Puff Pastry – A True Delight

Puff pastry – what does it mean to me? Layers of buttery and pastry goodness is the answer to that question.

This delightful pastry’s lightness means that it can be paired with a rich sauce, if you’re using it as a component of a savoury dish. If using puff pastry as part of a dessert, it can be paired with a thick cream which it will carry beautifully.

This stunning pastry presents endless possibilities. I had been wondering about its origins – of course I would have considered it to be French. When I think of puff pastry, I think of splendid Parisian patisseries. All puff pastry induced thoughts lead to France and classical French cookery. I decided to delve into its history and I discovered an exciting tale.

According to Atelier Monnier, Puff pastry indeed originates from France, where it is referred to as pâte feuilletée. It was invented in 1645 by Claudius Gele, a pastry apprentice. He wanted to develop an improved bread for his father who was sick and on a diet of just flour, butter and water. Claudius made a bread dough to which he inserted butter into, kneaded the dough, folded it several times and then made it into a loaf. The resultant baked good was an incredibly pleasant surprise!

Claudius next found himself in Paris where he worked at the Rosabau Patisserie. It was at this patisserie where he refined and perfected his invention which contributed to the great success of the pastry shop. Claudius then found himself in Florence where he worked for the brothers Mosca, who were thought to have invented puff pastry. However, Claudius always kept his recipe a secret and prepared his pastries in a locked room (how enthralling!). I love this story and it is exactly the history I hoped this iconic pastry would have.

Puff pastry is an essential constituent for many classic French pastries but also in modern cooking. Regular puff pastry requires a little more effort in comparison to rough puff. The recipe listed below is for rough puff – to make life a little easier. While making puff pastry might be slightly time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort. Think of it as a labour of love.

Recipe:

  • 200g flour (plain or strong flour will do)
  • salt
  • 150g butter/margarine/relatively firm vegan butter
  • 125ml water, ice-cold
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

Note: In terms of turning the pastry (mentioned below), I’m sharing this Good Housekeeping UK video which is useful for anyone who hasn’t made puff pastry before and is unfamiliar with the turning process.

  • In a bowl, sieve the flour and salt.
  • Cut the chosen fat into cubes (approx. 10g pieces) and lightly mix into the flour without rubbing in. (It will be difficult to resist the urge to rub the butter in but you must be strong!)
  • Make a well in the center of the mixture.
  • Add the liquids and mix to a stiff dough.
  • Turn onto a floured work surface and roll into an oblong strip, approx. 30 cm x 10 cm, trying your best to keep the sides square.
  • Give one double turn as for puff pastry.
  • Allow to rest in the fridge for around 30 mins, either covered with a cloth or wrapped in baking parchment.
  • Give three more double turns, resting in the fridge between each turn. Allow to rest for an hour or so before using.

Puff pastry is versatile and can be used to make mille-feuilles, vol-au-vents, croissants, tarts, pies – the list goes on.

I decided to make little cream and jam layered pastries with the rough puff pastry I made today. I rolled the pastry to around 2mm thick, pricked it with a fork, cut it into rectangles as uniform as possible and baked them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment at 220C for 15-20 mins.

The buttery, flaky layers of puff pastry are such a delight that there’s no need to make a fuss of it by adding frivolous frostings. Let the pastry do the talking by simply adding cream and jam and dusting with icing sugar.

Layers of buttery, flaky pastry will comfort and sooth you.

Beetroot Brownie Love

I’m very enthusiastic about simple recipes that are quick and easy to prepare. If they contain something as nutrient dense as beetroot, it’s a bonus. Beetroots contain fibre, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamins B9 and C. They can be incorporated into both sweet and savoury dishes. Some of my favourite ways to use them are by pickling them, adding to salads, blending in a smoothie and of course, casually using them to make a cake. They contribute a wonderful richness to brownies and they also add sweetness due to their natural sugar content. As a result, you can add less artifical and refined sugars to your brownies without compomising on flavour. My favourite beetroots to use are purchased from Ardkeen QFS and grown by Tom Cleary, a local Wexford vegetable producer. They are deliciously sweet and abundant in flavour, derivatives of being grown with love and care. I’ve attempted to do them justice through my beetroot brownie recipe. The recipe and method are as follows:

Let’s get this kitchen party started and turn up the beet!

Ingredients:

For the brownies:

  • 2 medium beetroots, cooked & peeled
  • 150 ml golden/agave syrup
  • 150 ml sunflower oil
  • 180 g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 50 g cocoa powder

For the frosting:

  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 100 ml boiling water
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Recipe (Makes around 9 brownies)

For the brownies:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Line a square baking tin with baking parchment.
  • Cut the cooked and peeled beetroot into chunks and add to a blender/chopper with 150 ml syrup of your choice. Blend until smooth.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl and stir in the oil. Sift in the dry ingredients (plain flour, baking powder, cocoa powder) and mix until combined. The mixture should be a dropping consistency (add more oil if required), which will result in a more dense, fudgey brownie. You can add more flour if you prefer a brownie with a more cakey consistency.
  • Add the mixture to the prepared baking tin and spread out evenly for a consistent bake.
  • Cook for around 18-20 minutes. The brownie will continue to cook as you remove it from the oven and leave it to cool. Once I remove the pan from the oven, I normally pick up the brownie using the baking parchment and place it on a wire rack to cool, leaving it in the parchment until you have cooled, frosted and sliced it.

For the frosting:

  • Add 100 g dark chocolate and 100 ml boiling water to a pyrex jug or bowl and mix until melted.
  • Sift in 100 g of icing sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa powder.
  • Either whisk in by hand or by using a mixer (with a whisk or paddle attachment) and mix until the frosting has a whipped, velvety consistency. You can alter the consistency of the frosting by either adding more hot water (for a softer frosting) or by adding more icing sugar (for a thicker frosting).
  • Spread the cooled brownies with the frosting and dust with icing sugar, if desired.

These are wonderful served with vegan cream or yoghurt and some berries. Beetroot bliss.

The goods.