recipe: the girls' guide to puff pastry

12 finished product
Making puff pastry certainly isn't neuroscience, but it definitely is one hell of a workout. Whether you're female or simply feeble-armed, this technique will facilitate all the flakiness you need, without the aching wrists and shoulder strain.
 [slideshow]

The Girls' Guide to Puff Pastry

Ingredients
  • 1 cup Gold Medal flour
  • 3 cups King Arthur flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, slightly softened
Instructions
  1. Mix flour, salt, and 1/2 stick of softened butter in a KitchenAid or other standing mixer, using the blade attachment.
  2. Crack an egg into a liquid measuring cup. Fill the cup, still containing the egg, up to 1 1/3 cups of water. Add to Kitchen Aid.
  3. When dough forms, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for 5 minutes.
  4. Shape dough into a ball and let rest, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
  5. While dough is resting, cut the remaining pound of butter into thin slices (about four lengthwise slices per stick of butter).
  6. Cut a sheet of wax paper 18 inches long and cover with butter slices. Cover with another 18 inch sheet of wax paper. Roll butter into a 12 x 16 inch rectangle, using rolling pin. Chill.
  7. Roll out rested dough into a large rectangle. Chilled butter should fill up about 1/2 to 2/3 of the dough.
  8. Place the butter in the center of the dough and fold into thirds.
  9. Roll out dough again and fold the dough “book fashion” (fold in ends to touch in the center, then close the “book”). Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill.
  10. Repeat the rolling out/book fold process four more times, chilling the dough in wax paper for 30 minutes between each rolling. Beware butter oozing out of the dough and fold all corners squarely.
  11. After last folding, chill at least 3 hours before use.

*The credit for this recipe goes to Betty Ann Donegan, long-time cooking teacher and chemist. She uses two different types of flour because the amount of gluten in flour determines the stiffness of the dough. Her recipe allows for a durable but flexible dough.

ordinary pleasures: sunday feast

As Spring approaches and the sun shines a bit brighter, my thoughts often turn to vibrant memories of markets and preparations for elaborate feasts - in short, my eternal Parisian Sundays. Each weekend, I would wake early to shop at Place d'Aligre - inventing dishes on the fly, experimenting with new ingredients. Whether it was pancakes (by request), a pork roast or an indoor picnic, each and every Sunday was "family" dinner for twelve.

Since joining the full-time workforce in NYC, my Spring Sunday routine has become simpler - typically beginning and ending with a long bike ride, in which the market is only one of several points of interest. If food is purchased, it's just a few interesting ingredients for the week, moreso than preparations for a celebratory weekend feast.

But on rare occasions - for a holiday or an out-of-the-ordinary reunion - I return to my elaborate Sunday kitchen. The weekends that I escape to my parents' home in Connecticut, these culinary impulses are at their peak, inspired by spacious counter-tops and cupboards (filled with tools for which I lack space in my meager Upper West Side studio).

This Easter was no exception. We spent Saturday afternoon preparing a home-made batch of puff pastry. On Sunday, that pastry was adorned with gruyere, creme fraiche, bacon and eggs - a spectacular and indulgent Easter Sunday brunch.

My sister and I went for a spin before eating, as per our NYC custom. As the sunlight gleamed through the tall seaside grasses, we squinted, rounding the corner for home. Just then, our uncle arrived in a family heirloom - grandfather's 1969 jaguar convertible - the cherry on top of our Sunday CT nostalgia.