t used a similar recipe before, try it. The alcohol is used because ethanol doesn’t react with gluten the way water does. The result is a softer, easier-to-shape pie dough that still retains a tender, flaky consistency once baked.

You can add some flavoring ingredients to the pie dough, but it works best with small amounts of highly flavorful ingredients. When I tried a brown butter/bourbon variant, the crust worked but the flavors didn’t come through at all. I would recommend items like herbs, citrus zest, and extracts.

Pie Dough

  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 20 tbsp butter, sliced and kept chilled

Combine the water and vodka, and place the mixture in the freezer to chill.

In the bowl of a food processor, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse 3-4 times to mix the ingredients. Add the 20 tbsp of butter (it seems like a lot, I know).

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Pulse the butter for a total of about 15 – 20 seconds. The mixture should go from sandy to looking like wet sand with small clumps of dough, like below:

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Add the remaining cup of flour and pulse 5 or 6 times to evenly distribute. You may need to use a silicone spatula to break up some of the clumps of dough. Transfer dough to a large bowl. Sprinkle the vodka and water mixture over the dough and use a silicone spatula to stir and fold the dough together.

Divide the dough in two, flatten each into a disc, wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate for up to two days (or freeze for up to two months).

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Future Pie Filling Experiments

I will be using the pie crusts in muffin tins to be able to make miniature pies that are easy to transport. I will update posts later with specific results from some of these experiments, but for now here are some ideas.

Pecan Pie:

  • Browned Butter
  • Toasted pecans
  • Bourbon

Strawberry Kiwi:

  • Strawberry filling
  • Sliced fresh kiwi
  • Strawberry jam bottom

Lemon Blueberry:

  • Blueberry filling
  • Lemon Curd
  • Lemon zest pie crust

Apple Sage Cheddar:

  • Cheddar top crust
  • Apple Cinnamon Filling
  • Sage bottom Crust

 

Chocolate, Fruit, Pastry, Peanut Butter, Vanilla

A Trio of Tarts

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Pastry.

I’m not sure any word sounds more appetizing to me than pastry. It could refer to a mouth-watering, cream-filled long-john or a delicate French eclair, a creamy filling or a flaky pie crust.

Today though is all about pastry crust, and a trio of pastries made from the same crust. The crust is a gluten-free almond flour, flavored lightly with vanilla. Almond flour makes for a crisp, cookie-like crust that isn’t too sweet.

As an added bonus, I’m using the same pastry cream recipe with a slight adjustment to make three different versions. The key is how a pastry cream is finished with butter. Adjust the finishing fat, and you can adjust the flavor: bittersweet chocolate makes a delicious chocolate pastry cream or a dab of peanut butter will please pb fans in a pinch.

Almond-Flour Crust*

yield: enough for six 3-inch tarts

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • a good bold pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted

In a large bowl, stir the almond flour, sugar, and salt together. Pour over the melted butter and vanilla, and stir to make a moist dough. Press the dough into prepared tart pans. Prick over the bottom with a fork. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden brown all over.

Cool the tarts completely before removing from their pans and before filling them.

*As written, this recipe makes enough for one 9-inch pastry. I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 times to make four 4-inch mini-pastries out of it.

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Vanilla Pastry Cream 

yield: about 2 1/2 cups of pastry cream

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • pinch salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp butter*

Set a sieve over a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and salt. Place over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, and cornstarch. Whisk until pale yellow and slightly thickened.

Once the half-and-half mixture begins to bubble on the sides, temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly pouring the hot liquid into the egg yolks while constantly whisking. This will ensure the eggs don’t cook too quickly. Once all of the liquid has been added to the yolks, transfer the pastry cream back to the saucepan.

Turn the burner off and place the saucepan over the burner, whisking until thickened. This won’t take long, perhaps 30 – 60 seconds.

Pour the pastry cream through the sieve into the medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the butter, and let it cool, whisking occasionally, before covering with plastic wrap. Place the plastic directly on the surface of the pastry cream, and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be made at least a day in advance.

*The key to this filling’s versatility is the fat. In place of butter, use peanut butter. Or dark chocolate. Or coconut fat from a can of coconut milk. There are many flavors you can try, and you may have to make slight adjustments here and there. For example, a little extra cream will help loosen up a peanut butter pastry cream as it can get a bit thick.

Here are a couple options:

Peanut butter pastry cream with nuts – a thin layer of peanut butter on the bottom of a cooled crust, peanut butter pastry cream, and chopped honey-roasted peanuts.

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Chocolate pastry cream with dark-chocolate-coated cacao nibs:

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Or you could always go with…

The classic – vanilla pastry cream topped with fresh fruit and an apricot glaze.

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