Friday, October 8, 2010

Puff Pastry

Wow, I haven't posted anything in almost a month. Worst. Blogger. Ever.

And since I know you don't want to hear me bitch and complain about how hard my life is (sigh), getting to bake pastry all day (ugh), and meeting people like this:

"Mr. Chocolate," Jacques Torres

I'll just skip to the good stuff: Pate Feuilletee or Puff Pastry.

So you know that delicious buttery, flaky pastry dough you can get in the white box in the freezer section of your grocery store? You can actually make that yourself! It takes some time and effort, but the final product is particularly delicious. Although frankly, there are some really good frozen products out there that are perfectly good for personal use at home.

There are 3 different kinds of puff pastry: Classic, Quick, and Inverse. The method is basically the same for each (Roll dough, fold, rest, repeat.). Classic puff pastry is made by wrapping dough around a big hunk of butter. Inverse is the other way around: butter wrapped around a big hunk of dough. And Quick is made by working little cubes of butter right into the dough itself. I know that all sounds confusing, and it's kind of hard to explain without actually showing you, but instead of that, let's just look at the yummy final products, shall we? 

Tarte Feuilletee
Bar Tart

For this tart, the puff pastry is rolled thinly and baked between two sheet pans to inhibit the rise (a waste of delicious buttery layers of dough if you ask me, but oh well. I do what I'm told). For the final 5 minutes in the oven, corn syrup is brushed on the dough and allowed to crisp as the pastry finishes baking. Once cool, a thin layer of almond cream is spread onto the pastry and topped with sliced fruit. The pastry is baked again and then garnished with chopped nuts. Not my favorite in terms of taste, but pretty to look at.

Mille-Feuilles de Forme Ronde
 Round Napoleon

The puff pastry for this recipe is also baked so it is very thin and crispy. It is baked in one large sheet pan and then cut into three circles so they are perfectly round. The dessert is then made by layering the discs of pastry with layers of lightened pastry cream.

The top is sprinkled heavily with powdered sugar, and the diamond pattern is then made by heating metal skewers until they are red hot and then laying them down on the sugar, caramelizing it. The sides are covered with crumbs of the leftover baked dough.

Tarte Tatin
 Upside-Down Apple Tart

This. was. AMAZING. Perfect. So, so delicious. Here's how you do it. Heat a large saute pan with butter and add halved apples, flat side down. Once the apples are just barely tender, flip them over and continued to cook. Add a generous amount of granulated sugar. Once the sugar is caramelized and the round side of the apples are tender, flambe the apples with some apple brandy. Remove the pan from the heat and cover the apples with a circle of puff pastry, tucking it around the edges of the pan. Place the saute pan in the oven at 350 degrees and bake until the pastry is nicely browned and baked through. Remove the tart from the oven and immediately unmold it onto a parchment lined sheet pan. There will be a lot of yummy juice that escapes, and that's fine. Just wait a few minutes before lapping it up shamelessly. This is best served warm. AND OMG SO GOOD.

 Tarte aux Bananes et Chocolat
 Banana and Chocolate Tartlettes

This tart was made with a base of chocolate puff pastry, made by adding cocoa powder to the dough. It's baked using the same method so it is flat and crispy, and then topped with pastry cream and bananas. The fruit is then sprinkled with sugar and browned with a torch. They are plated with chocolate sauce and sweetened whipped cream. Sadly although I love chocolate, I hate bananas, so this wasn't exactly a favorite of mine. I got to pipe the whipped cream on everyone's plates though! Yeah, it's the little things.

Mille-Feuilles au Chocolate
Chocolate Napoleon

This Napoleon is made with chocolate puff pastry, filled with Creme d'Or, and finished with chocolate glaze and white chocolate. Creme d'Or is made by quickly folding warm, melted chocolate into whipped cream. The consistency is similar to chocolate mousse. The pattern on top is called a Chevron, and is made by piping lines of white chocolate on top of the glaze, and then running a sharp point in different directions before the glaze and chocolate has a chance to set. Easier said than done, but I think it turned out pretty well. As opposed to the traditional round Napoleon which was too heavy with all that thick pastry cream, this one was really tasty. Huh, something made with chocolate dough, filled with chocolate cream, and covered in chocolate glaze, and I love it. Go figure.
Dartois aux Pommes (top) and Mille-Feuilles (bottom)
Apple Dartois and Napoleon Strip

The first pastry, the Apple Dartois, was sort of like a really big apple turnover. Unbaked puff pastry dough is covered with cooked apple compote and then covered with a lattice of more dough. The whole thing is then baked until bubbly, golden, and delicious. If you're feeling whimsical, you can also add some little leaves made out of dough and dust the edges with powdered sugar.

The second pastry is yet another Napoleon. Apparently the French have a bit of a Napoleon complex. This one is essentially the same as the round Napoleon (plain puff pastry filled with lightened pastry cream), but is finished with fondant and melted dark chocolate. We used the Chevron pattern again as that's traditional for this dessert. 

Oh, hey Jacques. What's up? You want me to sample another of your eclairs? Well OK, if you insist!

Recently some of the other people in my class have asked about my blog. At first, I was shocked they had found it and a little embarrassed. I see blogging as pretty self important. As if I think what I have to say is so important that I need to put it in the most public forum possible for everyone to read and comment on it. 

Because I can't bear to self-promote, it's not something I generally talk about or publicize on my own. So when people randomly started telling me they had found it, I was a little taken aback. And self conscious. It was fine when my close friends and family were reading. Or complete strangers. It's not like I'll ever have to meet them and face their judging eyes. But classmates? Our class is small. Like 20 people small. And 19 of those people are women. Catty women. It's like a scene out of Mean Girls except that we have access to sharp knives and fire, so I think you can see my concern. But so far it's only been a few people and they've only said positive things to me. Well, to my face at least. But it is nice to know that I have a few more readers out there. 

Of course, now this means that I can't use this blog to talk shit about any of them. JK LADIES! Like I would ever do that! *Air kisses*


  1. It has been a long time between postings!! The apple looks amazing, may try that myself though I have never intentionally caught food on fire (unless you count roasting marshmallows). And all that work, makes me really appreciate the wonderful yummies at the local Mennonite bakery...

  2. It has been a long time between postings! This post was quite entertaining completely aside from the recipe/food subject matter. I laughed at least twice out loud.

    That being said, the chocolate napoleon looks soooo yummy. You know my thoughts on chocolate.

    Also, I am in my new apartment until Nov. 7th...soooo I wouldn't mind another care package, I mean if you insist.

    (That's right fellow readers...she sends me some of these amazing creations! But don't be too jeal--it means way more time in the gym--though honestly, its completely worth it)

    Loved the post!


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