If you, like me, are a devotee of The Great British Baking Show and its stateside cousin The Great American Baking Show, then the words “rough puff” are definitely in your vocabulary, if not necessarily in your baking repertoire. This “cheater,” fast version of the more complicated puff pastry is a laminated dough designed to puff up during baking into light layers of flaky goodness.
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Great cooking comes down to confidence
Puff pastry: delicious to eat, hard to make
The lamination process for “full” puff pastry, created by sandwiching layers of butter between layers of dough by encasing a solid layer of butter in pastry and then rolling out with a series of folds, is, how shall we say, a tedious and annoying affair, which is often left to the trained professionals.
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There is nothing as disappointing as spending all the time and effort on scratch puff to bake it off and find it rises unevenly, or to have all the butter fly out of the dough and make your end result dry or greasy. Smart people know that frozen puff pastry, which you can buy in the freezer section of your grocery store, works very well. My preferred brand is Dufour, which I find completely indistinguishable from any I have had at bakeries, and significantly better than any I have made by hand.
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How rough puff solves those problems
Rough puff, in addition to being fun to say, because it sounds a bit naughty and euphemistic, is actually pretty simple and fast to achieve and can be a very good skill to build during these strange, stay-at-home times.
As the process below will show, you break down the butter in advance by either grating or slicing into thin planks, which gives you a jump start on the process. And because the butter is already thin and malleable, you can create a series of layers from the very beginning, reducing both the number of folding/rolling turns you have to do, and minimizing the need for long chilling time between turns.
This rough puff can be knocked out in about 30 minutes and will still bake up nice and flaky. It freezes beautifully, so you make a couple of batches to practice and then stash in your freezer for future pastries. It is a neutral dough, so it can go sweet or savory for your final bake, and I love it as a homemade swap-in for any recipe that calls for puff pastry. There are a ton of different versions of rough puff out there, and plenty of videos to watch. This recipe is my minor adaptation of a Justin Chappell version from Food & Wine, and he has a terrific video which can be useful for watching the technique.
How to make your own rough puff
1. Prep the butter.
Start with a chilled, European-style butter if possible. My favorite is Plugrá, which many bakeries use for their laminated doughs. It has a higher butterfat content than American butters, which will give you both a richer flavor and a more controlled puff, since there is less water in it.
To prepare, decide if you are going to grate or slice the butter. If you have a food processor with a thin slicing blade, I find that gives a really good result, but a large grating blade or the large side of your box grater will also work.
- Take your chilled butter from the fridge and put it into your freezer for 20-30 minutes. This will firm it up but not freeze it solid. I use one 8-ounce brick of unsalted Plugra, but you can use 2 sticks of regular unsalted butter.
- Put the butter through your slicer blade or grater blade, or grate by hand. The little chunk that will be left either on top of the blade or at the end of the sticks can be used for another purpose; you’ll end up with between 7-7½ ounces of sliced or grated butter.
- Put the butter on a plate or in a bowl and return to the fridge while you make the dough.
2. Make the dough.
If you used the food processor, you don’t need to clean it; just swap out the slicer or grater blade for the regular blade. (Or you can mix by hand in a large bowl.)
- Measure ½ cup super cold water in a measuring cup. Set aside.
- Put 1 1/3 cups of bread flour and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt) in the processor, and pulse to combine. With the processor running, drizzle in the water until it just barely comes together in a ball.
- Sprinkle more flour on your work surface, and remove the dough ball, and knead it just until it comes together and feels smooth and pliable, maybe 15-30 seconds. You don’t want to build up too much gluten or it will have trouble rolling.
3. Roll the dough.
Roll your dough on a floured surface to ¼-inch thick and about 8-10 inches wide. This will give you a long rectangle somewhere around 18 inches long. Using a soft brush, brush any excess flour off the surface of the dough. You want the short end of the dough facing you.
4. Layer the butter.
Get your chilled butter, and put it in an even layer, either shingling the slices so that their edges are barely touching or making an even layer of the grated butter. Leave about a 3-inch unbuttered section at the end closest to you.
5. Fold up.
Starting at the end closest to you, fold the 3-inch unbuttered section up over the butter. Brush any excess flour off the dough. Fold this up again and brush off. Keep folding up and over, brushing the excess flour off after each fold, until you have a flat rectangle. Place the seam side down.
6. Do one turn.
Turn the dough so that the short side is facing you and roll out again to about ¼ inch thickness. Repeat the same folding process as before, obviously this time with no butter, but still brushing off excess flour between each fold. Once it is folded up, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes just to rechill the butter. If your kitchen is warm, you might want to chill for 20-30 minutes before continuing.
7. Do two more turns.
Remove from fridge and repeat the process, rolling to ¼ inch thick, folding up while brushing off excess flour, then turn again and fold up. After the third turn you will have a piece of laminated rough puff pastry!
If you want to use it for a recipe within a couple of days, wrap it well in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. If you want to freeze it, wrap it well in plastic wrap then put into a zip-top bag and freeze: It will store for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using.
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