I had to channel Nigella Lawson to try to find enough adjectives to describe these beauties. In the end even Nigella failed me and I could only come up with one word (well actually three) to describe them. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these little gems. It is just amazing that from a few humble ingredients springs forth such magic. When you think about it, these are nothing more than flour, water, yeast, butter and sugar. It is just amazing how so few ingredients can produce such total food ecstasy. Rich but light, flaky, buttery what more could you possibly ask from a pastry. These have it all and then some. (Maybe Nigella did make an appearance in my kitchen after all.)
For years I lived in mortal fear of laminated doughs. Everytime a recipe called for puff pastry I broke out into a sweat and rushed off to the grocery store for a box of Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry. Now this frozen dough is perfectly adequate and always turned out a decent end product but it always left me feeling guilty and a bit like Sandra Lee (guess that gave it away that I am not a fan) with my finished dish. Cooking from a can has never been my thing. After all, my mother never did it, my grandmother never did it, why then would I even consider doing it? Hence the guilt. Then as so often happens there is one ingredient that ends up being the be all end all ingredient for one year and it turns up everywhere. First it was vanilla beans, then fig jam, then pomegranates. And then it happened, my worst nightmare, the ingredient of the year was puff pastry. Every magazine I picked up and every cooking show I watched, someone was making puff pastry. I decided then and there to conquer my fear and learn how to make the dreaded stuff. Week after week I trundled into the kitchen with my flour and Plugras and my copy of Julia Child and set about teaching myself how to make it. I read through page after page of Julia’s’ instructions and thought I would never be able to pull this off. Well, much to my surprise, once you got past the length of the recipe it turned out to not be all that difficult. Just a simple dough and a block of butter. The only real tricks were learning to be patient (I never mastered that one). working quickly and keeping the dough cold. My first attempt actually turned out pretty good. I made puff pastry every weekend for months until I got to the point where I only needed to check the recipe for ingredient amounts and I was off and running. Now I always have pounds of the stuff in my freezer all the time. Lesson here – Don’t ever be afraid of food, if anything goes wrong you can always eat the incriminating evidence.
These are just a slight variation on puff pastry. Actually, not even really a variation, exactly the same technique only in a smaller quantity and the addition of yeast to the started dough. I guess that makes this closer to a croissant dough. The final turn is rolled in sugar and then the chilled dough is cut into squares, formed and left to rise and Voila, out of the oven comes total pastry heaven.
And a comment directly to Rose, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for not making me sift flour over the cup and then level. I can’t tell you how happy I was not to see that one little instruction in this recipe. I think it had to be my biggest pet peeve all through the Heavenly Cakes bake through. (Can you imagine me with only one pet peeve?) I don’t know why it bothered me so much but it always seemed to take me forever to do it and then I always made a total mess in the kitchen. Well, I did say that I never mastered the patience trick.
The procedure is pretty straight forward. The dough is made with flour, water, yeast and salt. Rolled out and then the butter block is encased in the dough. It is rolled out into a rectangle and folded into three like a business letter. A short rest in the refrigerator and then it is rolled again and folded and then rested again. On the third fold the dough is rolled in sugar. Then it is cut into eight squares, the corners of each square are folded into the center and then the new corners are once again folded into the center. The pastry is put into rings and allowed to rise and then baked.