When added to any cooking equation, puff pastry brings the celebration. It’s the crux of extravagant dishes with poetic and fanciful titles like vol-au-vent (“gust of wind”) and mille-feuille (“thousand-sheets”). An additional layer of particular that puffs and shines and brings your dish—and with it, your shindig—to life. You may assume pulling off one thing as mild as a gust of wind is out of your grasp, however relaxation assured, even the professionals working behind the scenes on the fanciest of eating places use the frozen stuff.
So what's puff pastry precisely? It’s a laminated dough, that means it’s made by stacking (laminating) myriad sheets of dough and lining the layers with butter. The impact, as : crispy, flaky bliss. Making puff by hand is a triumph involving numerous steps of rolling and folding with hours of chilling between every “flip” to maintain the butter dutifully as an alternative. It’s subsequent to unattainable to get proper. And sometimes, that’s simply the beginning, as puff pastry is often one component of a posh dish. So, if it can save you your self a step and the concern of an added variable, why not take the leg up?
John Denison, who serves elegant and unfussy French classics at Portland restaurant St. Jack, says making puff pastry “comes with an enormous time funding” and opts to outsource 99 % of the puff he serves. He fell in love with contemporary puff pastry whereas touring within the South of France, wading by way of markets overflowing with galette des rois and studying the artwork of sea bass en croûte from three-Michelin-star chef Michel Guérard. When re-creating these well-known dishes again residence, although, Denison finds the one sensible method is to purchase the pastry. He works with an area bakery to maintain up with the high-volume calls for of the restaurant, however Dufour is a superb retail possibility, as are Trader Joe’s seasonally obtainable sheets.
Denison cautions that some store-bought puff is made with vegetable shorting, missing the wealthy style of actual butter. However butter’s taste will not be the one purpose to examine the bundle’s label: the small quantity of water that butter accommodates (and vegetable shortening doesn't) is what makes puff puff. Because the pastry bakes, the water suspended between its gossamer sheets creates steam, which puffs up these impossibly mild layers. Vegetable shortening lacks the construction that butter gives as properly, typically leading to a a lot much less dramatically puffed pastry and one that may lean towards soggy and greasy, not crisp and buttery.
For me, something wrapped in pastry instantly creates an thrilling, theatrical presentation: It’s crusty, shiny, ornate. Whereas puff is nice shellacked in apple caramel as a tarte Tatin or full of currants within the type of a chubby Eccles cake, it actually shines in epic savory shows like Guérard’s entire fish wrapped within the stuff—and pastry-wrapped fish is inside attain even in case you’re not a three-star chef. Coauthor of Wine Food and The Picnic Andrea Slonecker suggests salmon en croûte as a sublime and deceptively easy method to impress your folks: “It appears to be like fancy however is kind of straightforward to make utilizing frozen puff.”
Slonecker opts for the frozen selection “as a result of it’s a straightforward and fast method to make a crust once I’m craving a crusty factor.” Amen. She buys sheets of frozen puff from an area bakery, which is a good (and painless) method to get your fingers on some top-quality all-butter pastry. She retains it round for advert hoc desserts, quiches, and savory tarts; see “crusty issues.”
Dealing with puff pastry, whether or not you’ve made it your self or not, is its personal challenge. Temperature and timing are all the things, so don’t really feel such as you copped out an excessive amount of by shopping for it. Hold your puff pastry frozen till the day earlier than you intend to make use of it, and defrost it slowly within the fridge in a single day to keep away from disturbing the fragile steadiness of suspended butter, which may be thrown off if the dough rests for too lengthy at room temperature.
As soon as defrosted, roll the pastry gently to even its thickness and breathe some life again into the dough. Make sure you brush off any extra flour—it will assist to create a sturdy seal when connecting items and get you nearer to a shiny, bejeweled floor. Once you’re chopping the pastry, hold it chilly, and use a pointy knife to make sure you minimize by way of the layers as a substitute of smooshing them collectively, selling a fair rise.
Brushing the floor with egg earlier than baking is an important step when a shiny floor is what you’re after, however a wealthy skilled floor is achieved post-bake. As at all times, sugar is the key. Brush the still-hot floor of your just-baked puff with a skinny coat of maple or easy syrup to get a glossed shine that may set right into a crackly veneer because it cools. Don’t draw back from glossing up your savory pastries, too. The skinny coat will provide the shattering crisp you’re after, but it surely gained’t offset the steadiness of your savory taste profile.
Some Concepts for Puffing in Model:
Lead picture: John Carey. Second picture: Rachel Cabitt