Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pastry Class at the Institute of Culinary Education - Part 2

Fruit Strip

I'm sitting outside in Saratoga, drinking iced tea, taking a break from course prep, and enjoying my last few days of summer. I so love the atmosphere of a good coffee shop, especially one with outdoor seating. The weather is perfect. The only thing missing is my dog - I left her at my mom's because I wasn't sure I'd be able to find us an outdoor seat. My local coffee shop at home is my home away from home, and my students all know I'm more likely to be found there than my actual office. I'm really more productive there than I am at my office - and with a laptop, wireless internet, and cell phone, who really needs an office these days?

But back to pastry class... days 4 and 5 were puff pastry, strudel dough, and phyllo dough... so much fun!

Our ICE Kitchen Classroom

We made both the quick puff pastry and classic puff pastry. I didn't do as thorough of a taste test as I would have liked, but I'm not sure I could discern a huge difference in taste between the two. The quick version was, unsurprisingly, much quicker than the traditional version, so I'll probably make that one more often - but the classic was so much fun and really made me feel like a baker, so I'll make that again too.

Puff pastry is not quick. My partner Ana and I ended up working straight through the lunch break in order to make everything on the menu: mille feuille (aka Napoleon), palmiers (aka elephant ears), almond sugar straws, and a puff pastry fruit strip. All of it tasted amazing - perfectly light and flaky and delicious. A lot of my classmates thought the texture was completely changed (for the worse) by the following morning, but I swear they tasted good for several more days. Sure, they might not have been perfect, but they were still better than a lot of pastries you can find for sale these days. I froze some of the straws and palmiers, and wonder if they'll still be good after thawing and re-crisping in the oven. I freeze cakes all the time, frosted and unfrosted, and it would be great if I could freeze pastry too. At the very least, I'm told that freezing the unbaked puff pastry works very well.

Recipe for Quick Puff Pastry (adapted from ICE)

20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Dice 2 sticks butter into 1/4" - 1/2" cubes; chill.

Whisk salt into flour.

Coarsely chop remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Put this butter and flour/salt into the food processor and pulse until butter is absorbed - about 10-12 one-second pulses. Add the remaining 2 sticks of butter (already diced), and pulse once or twice to distribute. Add water and pulse 3-4 times, just until dough begins to form a rough ball. You want big bits of butter remaining; do not over-process.

Shape dough into a rough rectangle on top of a lightly floured piece of plastic wrap. Lightly flour the dough, and top with another piece of plastic wrap. Press the dough with rolling pin to flatten, and then roll dough into roughly a 12" x 18" rectangle. Work quickly so the butter doesn't melt.

Peel away top piece of plastic wrap and invert the dough onto a floured work surface. Peel off the remaining piece of plastic wrap. Fold the dough in thirds, like you're folding a piece of paper to place in a business-size envelope. You should now have roughly a 4" x 18" piece of dough, with three layers.

Roll up the dough from one of the smaller ends, tucking the end underneat the dough at the end. Press the dough into a square, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm (overnight is fine).

The classic puff pastry is for you if you've had a bad day and can't get to a kickboxing class. You make a dough with flour, butter, salt, and water (I'll put up a detailed recipe for puff pastry in another post). Now, you need to make the butter (4 sticks!) into roughly the same size and shape as the dough, but you need to keep it cold so you can't use your hands. Solution? Take your versatile rolling pin, and whack the hell out of your butter until it gets soft! Seriously. After a few minutes of pounding, you can use your hand to quickly shape the dough into a small square, slightly smaller than the dough. Then you wrap the dough around the butter, and do some more rolling and folding over the next 24 hours or so... just so you feel a little better about the 4 sticks of butter, the classic puff pastry makes about twice as much dough as the quick puff pastry recipe above.

Sacristains (aka Almond Sugar Puff Pastry Straws)

Recipe for Sacristains (from ICE):

1 batch quick puff pastry (or 1/2 batch classic puff pastry)
egg wash (whisk together 1 egg with a pinch of salt)
3/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sugar

Roll dough out to form a rectangle, about 3/16" thick. Brush with egg wash.

Stir together the ground almonds and sugar. Scatter the almond and sugar mixture evenly over the dough. Roll the rolling pin over the dough to press the toppings into the dough slightly.

Allow the dough to rest in refrigerator for 1 hour (you can skip this step if you're in a really big hurry). Cut into 1/2" wide strips - a pizza cutter works well for this. Twist each strip into a corkscrew shape. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 375
°F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. These are best served on the day they are baked.

We made an amazing mille feuille and some other things as well. I'll put the mille feuille (a Napoleon) in the next post.

On Day 5, we made strudel (both sweet and savory) and then several things with phyllo dough. Butter was the theme of the day. It turns out that, like the puff pastry dough, strudel dough is a good thing to make when you need to get out some agression. After you bring the dough together, you slap it (hard!) against the table 100 times before it's ready to roll. This activates the gluten which allows it to be stretched so far.

Apple Strudel

Recipe for Strudel Dough (from ICE)

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (plus more for oiling dough)
warm water

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Beat the eggs and oil with a fork in a 2-cup measure (so worth buying if you don't have one, but any liquid measure which hold at least 1 1/4 cups will do). Add enough warm water to make a total of 1 1/4 cup.

Stir the liquid into the flour with a rubber spatula or your fingers, making sure no flour stick to the side of the bowl. The dough should be fairly soft.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently to begin developing the gluten. Pick the dough up and slam it (hard!) against the surface 100 times, kneading and folding occasionally. The dough should not be smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.

Oil a small bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning it over so that it is completely covered with oil. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the dough and let it rest at room temperature for about an hour or more. If it will be resting more than 12 hours, place the dough in the refrigerator (and let come to room temperature before continuing).

Time to stretch!! Cover a rectangular table (30" x 48" or bigger preferably) with a cloth, and flour the cloth generously. Place the dough in the center, and flour it lightly. Be sure that the dough is still smooth and that it didn't get folded as you removed it from the bowl. Roll it as thinly as possible with your rolling pin. Brush oil over the entire surface of the dough.

Dough is rolled as big as possible, then brushed with oil.

Preferably with at least one other person, pull the dough from the center outward, stretching it over the backs of your hands, fingers folded under. Keep stretching the dough until it's very thin - you want to be able to read paper through it. Some holes are ok.

Stretching the dough

Trim the very edges of the dough which are probably a little thicker than the rest. Let the dough dry for 5-10 minutes.

After stretching the dough, brush the entire surface with butter, and sprinkle about 1/3 cup of bread crumbs on top.

Fill the strudel with your desired filling. Here, apple strudel is on the left and topfen cheese strudel is on the right.

Roll up the strudel using the table cloth. Fold in (and occasionally trip) the ends as you roll.

Brush the strudel with butter. If you're using the entire strudel dough for one strudel, you will need to shape it into a horse-shoe shape to fit on the baking sheet. If you split it into two strudels, each will fit diagonally on one half sheet pan.

Bake the strudel at 400°F for about 40 minutes. If the pastry begins to take on too much color, lower the oven temperature to 350°F and cover the strudel loosely with foil.

Let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.

Apple Strudel - all done!

There are lots of options for filling your strudel. Click here to see the apple strudel recipe that the Daring Bakers made in May, as well as a different recipe for strudel dough.

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1 comment:

  1. i have taken several classes at ICE. lots of fun! everything you made looks great!!