I absolutely love all things sweet. This past Lent season, I decided to forgo all sweets. Everything from chocolate to baked goods. It was a very hard feat as everyone who knows me understands that whenever there is any type of gathering, they always know that I will arrive with some sort of homemade goodies.
However, due to my void of all things sweet, I had to re-think my baking routine. There was many a time during these 40 days that I would page through cook books just looking at all the baking recipes, salivating and vowing that yes. I will make that...and that, and that!
One such recipe was for a Napoleon. Vanilla cream sandwiched in between layers of luscious puff pastry. I wanted to eat it directly off that page. Then I remembered I was fasting and the one thing I had do without would be exactly what was staring back at me from that cook book. That Napoleon. This then got me thinking. I wanted to bake, however, what could I tackle that didn't involve sweets?
That is when I came across this recipe for cheese straws made from homemade puff pastry. Now puff pastry is something that I have not yet made in my kitchen and to say I was a bit nervous, would be an understatement. How am I supposed to make such a flaky dough that would encompass 729 layers of goodness? This has got to be one recipe that I am for sure going to mess up.
To my surprise, puff pastry is surprisingly easy. Although it is time consuming. However, this recipe makes about 2 pounds of puff pastry which is good for several recipes. It freezes well so just like the store bought pastry, whenever you need some, just pull some out of your freezer and allow to thaw. Homemade puff pastry that is versatile from savory to sweet? There is nothing quite like it. Enjoy!
Recipe from Martha Bakes
1 pound All-Purpose Flour (about 3 1/4 cups), plus more for dusting
2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1.Weigh the flour accurately. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add 1/2 cup flour. Mix until smooth. Scrape this dough into a flat square about 1 inch thick. The square should measure about 5 inches by 5 inches. Wrap well in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine remaining flour with the salt. Gradually add the cream and mix until a rough dough is formed; it should not be sticky. Do not overmix. Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 12 inches by 7 inches, wrap in plastic, and chill, at least 30 minutes.
3. Remove the flour dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Place the butter square at the bottom edge of the rectangle,
and fold the dough over to completely encase the butter, sealing the edges by pinching them together and forming tight hospital corners at the edges.Wrap well in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Using a dry pastry brush, sweep off excess flour. With a short side facing you, fold the rectangle in thirds like a business letter, aligning the edges carefully and keeping each edge square. Turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise, so the flap opening faces right, like a book. This completes the first turn.
Pound across the dough, again in regular intervals, and roll out again to a 20-by-9-inch rectangle, rolling in the same lengthwise direction. Fold dough again into thirds. This completes the second turn. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
5. Repeat the rolling, turning, and chilling process for a total of six turns; always start each turn with the opening of the dough to the right, and always make your tri-fold in the same manner, that is, by starting from either the top of the dough or the bottom each time. By the sixth and final turn, the dough should be very smooth, with no lumps of butter visible. Use as little flour as possible for the rolling and brush off any excess before folding the dough. If the dough becomes too elastic or too warm to work with, return it to the refrigerator until firm.
6. Wrap the finished dough in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 2 hours after your final turn, or freeze for future use.
* Make small indentations with your thumb in the dough at the end of each turn so you don't lose track of how many turns you've finished.
1 pound Puff Pastry, about 1/3 recipe
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1 cup finely grated Gruyere
2 tablespoons toasted poppy seeds
1. Prepare the Puff Pastry.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If using, mix paprika with cheese. Sprinkle mixture on work surface. Roll puff pastry to a rectangle approximately 10 inches by 13 inches, pressing dough into cheese to adhere. If desired, sprinkle top of dough with poppy seeds. Press gently with rolling pin to adhere.
4. Cut the puff pastry into 3/4 inch strips, and twist from one end to the other. Arrange strips, 1 1/2 inches apart, on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Chill twists on bakin sheets until very frim, about 45 minutes.
5. Bake the cheese straws in middle of oven until golden brown and puffed, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer cheese straws to a rack to cool.