Magic Dragon


There is indeed something magical about puff pastry’s exponential rise and versatility, but it’s no mystery.

 
As thin, thin sheets of butter (which is approximately 82% fat, protein, and other solids and therefore around 18% water), which are trapped between flour particles, are heated in a hot oven, the water evaporates quickly, causing the steam to lift the flour and create lovely, flaky layers.  

 

Puff pastry can be a beast to handle; much depends on the temperature of your butter and dough.
 
It is certainly a surmountable challenge; however, for less-experienced bakers, it can be extremely frustrating and time consuming.
Traditional puff pastry is made with a yeasted dough, which is laminated with a butter block.  
It takes a long time, and it can be hard to get just right.
 
Which is precisely why I decided to do this picture series/tutorial about blitz puff pastry.  
This recipe and technique is invaluable.  Definitely tuck it away in your brain for future uses.
It’s faster, easier, and, at least in my own experience, more idiot-proof reliable.
 

Flaky pastry enhances any dessert (Like… Duh?).

Turnovers?  Killer with this dough.  I made orange-chocolate ricotta turnovers which were a hit.
Vol-au-vent?  This dough is faster than traditional puff, and rises essentially as high.
Brie en croute?  Hello, the faster this gets into my mouth, the better.  Blitz pastry it is.
Anything en papillote?  Heck, why not?

 

Croissants?  Bear claws?  Elephant ears or palmiers?  Pain au chocolat? But of course… Recipes below.
The scraps never go to waste, either.  Just like with pie dough, if they are sprinkled with some cinnamon sugar and baked off, they become lovely little nuggets of sparkly, spicy gold.
The time you’ll save is worth the 1/8 inch loss of height that traditional puff gives you.

Still with me?  Salivating yet?

Let’s get started!


For the basic dough,

you’ll need to assemble:
16 ounces of cold unsalted butter
10 ounces of flour
10 ounces of ice cold water
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt

The tools you’ll need are:
a large, clean surface, like a well-scrubbed counter
a large bowl
a rolling pin
a bench scraper (not 100% necessary, but crazy helpful)
 Christmas-themed cling wrap (100% necessary)

 

Whisk your flour, salt, and sugar together in the large bowl with a fork.  
Break up any clumps.  
Dump all your cold butter onto the flour.  Toss to coat.

 

 

With clean hands, roughly flatten all of the cubes of butter.  
They do not have to be perfect sheets; that will happen in the next step.  They should just be roughly flat.

 

This is what your dough should look like thus far.  It’s not much of a dough, yet.  Just a bunch of flour-coated, flattened butter cubes.  (Yum…?)
Next up is the fraisage.  
Dump the contents of your bowl out onto your clean surface.  
Using the heel of your hand, gather the dough, then push forward and down firmly, so that your butter is smeared along the flour and other bits and bobs on the counter.  (Just kidding.  Because your counter is super clean, right?  Right?! Right!)
Continue to do so until virtually all of the butter has been sheeted even further and thinner than before.  
Your dough should not yet be cohesive, but rather shaggy and ugly.
 

This is what your dough should now look like.  
Make a well in the center and pour in some water.  
Knead lightly with your hands, using a bench scraper to help fold the dough over itself.  
Continue to add water until your dough just barely comes together in a shaggy mess.  
Do not add so much that it becomes slimy, but add enough that it is no longer crumbly.  
This is a variable amount; you may need slightly more or less than 10 ounces of water.  That’s okay.  Ingredients and environments differ, and that’s what affects this measurement.

Finished adding water.  Cohesive, still shaggy, but stays together.

Next, roll out your dough to about a 3/4- 1 inch thickness, in the shape of a rough rectangle (not triangle, which is what I just wrote).  

Fold your dough in thirds, like a business letter.  
Wrap in plastic and stick in the fridge for 15 minutes.

 

After your dough has chilled out, take it out and roll it into another rectangle.  
You can see the dimensions of mine in the above picture; it should be 1/2 inch thick and the rectangle should be relatively even in size.

Next, do a double book turn.  Visually divide your rectangle in half, then divide each half into two.  You are going to fold it in quarters, but first fold the outer flaps in, to meet the center, then fold the flaps created by that fold onto each other, like a book.
Christina Tosi describes it by putting her arms out straight, folding in at the elbows, then folding the elbows together.  
After one double book turn, stick the dough in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.  

Do two more double book turns, rolling the dough out to 1/2 inch thick between each one.
After your third double book turn, your dough is ready to be used!  
You did it! Now you can make all sorts of delicacies with it!

In general, to use your puff pastry, you will need to roll it out to a tiny bit more than 1/8 inch thickness.  
When you cut it, never twist your cutters or knife- just like making biscuits.  
If you do so, the layers of flour may fuse together on one side, causing uneven rising.
Don’t re-roll scraps.  Just try to minimize them.

Blitz Puff Pastry
proportions from the godly Stella Parks, technique is my own, bastardized from many sources, including Christina Tosi
ingredients:
16 ounces cold cubed butter
10 ounces ice water
10 ounces flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
directions:
  1. Whisk your flour, salt, and sugar together in the large bowl with a fork.  Break up any clumps.  Dump all your cold butter onto the flour.  Toss to coat.
  2. With clean hands, roughly flatten all of the cubes of butter.  They do not have to be perfect sheets; that will happen in the next step.  They should just be roughly flat.
  3. Dump the contents of your bowl out onto your clean surface.  Using the heel of your hand, gather the dough, then push forward and down firmly, so that your butter is smeared along the flour and other bits and bobs on the counter.
  4. Continue to do so until virtually all of the butter has been sheeted even further and thinner than before.  Your dough should not yet be cohesive.
  5. Roll out your dough to about a 3/4- 1 inch thickness, in the shape of a rough rectangle.
  6. Fold your dough in thirds, like a business letter.  
  7. Wrap in plastic and stick in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  8. After your dough has chilled out, take it out and roll it into another rectangle; it should be 1/2 inch thick and the rectangle should be relatively even in size.
  9. Next, do a double book turn.  Visually divide your rectangle in half, then divide each half into two.  You are going to fold it in quarters, but first fold the outer flaps in, to meet the center, then fold the flaps created by that fold onto each other, like a book.  Christina Tosi describes it by putting her arms out straight, folding in at the elbows, then folding the elbows together.  
  10. After one double book turn, stick the dough in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.  
  11. Do two more double book turns, rolling the dough out to 1/2 inch thick between each one.  After your third double book turn, your dough is ready to be used.
  12.  In general, to use your puff pastry, you will need to roll it out to a tiny bit more than 1/8 inch thickness, before cutting it into desired shapes.  
Notes and ideas for use:
This puff can be used just like a regular puff pastry dough.  It is versatile and adapts to any shape.  Bake it at 375 degrees F, on good insulated pans.  If your pans are flimsy, use two stacked together.  The baking times I have provided are for very miniature pastries; if you make larger ones, the baking time will go up accordingly.  Puff pastry is very easy to change baking times with, because the only test of doneness is the color of the crust.  The pastries should be tanned and deep gold when you pull them out.  If you change the size, simply check the color of your pastries often after going past the times noted here and you will not have dried out or burned products, I promise.
Palmiers: 
Cut long strips of dough, about 3/16 of an inch wide and 5 or more inches long, and brush them with a little melted butter.  Sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top, and roll from each end to create a swirl shape.  Bake until golden and sugar is caramelized, about 8 minutes depending on the size of your cookies.  Check early and often; sugar burns quickly.  If you cut the strips 3/4 of an inch wide, and roll from just one end, you can stick them in a mini muffin tin and make mini cinnamon rolls.
Croissants:
Cut isosceles triangles, about 3.5 inches wide and 6 inches high, and cut a small, 1/4 inch slit at the base.  Roll up the triangle starting at the wide end, shaping into a crescent once the dough is all rolled up.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg plus 1 teaspoon water), bake for about 14 minutes, until tanned; timing varies a lot with puff pastry depending on the size of your pastries, but it is easy to check doneness by color, as that is the main factor.
Bear Claws:
Mix 1/3 cup almond paste with 1 egg white, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and 1/4 cup powdered sugar until smooth.  Cut strips of pastry 2 inches wide and as long as possible, and fill with a thin coating of filling.  Roll, starting from the long sides, to make long filled logs.  Pinch the edges to seal, and flatten the logs.  Cut into 4 inch long pieces, and make notches 1/3 of the way into the dough to make “claws.”  Shape into crescents, with the claws pointing out, and brush with egg wash.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top and bake for 15 minutes, or until almond filling is crisp and tops of claws are tanned and golden.
Pain au Chocolat
Cut rectangles of dough 3 inches by 4.5 inches.  Place a few bittersweet chocolate chips on the shorter edge, and fold over once.  Where the fold has met the main part of the dough, tuck a few more bittersweet chocolate chips.  Fold over again, then place seam side down on a sheet tray.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired.  Bake for 15 minutes.

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