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The Most Time-Consuming Thing I’ve Ever Made

October 22, 2011
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No, really.  Have you ever rolled puff pastry by hand?  Me either, until this week.  And let me tell you, puff pastry is anything but quick.

First you make a little bit of dough (flour, salt, butter, and cold water.)  Then you refrigerate it for an hour or so.  Meanwhile, you take high-fat butter (oh-so-good) and beat it into submission, molding it into a perfectly square piece half the size of your dough.  Then you refrigerate it until it’s the same consistency as your dough: pliable, not brittle.

Next, you lock the butter block into your dough.  You roll it out once, fold it, and refrigerate it.  You roll it out again, fold it, and refrigerate it.  And again.  And a fourth time.  256 layers later, your dough is ready for an overnight rest, and your upper arms feel like I imagine it might feel to do pull-ups.  (Though people who eat the following pastries, myself included, would probably be unable to confirm that.)

I can only be grateful that we have a sheeter that we used to roll out two of the following three shapes; that made the second puff pastry day relatively painless and incredibly delicious!

First, the cream horns, which are baked around metal molds and then filled with pastry cream and sweetened whipped cream:

Next, the palmiers (or palmeras, if you’re Spanish, or “palm leaves,” if you’re Amurican).  These we rolled out by hand, dusting the bench with exorbitant amounts of sugar instead of flour.  The result is the most caramel-crunchy puff pastry you’ve ever tasted.  No palmera I ate in Spain tasted even half as good.

And finally, apple turnovers like you’ve never seen.  Pulling these warm, egg-washed-and-pearl-sugar-sprinkled, just-tripled-in-size-as-if-by-magic pastries out of the oven may have been the most gratifying bakeshop experience I’ve ever had.  They were so beautiful, I think it was actually worth two days of labor.

I mean, really.  If you were greeted by these layers, wouldn’t you cry just a little bit?

Do I think I’ll be making puff pastry again soon?  Maybe.  I have a feeling that the memory of the hours of rolling and resting will fade faster than the memory of eating the finished products, which means I won’t be able to resist long.  Family members, brace yourselves: puff pastry will be on my Christmas table, in one form or another.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2011 5:00 AM

    WOW. This sounds like a good prison activity – to wile away the hours, haha. (And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want fresh puff pastry in prison?) Was this an assignment from class? Do you have your own kitchens in your living quarters, or do you use the ones in the school?

    I’ve also heard palmiers go by ‘butterfly pastry’, but I’m not sure if that’s commonly used in English or just in Chinese. Or maybe something my family made up…

  2. Andrea permalink
    October 24, 2011 9:57 PM

    *drool* That looks sooo gooooood!

  3. October 24, 2011 10:30 PM

    Fisings: Yes, it was a school assignment, which meant we used the school’s kitchens. We had to finish the puff pastry products by lunchtime and have them out on the buffet. Unfortunately, my dorm doesn’t have a kitchen, which is why I’m planning on waiting until Christmas for another attempt! I’m not sure about the origins of ‘butterfly pastry,’ but it would definitely make sense with the shape of the pastry. I like it!

    Andrea: It was, indeed, sooo gooooooood. 🙂

  4. Linda McGraw permalink
    March 2, 2012 4:40 PM

    Hi Jamie,
    Wendy just told me about your blog. So you prefer Napa Valley over Hyde Park, huh? I guess I would too!!

    Puff pastry is definitely worth the work and time (and exercise). You should try Danish Pastry. Yum!!!!!

    • March 2, 2012 5:22 PM

      Just made puff pastry again today! The more I do it, the more I like it.

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