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Réussir la pâte feuilletée, pas à pas – Mastering puff pastry, step by step

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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 détrempedeh-tramp – spread with a good share of beurre maniébear 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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

To make enough puff pastry for three 23cm tarts or two 6-servings mille-feuilles or more accurately 900g, you’ll need:
150ml water
5g fleur de sel (one heaped teaspoon)
350g flour
110g butter, melted and cooled

for the détrempe, and:

375g butter
150g flour
for the beurre manié.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

Dissolve the fleur de sel into the water.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

Once the détrempe is made, it’s time to start making the beurre manié. Simply cream the butter for a couple of minutes.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

Then scrape the sides of the bowl, and tip in the flour and mix very briefly, until just combined.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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).

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

Place the rectangle of beurre manié onto the lower part of the rolled détrempe and fold the upper part over it.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

You should now have something that sort of looks like a book.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

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.

pate feuilletee - puff pastry

Divide into three 300g pâtons and use as you wish.

Best(est) side of homemade pâte feuilletée – Des presque palmiers crousti-caramélisés

[Caramelised almost-palmiers]

palmier

Pâte feuilletée [puff pastry] is one of those things that people don’t make, ahem, very often. You might, which you should be blessed for; but so far, I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t rely on store-bought puff pastry. I guess this is okay for most of us; I have to admit that whenever I have a tart craving and no time to make puff pastry, I prefer to quickly put a simple pâte brisée together and get on with the filling comme si de rien était.

However, come over on a Sunday morning and you’re likely to find me making pâte feuilletée. I just love to make puff pastry, see the beautiful cream-white layers come to life, fold the smooth dough. Oh yeah, this is good people and you should try. But if I’m being totally honest, the best thing I like about making puff pastry is to eat what I make with the scraps. You know, those little ribbons of dough that get cut during the making process: after the dough has been rolled and before folding, I trim the far ends of the dough so it looks like a proper rectangle.

Oh I know what you’re thinking. Those little buggers look totally unpretentious. Sure they have that lovely golden-brown colour, that endearing caramel aroma, but well, in the end they’re simply bâtonnets of puff pastry. But you’re oh so wrong.

palmier

Those people, are the unfussy* version of the fancy palmiers. Think crispy layers of sweet and caramelised puff pastry, which rank them quite high amongst my favourites. High enough for me to forget about my original tart cravings, which slowly morphes into roches carbonatées caramelisées du Carbonifère cravings as I roll and fold.
And in case you didn’t get it, I did name them caramelised Carboniferous carbonate rocks, for they look nowhere near a palm tree, but marine limestone beds, well, that will do. Quite obviously their name comes from the day I spent studying, or more accurately: procrastinating, for the oral de géologie I was supposed to take the next day by making pâte feuilletée and the so-called, feuilletés comme des roches carbonatées du Carbonifère.

* not that palmiers are difficult to make. They actually take the same time to be shaped, but just look different. Plus, since the folding is done in a different way, the palmier tend to expand horizontally; while those presque-palmiers grow vertically, which I really like.

making palmiers

Since those cookies are made from the scraps, this is anything but a recipe; more a sort of guideline to follow. Simply use plety of sugar and make sure the scraps of dough you start with are fridge-cold before beginning.

You preheat the oven to 240°C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
You then dust your work plan with a good handful of golden sugar, pile the cold scraps of pâte feuilletée and finely roll them out. Dust the dough with more sugar and fold into three – just like you would do with a business letter. Roll out again, dust with sugar and fold.
You finally roll the dough into a half a centimetre thick* rectangle that’s about 10cm-wide and slice this into 1.5cm bâtonnets. Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C and bake until well puffed and golden, I’d say around 15-20 minutes.* if using proper finished puff pastry instead of scraps, roll the pastry way thinner, like 1 or 2 mm thick, or your presque-palmiers will grow tall then fall on the side in a twisted-style.

If after reading this you don’t need to make pâte feuilletée – that is just for having the chance to bite into one of those -, then I would suggest you pay your doctor a visit. By the way, this is totally a teaser for the pâte feuilletée 101 that will come later this week.

Saturday c’est Hermé – Le tour: les kouign amanns

pierre-herme-kouign-amann.jpg

You see those cute little guys above. Don’t underestimate them.

Oh no, don’t.

Sure, they do look nice. So plump and golden, you could almost tell right away how crisp and brittle their beautifully thin crust is.
And they certainly do taste good as well. Imagine fragile layers of fine pastry made sticky with oodles of sucre semoule [caster sugar] and beurre doux [unsalted butter]. These are probably what your next dream will be built around, which I would understand. More than you think I would.

But gosh, they gave me a hard time back when I was an intern at Pierre Hermé’s patisserie.

It’s not their détrempe – the mix of flour, butter, fresh yeast, water and salt. Although, I must admit that carrying 25kg bags of flour or emptying the mixing bowl, which I could fit into, wasn’t as funny as it may sound.

It’s not even the tourage, during which you enclose some delicious unsalted butter into the prepared détrempe and fold. Trois tours simples. Folding in caster sugar as you do so, but only for the last tour. It is, without a doubt, a lengthy process – with three resting times in the fridge since the last thing you want is the butter to start melting, the yeast to wake up, the gluten to develop, but an relaxing one.

Here it comes: the façonnage [shaping], the all-time feared step. Guilhem, who was then chef de poste at the tour, should be blessed. He patiently kept showing me how to fold little squares of the elegantly layered dough flecked with jewel-look-alike grains of sugars into neat folded buns.

That just wouldn’t work for me.

Or only very rarely, the only excuse Guilhem could come up with being that my body temperature is just too hot for me to handle buttery doughs. By the time, my squares had been folded into eight, they had that shine. Yes, that shine; which warned me of the upcoming liquefaction the butter was about to undergo.

And quite evidently, they wouldn’t hold their shape and almost always opened like flowers. Pretty pretty, but so not wanted here.

pierre-herme-kouign-amann-close.jpg

I hear you coming. It must not be that difficult! She’s only exaggerating / incapable (cross out the least appropriate answer). Well, I told you how frustrating those little guys tend to be.
Just try and say their name right.

kouign amann

As most French word, you so not pronounce it the way it is written. That would just be too simple. Remember who – or more extacly – what we’re talking about. Not your usual plain croissant or brioche or even pain au chocolat. No, we’re talking kouign amann here.

koonnee* queen aman-neu, an being French [ɑ̃] as in amande [almond] or grand gâteau [tall cake].
*basically, I’ve always said koonnee and not queenn, but I might possibly be wrong. Thanks Nol for pointing me right!

Obviously, you could also just visit Pierre Hermé’s pâtisserie and buy one – or two – and savour them to the last crumb before you hit the tube or vélib station.

Dans ma bibliothèque
[In my library]I just launched something I’m so very excited about: my own special library, where I share my thoughts on the books I’ve read.
Head over here to find the books I’ve read, those I’m currently reading and those I’m planning to read.
So far, I’ve only written one review, but I promise that many more will come.Oh and yes, I know there are still some tweaking to get done. I can’t seem to include the top navigation abr without problems, which makes the layout look funny on IE. Consider this as an opportunity to get a decent web browser!