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Have you tried a bit of rough puff yet?

Ok well that will have brought all sorts of search engine nutters to this blog. My own fault I know, but really in tart week, what can you do but uphold the fine tradition of barely disguised (all right then… not at all) innuendo?

So some tips for laminated pastry and my pear, roquefort and walnut tarte tatin recipe to follow.

Why bother?

I was asked yesterday if I’d ever make puff pastry and I said ‘yes of course, all the time in preference to bought’. I appreciate that makes me look like scary obsessive woman who measures pastry thickness (ok I did yesterday on camera, but then so did many others, they were just more subtle about it than I was. Brendan measured a pound coin and then used that as a marker), but what I mean is I would choose to make my own laminated pastry over shop bought because the shops open in the middle of the night when I bake aren’t selling puff and I never remember to drag the frozen stuff out of the freezer for the same reason.

People who say they can’t make puff pastry or pastry at all have never tried making rough puff pastry which is much quicker and easier for the novice than even shortcrust and still gives a good rise. Rough puff is the ‘no brainer’ go to for the pastry novice.

Full puff is better than rough

Well it depends what you’re trying to do. Full on puff pastry like James made is more fiddly and can rise to 8 times it’s thickness if you use 100% fat rolled into the flour and gives a finer texture, but really I’d only bother when I wanted that full on effect  and could cope with that degree of fat load such as for mille feuilles where the pastry is a star element of the bake and not the support act (an iced vanilla ‘millie fillie’ would have to be one of the items on my last meal for sure, and at 100% butter would be well on the way to making it my last meal).

With tarte tatin, you’re turning the puff out to then be compressed by the weight of the fruit on top, so the extra height effect will be lost. Using a rough puff for taste rating gives you the lamination you need but without the fat load and the hassle. That’s why most of us did it that way.

Is the rolling and folding important?

Yes it is absolutely vital. Everything has to be really cold (i.e. fridge/ice cold) as the rise comes from the fat melting in the oven and the water turning into steam and expanding into the gaps left by the fat. If you don’t keep it cool when making it, the layers of fat and dough aren’t kept separate enough and you lose this effect. Ideally the dough is cooled after every 2 turns (6 turns in total are traditional, 7 is passable) but Sarah Jane did all 6 of hers at once and Mary commented to Paul that her pastry was really very good despite the unconventional technique. But then Sarah Jane is the alchemist of pastry and can make shortcrust roll to wafer thin without shrinking as well.

This picture from Paula Figoni’s “How Baking Works” shows the difference between lamination occurring by keeping the fat separate at the top, and mixing the fat in at the bottom where no puffing has occurred.

The thing the books never tell you is that your rough puff will look like the worst case of cellulite ever until the end of turn 5 when magically for the last turn it comes together and looks like pastry dough. Before that it is just an unsightly lump of fat and flour (which could also be a description of my thighs at the end of Bake Off).

Where can I get the best description of how to do it?

Well the one that works for my way of thinking is the one in the Hairy Bikers book of Pies. I have only one book of theirs, this one, think it is great, and really cannot understand why I haven’t looked at any others. The section on pastry basics is good- page 344 is the rough puff I use as the basis for my tarte tatins nowadays and it has never let me down.

One final note

Cook it at the correct temperature. If it’s not hot enough it won’t rise magnificently as this picture shows. The one on the left was cooked at  175 degrees C and on the right at 200 degrees C.

I have a steam injection point in my oven and a couple of short jets of steam at the beginning encourages the lamination and rise.

So that’s it then, cool hands and keep it hot and a bit steamy then it’ll rise magnificently.

OOh er missus.

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