Thursday 10 April 2008
If you know how to use a rolling pin, then you know how to make pâte feuilletée. This could be the tagline of this pâte feuilletée 101 post. But since it sounds like a cliché from the 80s (yeah it’s that bad), I’ll have to choose another tagline with a slightly sexier tang in it; which is something I quite can’t come up with right now, so I guess we’ll have to get on with the recipe.
For those of you who don’t know it yet, pâte feuilletée [literally, layered dough] – pat fe-yeah-teh – is the French for puff pastry, a fine and versatile pastry used in many pâtisseries and baked good: from mille-feuilles to flans. It consists in a basic dough, the détrempe – deh-tramp – spread with a good share of beurre manié – bear man-yeah –, then successively folded and rolled out; hence the layer part of its French name.
There are many ways of making pâte feuilletée.
Some encase the détrempe into the beurre manié, just like Pierre Hermé does with his delicious pâte feuilletée inversée. Others make it old-school-style by encasing the butter into the détrempe.
Oh and obviously, there are many discussions on how to properly enfold the beurre manié (or détrempe, if using Pierre’s method). Should the détrempe fully encase the beurre or just be folded over it?
Here, I will show you my own method. I’m not saying it’s the best, but since it’s the one I used when I first made pâte feuilletée and that it proved to be excellent and most importantly, reliable, I’ve never given others methods a chance.
Sure, I did make pâte feuilletée inversée when I was an intern at Pierre Hermé, but didn’t try this at home and probably will when I’ll have some time on my hands.
However, those differing approaches all converge towards the same purpose: a flaky and puffy pastry.
If it’s commonsense that the flaky effect comes from the successive folds/rolls, where does the puffy factor comes from? It’s all very simple. Picture the détrempe. Made with flour, a little butter, and water, it is a moderately hydrated dough, which undergoes a basic modification during the baking process: water evaporation. So far, it’s old news. But what’s interesting here is that instead of leaking out of the dough, the steam gets trapped in between the hydrophobic layers of beurre manié, lifting them and forming water-rich air pockets. This phenomenon takes place until the starch seizes, which causes the end of the expansion and the beginning of the dehydration and colouration – through Maillard reaction.
Because I suspect that; at this point, some of you are remotely bored, I suggest we start making pâte feuilletée. As usual, I like to start with weighed and prepared ingredients; and needless to say, a sink full of hot soapy water. I know many of those who personally know the more-than-you-could-ever-think-messy person I am will laugh at the following, but I like things to be pretty clean and tidy in the kitchen.
To make enough puff pastry for three 23cm tarts or two 6-servings mille-feuilles or more accurately 900g, you’ll need:
5g fleur de sel (one heaped teaspoon)
110g butter, melted and cooled
for the détrempe, and:
150g flour for the beurre manié.
Dissolve the fleur de sel into the water.
In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and melted butter until just blended. If you’re making this by hand, use a wooden spoon or a fork.
Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly pour in the salted water. You might not need it all, depending how the absorption coefficient of the flour you’re using – flours from different brands may not need the same amount of water, so act accordingly. Stop adding water when the dough feels soft, but not overly so. It shouldn’t, by any mean, be sticky. And will still be wet or dry at some spots.
Place the dough onto cling film and working quickly with the palm of your hands, form a rectangle approximately 20cm long, 15cm wide and 1cm thick. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate.
Once the détrempe is made, it’s time to start making the beurre manié. Simply cream the butter for a couple of minutes.
Then scrape the sides of the bowl, and tip in the flour and mix very briefly, until just combined.
Transfer onto cling film and working very quickly – the last thing to want is the butter to melt – form a rectangle as large as the one you just made with the détrempe. Wrap and chill for two hours.
After the two-hour chilling time, dust your workplan with flour and roll out the détrempe into a rectangle almost twice as long as its width (it should be around 40cm long, 15cm wide and 0.5cm thick).
Place the rectangle of beurre manié onto the lower part of the rolled détrempe and fold the upper part over it.
You should now have something that sort of looks like a book.
Place its spine on your left, and roll out until you get a 40cm long and 20 cm wide rectangle. The next step is called a tour double [literally, a double turn – read fold]. Brush the excess flour away and trim the ends so you have a neat rectangle*.
Visualise the middle axis of the rectangle, grab the lower end of the dough and fold it over so it meets the middle axis. Do the same with the upper end. I’ll call this an open book.
Finally, close the ‘book’ and wrap it in cling film.
* this is totally what I use to make the presque-palmiers below.
You see those two holes; they’re here to remind you that you’ve done two tours. This might not be helpful when you only make one batch, but trust me, when you have more than 50kg of puff pastry to roll, they come quite handy. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Now, you’re going to make the second tour double.
Place the book look-alike dough in front of you, spine on the left and proceed as above.
At this point, the dough can be kept, well-wrapped, in the fridge for up to a week. However, once you give the dough its last final tour simple [simple fold], it should get used within 72 hours.
To give the dough its final tour, place the ‘book’ in front of you, spine on the left and roll it into a rectangle slightly larger than a sheet of A4 paper. Brush the excess flour away and fold in three, just like you would do with a business letter.
Divide into three 300g pâtons and use as you wish.