Friday, September 9, 2011

Rough Puff

Have you ever tried making rough puff pastry?  An almost magical concoction of flour, butter, water and salt, it's a wonderful basis for delicious brunch or teatime goodies. I love watching the unlikely pile of crumbly, buttery, floury lumps transform into smooth, delicate, workable pastry. With just a few minutes' work, it's ready for a fantasia of fillings.

Here's what I made with my latest batch:

White nectarine-black raspberry fruit boats with almond glaze,
and cinnamon-walnut mini rolls

Rough puff pastry is one of those handy ratio-based recipes that can be made in any quantity, as long as you observe the proportions. In fact it's easier to remember a ratio than it is to remember a recipe.

But which ratio? Fine Cooking magazine, for example, uses a 2:2:1 formula - by weight - of flour, butter and water in their rough puff pastry recipe. Larousse Gastronomique, on the other hand, recommends a 4:3:2 ratio of flour, butter, and water. I've been following Larousse's formula. (After all, the French have been making pastry longer than the folks over at Rodale Press.)

Then there's the question of resting and chilling. Fine Cooking recommends a 20-minute rest about halfway through the process, with the option of another rest before shaping the dough. Larousse says to use the pastry immediately. I compromise by chilling the dough while I prep filling ingredients. It seems to work out well.

Since I'm usually feeding only two people (although Mr. M could happily eat enough for six when it comes to pastries), I use the following quantities:

5 1/3 oz. mixed flours (whole wheat and unbleached)
4 oz. (1 stick) very cold butter
1/3 cup ICE water
Pinch of salt

This rolls out to a rectangle about 11" x 15", 1/8" thick - enough dough for the 4 fruit boats and 6 rugelach-size rolls we enjoyed last time around. The filled pastries were brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with raw sugar, then baked at 400º for around 20-25 minutes. (The fruit boats took a bit longer than the mini rolls.)

So how is rough puff made? The flour and salt are stirred together, and the butter cut in, leaving largish chunks. The ice water is added, and the whole gently mixed . It will be a lumpy, crumbly mess at this point. But with a bit of rolling and folding, the dough comes together to become a wonderful flaky vehicle for the fillings of your choice.

If you'd like to try your hand at making some rough puff pastry, I recommend reading this excellent article from Fine Cooking. For another take on rough puff, try watching the first 4-5 minutes of this video, also from Fine Cooking. (No need to constantly measure the dough rectangle as the video recommends. Just keep your dough about 1/2" thick during the folding stages).

Here's another glimpse of our rough-puff pastries. Served with a fresh tomato-basil-goat cheese omelet, they made a lovely late-summer brunch.

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  1. Oh my goodness, tempting me with these luscious concoctions. This may very well make me reconsider my current eating plan. I was a pastry chef once a very long time ago and to be quite honest I am not any healthier since I quit eating pastries.

    A beautifully written post, as always. I am in awe of your writing prowess.

  2. I'm hungry. Really hungry. And therefore not quite the moment to tempt me with such tasty looking pastries and omelets that reminde me that the fridge is emty because I haven't had the time to go shopping groceries. As the shops are closed here during the weekend, I have to wait until Monday.

  3. Oh, I am so making these!!! I use the same ingredients to make a french apple tart, but it's mixed and rolled once. Neato how changing proportions and technique you get something altogether different!!! I also appreciate the half whole wheat!! I can't wait!!! If the cool weather holds out next week - I'm in!!! :D

  4. Astri - very interesting comment. Perhaps moderation in all things is the way to go. And thank you for the lovely compliment. :)

    Regula - no shops open on the weekend? I suppose that's good for the restaurant business but not so good for people who would rather eat at home!

    Laura - let me know how they turn out for you.

  5. that looks wonderful- hope to try it out! :)

  6. I've not been brave enough to try crust yet, even though I've masted high altitude bread. You make this sound so fun and easy, I may just have to try it.


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