Monday, May 30, 2016

I wanted to re-visit the rough puff I previously made and show you what I ended up doing with it. This post will walk you through one of the easiest uses for a rough puff--the pinwheel cookie. In a post later this week I will show you how to make two different tarts.

But before we get to  that, I hope everyone relaxed and was able to spend time with loved ones this memorial day weekend.

I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Palm Springs with 11 friends, including a few who I've now known for nearly 18 years (it makes me feel old to say that). It was such an amazing get away--we had a huge house to ourselves and did nothing but lounge around in the pool, and share wonderful food and drinks for two days straight. Pretty soon I will have a new post about one of the most impressive things I've ever made--a breakfast wellington wrapped in a new type of pastry. As a short preview, check out this compilation of pictures from the weekend that Google put together:

These pinwheel cookies are incredibly easy to make, and are so versatile I am not even going to give you a recipe. All you need for these wonderful cookies are the rough puff pastry from my last post and the fillings of you choice. In fact, you could even use frozen puff pastry for these . . . but they really are so much better with homemade dough. Just look at how beautiful it is:

In terms of the filling, let you imagination run wild. You can go savory. You can go sweet. You can even go modern and do a sweet/savory combination. Here are a few possible fillings that come to mind:

  • Sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and feta
  • Bacon and thinly sliced hard boiled eggs
  • Guava paste and a hard, salty cheese
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Salted dulce de leche
  • Thin layer of frangipane (will be further explored in a future post)
  • Chocolate chips and walnuts

The key thing with the filling is that you want to avoid it being too wet, otherwise your pastry will get soggy and will not puff up. In other words, you must avoid the dreaded soggy bottom. With ingredients like spinach, you want to pre-cook and drain very well. With ingredients like jam or dulce de leche, you want to use very small amounts to keep it from overloading the pastry.

For mine, I decided to do both sweet and savory. For savory, I used a really nice jamon serrano and an aged british cheddar. For the sweet, I went with the classic cinnamon and sugar (approximately 1 part cinnamon to 5 parts sugar, but adjust according to your tastes).

You want to start by rolling out your dough until it is about 1/8 of an inch. For me, this gave me two rectangles about 8 inches by 12 inches. You can make your rectangles bigger as long as you keep that basic ratio, but if you go too much bigger (or too much smaller) it gets really difficult to roll up correctly.

Then, you want to evenly spread your fillings into a really thin layer. For the cinnamon and sugar, I ended up suing about 5 tbsp sugar, and 1 tbsp cinnamon. For the savory, I did a single layer of jamon serrano and a thin layer of shredded cheese. When you spread out your filling, you want to leave a once inch border around the whole dough to prevent leakage and to make it easier to seal.

After spreading your filling, you want to roll each rectangle into a long cylinder. When you are about to finish rolling, spread some water on the long edge of the dough so that it seals itself as you finish rolling it. As you can see above, my sweet log was skinnier because the sugar layer is much thinner than the layer of jamon and cheese. After rolling up the dough, you want to chill it in your freezer for about 20 minutes or until firm.

Chilling and firming up the dough makes it much easier to cut. Once you remove them from the freezer, cut them into even disks about 1 to 1.5 inches wide. Lay these disks onto your cookie sheet (lined with parchment or silicon) and bake them at around 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes (or until golden brown).

Both the size of  your pinwheels and the filling will affect the baking time and the temperature used. For super sugary filling, you might want to bake them for a little longer at 375 instead of 400. Either way, keep a close eye on them and take them out once the pastry has browned and puffed up.

Let cool and enjoy as a snack, or even as a breakfast with your orange juice or coffee. These are best consumed within hours of being made, but will last a day or two loosely covered on a cool counter.

Plus, you can freeze them after cutting them (and before baking them). Then you have a ready to bake snack anytime. Just throw them straight into a pre-heated oven, without defrosting, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Monday, May 23, 2016

It has been far too long since my last post. Although I've continued my cooking and baking adventures during the past three years, this blog lay silent as nothing more than a testament to the food of yesteryear. However, I could no longer ignore the legions of adoring fans who clamored for the blog's return. So, in all its (hopefully existent) glory, here it is.

I've wanted to start this back up again for a while and was just waiting for that final push to get me in motion. I finally got that push a week ago when I visited my best friends from law school in Chicago. Not only did I have one of my top three meals of all time while there (keep a look out for my upcoming post on Roister), but my friends and I spent an entire afternoon binge watching the first season of The Great British Bake Off. The actual first season, not what Netflix calls the first season.

Both of these experiences reminded me how much I love the process of making food, maybe more so than eating it, and made me want to continue sharing my modest attempts. At Roister, we sat at a counter immediately overlooking the tiny kitchen creating our entire meal. For the first half of the meal, we did nothing more than marvel at what the chefs were doing. After that we were too consumed with the actual food itself to keep watching, but being able to see them perform was part of why the food was so captivating. The same can be said of the GBBO--the final products on that show are impressive enough, but watching the process and the amount of work that goes into those final products really blows me away.

However, as impressive as it is to watch people perform at the top of their game, it also helps you realize that anyone can learn these techniques and accomplish amazing things at home. Not everything will be perfect. And you will throw away dozens of eggs and pounds of butter on failed attempts. But you will continue to grow with each of those failures and, when you do succeed, you get to experience one of the best feelings ever: watching people enjoy something you created.

That ability to connect with other people through food is why I love cooking and baking, and I hope this blog can serve as some semblance of that. Although I cannot share an actual meal with you, I will share with you some of the things I love and, through that, attempt to share a small part of myself.

The picture above appears to be a fairly unassuming piece of dough--what you cannot see is the hundreds of minuscule layers of dough and butter that will expand in the oven to create layers and layers of flaky and tender pastry (as seen in the baked goods the dough transforms into).

This magical dough is called Rough Puff (as in, a rough puff pastry). I have been obsessed with puff pastry since I first learned about it years ago. Since then, I've watched dozens of videos on how to make this dough at home but had never attempted it myself. I found it much easier to just run out to the store and buy a pack of frozen puff pastry because making it at home was basically a multi-day process. You would have to make a dough and then place a block of butter weighing approximately as much as the dough itself into the middle of the dough. You could then fold the dough over the butter and roll it out. Then you would fold the dough over itself and roll it out again. Then you would repeat that process again. And again. Throughout this whole time, you had to be absolutely sure that your butter remained a solid block and did not melt into your dough. This meant that your kitchen either had to be in the middle of a corn field in Illinois in December, or that you had to refrigerate the dough for hours at a time between each step.

As much as I wanted to, I was just not going to attempt that. Then, the GBBO taught me about the poor man's puff pastry--the rough puff. Although not easy when compared to boiling water, much easier than the full laminated puff pastry described above.

Rough Puff Pastry

225g / 8oz Flour
Pinch of Salt (mixed with flour)
200g / 7oz Butter
125ml / 4oz Cold Water
Squeeze of Lemon Juice (mixed with water)

(Recipe makes enough for one big tart or a couple dozen pinwheel cookies. I made a triple batch in the pictures below.)

You start off with the same basic ingredients as a pie dough or a laminated puff pastry. However, cut the butter into much bigger cubes than you would for either of those recipes (about 1 inch cubed). I stuck these in the freezer for a good 30 minutes.

Then take your hard pieces of butter than roll them around in your flour/salt mixture. After the butter is coated, start breaking it down into smaller pieces. I used a dough blade, but you can use your fingers.

Normally for a pie crust you would break down the butter until it is the size of small peas. Here, you actually only want to break up your pieces until they are about 1/2 the size as when you started. Then, add the cold water and continue cutting in the butter. The dough will slowly start to come together a tiny bit.

When the dough is just barely starting to come together but there are still really large pieces of butter, turn the dough out onto your counter. With your rolling pin or the heel of your hand start to press the dough onto itself. You will think you did something horribly wrong and it will feel like it is never going to come together. But as you roll it down you will see the butter starting to turn into thin layers and it will start coming together more. When this happens, start to shape it into a rectangle and continue rolling until it looks like the middle picture.

A bench scraper is pretty essential during this process so that you can make sure the dough is not sticking to your counter. Add a tiny bit of flour if needed to keep it from sticking. Using your bench scraper, fold the bottom and top quarters of the rectangle into the middle of the dough, and then fold it in half. This is called a book fold.

The dough will still be shaggy and pieces of butter will be sticking out a little. Turn the dough and continue working it with your rolling pin, making the dough longer but not wider. Fold one more time using the book fold. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough is thoroughly chilled, unwrap it and once again roll out your rectangle. Do one more book fold and turn (this should be your third one total). These turns will be enough to give you a good amount of layers and flakiness. But, I decided to be a rebel and went for a fourth turn/book fold.

As you can see, by the end your dough has really come together and has some really nice lines. Wrap it one more time in plastic wrap and chill it overnight. That dough should now have hundreds of flaky layers, and in the next few posts I will show you three different uses for it.

Although it is not quite as perfect as a homemade laminated puff pastry, the fact that you made it yourself will make it so much better than any store bought puff pastry you've ever had.


Message from bigman

Welcome to my blog, where you can join me as I revel in my love of food. Eating it, cooking it, baking it, watching it on TV and even learning about it. If it has to do with food, I am probably interested.

Most Popular Posts