For the record, I am so tired of listening to myself talk about how tired I am. Lately it is so hard finding the inspiration to get into the kitchen and cook. Which is weird, because it is prime baking weather: dark, grey, wet. I should be tearing the kitchen apart. But instead (when not tearing up Delancey’s kitchen), I find myself slouched in front of the TV watching reruns of 90210. But a couple of days ago, I was hit hard (thanks Huong!) with an idea: homemade pop tarts. Bite-sized fruit-filled flakey happiness. OK, I know traditional pop tarts aren’t flakey, but if I’m gonna recreate, why not improve? Since it’s apple season galore in Washington, I decided to go with that as a filling.
I made a pie dough using the smear technique, making butter chunks a little smaller than usual. My goal was to have a flakey dough, but to keep the flakes a little tight. I also wanted to keep the apple filling really bright, so I decided to put the cinnamon (because you can’t have apple pop tarts without cinnamon) in the dough.
While my dough rested in the fridge, I started working on the apple filling. I diced the apples up pretty small in hopes of having a flatter pop tart.
Then I sauteed them in butter, sugar and vanilla. After they started to take on a bit of color I poured in some apple cider. I cooked them on medium high heat, until the cider reduced to a glaze. I poured the cooked apples on a tray and placed them in the fridge to cool.
I rolled the dough pretty thin (slightly under 1/8″) and sliced it into squares. I piled some apples onto half of the squares.
I cinched the two pieces together with a fork and poked holes in the top. I brushed butter on and popped them into the oven.
I baked them until they were golden brown and let them cool while I made the glaze. Which was hard because they smelled like pure heaven.
I poured on a glaze of powdered sugar and apple cider and let it set up. And then me and John tore into these little flake bombs. He says they remind him more of toaster strudels, but I will admit that I have never experienced one of those. Either way, I am very excited that I finally got my butt back in the kitchen. Because these guys were worth it.
APPLE POP TARTS RECIPE:
9 oz pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
6 oz cold butter, chopped
3 oz water
– Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Dump onto pastry board.
– Place half of the butter on the flour mixture. Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into the flour until it is pea sized chunks.
– Place the other half of the butter onto the flour mixture. Using the bench scraper, cut the rest of the butter into the flour until it is in bean sized chunks.
– Use fingers to flick the water into the flour mixture while tossing it around with the bench scraper. Keep sprinkling until it comes together in a shaggy pile. It should hold together as a dough when pinched.
– Using the heel of your hand, smear the dough on the pastry board. This creates sheets of butter in the flour, which turns into gorgeous flakes in the oven.
– Smash the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic and place it in the fridge to rest.
3 medium apples, diced into 1/4″ pieces
2 oz butter
1/2 vanilla bean
2 TBSP sugar
1/2 apple cider
– Heat the butter and vanilla bean seeds in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and sugar and cook until the apples start to take on a bit of color.
– Add the cider and cook over medium high heat until the cider reduces to a glaze.
– Spread the apples on a sheet pan and place in fridge to cool.
Assemble and bake:
– Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
– Roll out the dough and slice into squares.
– Spoon piles of apples onto half of the squares.
– Cinch edges together with a fork and poke holes in top.
– Brush on melted butter and bake until golden brown.
– Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of apple cider. Whisk together and pour into cooled pop tarts.
I’m on this new kick. It started at work, and now I can’t stop doing it at home. It’s a fairly laborious task, one that will surely make me and my friends fat, but I just can’t stop making puff dough. I’ve gotten to where I feel like I need to have homemade puff in the freezer at all times, ready to be rolled into flaky deliciousness at a moment’s notice. Of course lately I feel that way about a lot of things, and our freezer is feeling the love. But really, who doesn’t keep sheets of galette dough, pie dough, pate sucre dough along with strawberry scones, several quarts of fresh stock, 20 lbs of various nuts and a collection of odd flours in their freezer? But that’s another story, back to my puff habit. Puff is total magic. The most architectural of the doughs. The most sectional, and in many ways the most pure. You literally fold butter into flour until it creates hundreds of layers. It’s kind of a several hour process, great for rainy days or days when you’ve got other long winded kitchen projects, since most of that time is spent resting in the fridge. Let me show you how it works…
First you make a smooth and stretchy dough with high gluten flour, water and melted butter. You let that sit in the fridge for an hour or so to relax all that gluten and allow it to firm up a bit.
After an hour you whip up some butter (equal in weight to the amount of flour in the earlier dough) with a bit of flour (equal to the amount of melted butter in the dough) until it’s smooth and pliable. This is called a “beurrage” or “butter block” in English.
You roll your dough into a rectangle of considerable size.
And then smear your butter on one half of it, being careful not to let the butter get warm. If it gets warm, you have to stop everything and pop it in the fridge to firm back up (but not too firm!). If you haven’t guessed yet, the hardest part about puff is understanding and regulating its temperature. But once you know what you want, it’s super easy.
Then you fold over the other half of the dough, to make a giant pop tart, making sure the edges are sealed tight. I get a little anal at this point and trim away any thick doughy edges. This is called a detrempe. I don’t know if it has an english name, so you can just call it a pop tart. You then place your detrempe in the fridge for 30-45 minutes to relax and firm up some more.
You take out your detrempe and roll it out on the short side (basically make it longer) into a long strip about 3/8″ thick.
Then take the edges and fold them in until they meet at a point 1/3 from the new folded edge.
Then fold the whole thing over. This is called a double fold, or a book fold.
It should look like this. You then place it in the fridge to rest for 30-45 minutes. You take it back out and repeat, rotating it so that you are again rolling out the short side to make it a long strip, folding it the same way and letting it rest another 30-45 minutes. You want to do this a total of 3 times. You’ll notice on the 3rd fold that it starts getting really delicate. If you poke it too hard it will tear, so you have to be gentle. At this point it’s very easy to get too warm, so you must also work quickly. If your butter melts, it will merge with you flour, eliminating all those layers you worked so hard to roll in…
Once you finish your 3 folds you have what’s called a “paton”. You can store your paton in the freezer, or in the fridge if you are going to be using it in the next few days.
When you are ready to bake your puff you just roll it out into 1/8 inch sheets. This size recipe will yield one really large sheet or 2 more manageable sized sheets. I wanted a little caramelization action, so I sheeted the dough in sugar rather than flour. I decided to make little puff squares to serve at my dinner party last night, so I used a pizza cutter to slice up my sheet. Once again, it is important that your puff stays cool. If you try cutting it up while warm, it will pinch the edges together, making it hard for your dough to rise up in the oven.
I placed my squares on a parchment lined sheet tray, then placed another sheet tray on top. The top sheet tray is basically there to reign that puff in. When you heat your dough up, it’s gonna start to puff like crazy, while this is a good thing, you don’t want to go TOO tall… You place the tray in a 400 degree oven and bake until the puff is cooked all the way through. Even with a sheet tray on top, my puff rose from 1/8″ to 3/4″, which is an ideal size I think!
When you break open your baked puff, it should be filled with little flakes.
I served my puff squares with a big bowl of vanilla pastry cream and some pitted strawberries for a “make your own strawberry napoleon” dessert. It was a hit. But you can do so many things with puff…I’m sure I’ll have some more posts about it throughout the summer!
PUFF PASTRY RECIPE:
Yield: 2 1/2 lbs
12oz bread flour
4oz cake flour
4oz melted butter
1 1/2 tsp salt
9oz cool water
– Mix flours and place in stand mixer bowl. Use dough hook attachment.
– Pour water in measuring cup. Melt butter with salt in saucepan. Pour melted butter into measuring cup of water and stir well.
– With mixer on low speed, start pouring in the liquid mixture. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, by hand if needed.
– Wrap in plastic and chill in fridge for 1 hour. This will allow the gluten to rest so that it isn’t too stretchy to roll out, causing tough dough and affecting your ability to work fast to keep the butter cool.
16oz pliable butter (about 60 degrees)
3oz bread flour
1oz cake flour
– Place butter in stand mixer bowl and beat with paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. On low speed add the flours and mix until smooth and uniform.
– Roll the dough out to a roughly 12″x18″ rectangle, the dough should be about 1/4″-3/8″ thick.
– Use a spatula (your hand will warm the butter) to spread the butter over half of the rectangle (along the short side). You want to stay about 1/2″ from the edge.
– Fold the dough over and cinch the edges. Trim if necessary.
– Wrap in plastic and chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
– Roll out 3 times in a book fold, or 4 times in a letter fold, resting for 30 minutes in between each turn. Monitor the butter temperature by it’s softness. It should be cold enough to make you work for it when you roll the pastry, but not enough to rip through the dough. If it is too soft, let it chill 10-15 minutes longer in the fridge.