Sometimes Making Your Own Puff Pastry Is Worth It

Sometimes Making Your Own Puff Pastry Is Worth It

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Ariel Knutson
Sep 18, 2014
(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

Culinary School: Week 11 (of 12 weeks)
Last Week's Diary: A Simple Tip for Beautiful Soufflés

In culinary school this week we made puff pastry from scratch, and it was the first time in the course that a recipe spanned two classes. I had always been told (or warned) that puff pastry was incredibly fussy and annoying to make at home, and it was much cheaper to simply buy at the grocery store. And while these things may be true, I was surprised to learn that the result really was worth the extra effort.

Creating the butter packet
(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

In classic puff pastry you are basically creating over 700 alternating layers of butter and dough. It's an incredibly delicate and time-consuming process to get those layers of buttery goodness. You need to refrigerate the dough each time you roll it out so the butter isn't absorbed into the layers of dough.

You start the whole process by putting a giant square block of butter in a tiny dough package (as seen in the above photo) and then you roll it out and fold it like a letter (as seen in the below photo). This rolling out and folding process is called "turns". You need to do six turns to get the ideal quantity of layers for your puff pastry.

Rolling out the butter packet
(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

The puff pastry was used for a fruit tart that had pastry cream filling. The tart was insanely delicious and one of my favorite things we made in class so far: It was light, yet buttery, and the fruit cut through those 700 layers with ease.

Will I be making it again in the near future? Probably not. But if a special occasion arises I won't be intimidated by the process.

Here's What We Made in Culinary School This Week

Jacques Pepin came to visit our class!
(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

This week in culinary we worked on cake (génoise), puff pastry, buttercream (for the cake), creme anglaise, and a hearty pot au feu. There weren't a lot of recipes this week, but everything we made took a substantial amount of time and attention.

La génoise (+buttercream)
(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)
Chef's pot au feu
(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)
My pot au feu
(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)
Bande de tarte aux fruit
(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

Next week is my last week! We're doing shellfish for the last day.

After dreaming about culinary school for the last five years, I finally signed up for a course this summer at the International Culinary Center in New York. The course, "Culinary Techniques," is a three month class that meets two nights a week, and focuses on classic culinary traditions and methods like knife skills, stock-making, classic recipes, and some pastry.

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