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Cover: Founding Flavors

Recipes with Pastry

12Oct 12

Puff Pastry: A Work in Progress

Puff pastry is a light, flaky dough that can be used for a variety of savory or sweet treats.  For my first attempt at making this dough, I used a more traditional recipe that called for an equal ratio of bread flour to butter.  While I knew I’d be using a lot of butter, the reality of just how much butter is used in the production of puff pastry hit me as I formed a 20 tablespoons block of butter worth 2,000 calories!  Even though I really, really wanted to reduce the amount of butter, I stuck to the exact ingredients because I wanted to see how the final product would turn out as it was originally intended.

What followed was a lengthy process of rolling out the dough, creating a single turn (folding the dough similar to a letter before it is inserted in an envelope), and letting the puff pastry rest in the refrigerator for half an hour before repeating the process four more times.  Two hours later, the dough was finally ready to be baked. The good news was that it only needed ten minutes in the oven. While I considered the presentation of the final result to be a success, I had issues with the taste. The puff pastry was not bad at first but, immediately after a few bites, I could feel the residual butter on my lips. I don’t know about you but there is nothing worse than feeling disgusting after you consume something. It doesn’t matter how delicious the item might be, it is just not worth it. And, that is exactly the way I felt about my puff pastry.

Instead of shunning puff pastry for life, I started thinking about how I was going to recreate the dough so that it maintained its flaky texture but did not make me feel like I had to run five miles on the treadmill. After doing some research, I decided to try making the puff pastry again using roughly 40 percent of the butter originally called for in the recipe. But, as I rolled out the dough, I could already tell that the product was not going to turn out that great because the consistency was tough and rubbery.  This time, I had gone to the opposite extreme and used too little fat.

Frustrated but determined to find a solution, I decided to think through my ingredients. For starters, I knew I needed to add a little more butter. But since I was deciding to opt for 1 part butter to 2 parts flour, I decided to switch out the bread flour for all-purpose flour because it has a lower percentage of proteins, which means that the dough will not be as glutinous and, consequently, be able to rise more easily. Since I’d already had two unsuccessful attempts at puff pastry, I found myself feeling fearless and decided to add some unrefined brown sugar and vanilla extract.  I know, I know, it sounds super risky and dangerous. So after rolling, turning, folding, and letting the puff pastry do its thing, the moment of truth was 400°F and 10 minutes away.

While I won’t necessarily say that the third time is a charm, I will say that it is definitely the path to improvement. The result was a flaky consistency on top and a chewier texture in the middle. I happened to like it, especially with fifty percent less butter and no residual fat on my lips!  Since it is still a work in progress, please let me know your thoughts on the puff pastry recipe I’ve provided below.



Puff Pastry: A Work in Progress
Recipe type: Dough
  • All-purpose flour: 1¼ cup
  • Salt: ¾ teaspoon
  • Unrefined brown sugar: 1 teaspoon
  • Unsalted butter: 10 tablespoons
  • Vanilla extract: 1 tablespoon
  • Water: ½ cup
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, salt, vanilla extract, and water until it beings so form into dough.
  2. Roll the dough into a ball. Add a small amount of water, if necessary.
  3. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  4. Take the remaining butter, which should be soft, and mix in the sugar. You should be able to form the butter and sugar into a 3x3 inch square block.
  5. Refrigerate the butter block for 15 minutes.
  6. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into an 8x8 inch square.
  7. Place the butter block on top of the dough square and then flap the outer edges of the dough over the butter block to make a smaller square of dough with the butter tucked inside.
  8. Use your rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 10-inch wide rectangle.
  9. Make one single turn, cover the dough with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes. To create a single turn, fold the dough similar to a letter before it is inserted in an envelope
  10. Repeat step 8-9 three more times.
  11. After fourth single turn, let the dough sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
  12. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
  13. Depending on what you are using the puff pastry for, shape the dough and bake for 10 minutes.

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17Sep 12

Let the Baking Begin!

Hello! Every Sunday I’ll be posting my latest blog describing my baking experiences in hopes that it will enhance your day with a bit of laughter, as well as lessons I’ve learned in trying new recipes or techniques that you might find useful. But for today’s blog, I’d like to get you caught up to speed by sharing what I’ve been up to the last few months.

When I first decided I was going to explore the world of sweets, my first task was to find a baking book that could start the process of guiding me through my learning experience.  As soon as the book arrived in the mail, I tore open the package and turned to the first page ready to try my hand at a Black Forest cake or strudel. And that’s when I realized that the first step of baking was going to be patience because there wasn’t any mention of a Black Forest cake in the first chapter, let alone the second or the third! I’d be starting out with the basics, which up until that point I thought were items like chocolate chip cookies. But in the baking world, it turns out, the basics are learning how to make egg wash so that you can add shine to a pastry or blanching nuts to remove the skin off of them. I wanted desperately to jump ahead but I forced myself to remove my chef’s hat and put on my apprentice apron. Can you believe it? Barely five minutes into my journey and I had already been demoted.

But, now that I’ve started to make my way through the first chapter, I have to admit I find myself utterly amazed by these ‘basic’ techniques that really make me feel more like a magician than a baker.  It’s such a rewarding feeling to see the instant results of your work. It’s fascinating to see how all of a sudden a bit of sugar, butter, and flour is transformed into something completely different than its original form.  I also must say that with the time I’ve spent learning some of the baking basics I’ve started to trust my instincts, adapt recipes to my liking, and find various recipes of the same dessert to learn what others have tried.

So, now that you’re an insider into my baking world, let me welcome you again to the Founding Flavors blog! I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you and hearing what you have to say.


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