Alright, folks. I typed and typed until my fingertips tingled regarding the minutiae of making puff pastry, and what do I get? Fear and loathing in the Hinternets. Well, I’d like to think maybe not loathing, but the fear was definitely still there. One comment actually contained the F word! I’m not sure what it is about puff that ruffles feathers. After all, probably some medieval cook made it as an experiment (I have no idea–I’m just making stuff up here), or maybe they forgot to put the fat in the dough and then rolled it in later. They probably were a little trepidacious about it, but not because they didn’t think they could make it. Rather, they were probably afraid that it wouldn’t work, and then, when it did, they were thrilled! I want you to experience that same thrill, and you have a leg up on our medieval experimenter/forgetful cook: you know it will work.
But, I understand that sometimes baby steps are in order. So, I present to you the Nicorette patch of puff pastry: rough puff. Some people call it blitz puff, but I prefer rough puff because it’s rhyme-y. Also, it takes less time to make, and it still will provide a fairly hefty puff. I think you will probably like it too, for the same reasons. This is such a reasonable alternative to true puff pastry that, unless you want to make some sort of really tall vol au vent or something, you can use this in place of puff for most applications. No one will think ill of you, least of all me. I’m all for short cuts (Cool Whip does not count). However, I do think you should try to make the Big Daddy at least once. You’ll find it easier than you think, and you can at least say “I’ve made puff pastry,” and Amaze your Friends.
This particular recipe is my take on my friend, Shirley Corriher’s newest book, Bakewise. No, I haven’t met her; I doubt she knows that I Exist, but I like to think that we’d be friends if she did know. You’ll need a bench knife for this–there will be lots of scraping.
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- 14.5 oz. bread flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 8 oz. sour cream
- ice water as needed
- more bread flour, for rolling
Here’s what you do. It’s not hard.
- Cut butter into 1 oz. chunks, then, put it in the freezer. Or, if you keep your butter frozen like I do, chop the frozen butter into pieces 1 oz pieces (cut each stick into 4 pieces).
- Whisk the bread flour and salt together, then toss with the frozen butter pieces.
- Dump this out onto a clean work surface and let sit for about 20 minutes, just to let the butter “unfreeze” a bit.
- Roll over the mixture, pressing down pretty hard to flatten out the butter a little. To begin with, you might need to whack it rather than roll it. If the butter sticks to the rolling pin a little, just scrape it off with your bench knife. Scrape the pre-dough together and roll over it/scrape it up another two times.
- Scrape up the flour/butter mixture and dump it into a bowl. Mix in the sour cream evenly, and then add ice water, just a bit at a time, until the dough comes together. This isn’t like pie crust where it might be done if it still looks crumbly and dry. You should end up with just a very slightly sticky lump of dough. Cover the dough lump and put in the freezer for about 20 minutes or so.
- Liberally flour your work surface. Put the cold dough lump on the flour, put a little more flour on the dough and roll it out into a big old square. The dough will be sticky, so use your bench scraper for the next part.
- Fold the top of the dough into the center. Fold the bottom into the center, too. Now, fold the whole thing over like a book. You should have 4 layers, and your square will now be a long, skinny rectangle.
- Roll this out a bit to flatten it, and then make the same folds again from the left and right sides so you have a square of dough about 5″ on a side. Refrigerate for half an hour or so, just to keep things cold.
- Roll the dough into a rectangle, and then fold it in thirds, like a letter. Roll again and fold into thirds a last time. And there you go. Chill, roll and use.
Brush off any excess flour before you make your turns. Brush with a little ice water between the turns in step 9.
Yes, it’s kind of a lot of steps for something called “rough puff,” but you can make it and use it on the same day, which is a bonus. And it does puff nicely, as long as you keep the butter cold. Plus, it’s tasty–it has a bit of tang from the sour cream which also provides extra fat to keep things a bit more tender.
How to use it? Make turnovers. Wrap it around some brie. Make Beef Wellington. Make a galette. Use it for tarte tatin. Roll it pretty thin and use it as pie crust. Roll some cinnamon sugar or parm into it, cut in strips, twist and bake for easy sweet or savory “bread sticks.”
So, that’s it. No fear, people. No fear.