Bi Tries

Puff Pastry Part 2: We Live in Hell. Hell is Real, and We Live Here.

****HI just as a quick update, I wrote the first draft this post on March 14 and since then (it’s now March 20) things with COVID-19 have gotten crazy. Here in the Bay Area we are in shelter-in-place, meaning I’m not leaving the house except to go to the store, and even then we’re trying to limit our trips to once a week. On the plus side, I’ll have some more free time for baking, but people are hoarding things like flour, yeast, sugar, so if I run out of those things I’ll have to wait until stores restock and I can get more. I’m still going to post as much as I can, I even have a recipe I’m going to put up, but it’s a crazy chaotic time. Things are up in the air and seem very scary right now. I know this is just a silly baking blog, but in my real life I’m training to be a counselor, and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my education, as both a student and a person, is that you have to focus on the things you can control. Not everything can or should have a positive spin put on it, but I do believe that we will only survive by having compassion and care for others, and by continuing to search for things that bring us joy, in whatever capacity we can. For me that means focusing on my education, doing what I can to prevent the spread of the virus, and still baking delicious things for my family. Sorry that got kind of long-winded. Here’s my silly post about how I made some bear claws, I hope that it brightens your day just a little bit.*****

***P.S. I’m obligated to give credit for the title of this post to my best friend Marina who uses that phrase frequently. It’s fitting.***

In my last post I said that I was doing a big baking project because things are kind of shit right now. Well guess what they got WOORRRRRSSSSEEEEEEE!

It’s bad out there y’all. But I don’t need to tell you that. COVID-19 has everyone hoarding toilet paper like they’re going to have diarrhea every day for the next four months. Yesterday I walked into Trader Joes, took one look at the line, and walked back out. I needed things for my puff pastry though so I had to brave Safeway. Luckily nobody is hoarding almond flour or butter (although I did snag one of the last three bags of all-purpose flour). Also I heard someone in the store say “make sure you get a backup mayonnaise” which just tells you the state of things. But listen, if you’re trapped inside social distancing, what better opportunity is there to do a large and tedious baking project?! Enter full puff pastry.

If you read my last post you know that the palmiers I made used “rough-puff”, in which I grated the butter directly into the flour. Full-puff pastry requires making a “lean dough” that’s essentially a pie crust with a little less butter, then rolling that dough out and folding in a literal block of butter. After that it’s the same as the rough puff, rolling and folding and turning and rolling and folding SIX TIMES. And chilling in between each round. It took all afternoon guys.

For this recipe I used a LOT of different sources. The basic puff pastry recipe comes from my “The Home Baker” cookbook, which I got at a library book sale last summer and haven’t used since.

I also consulted this blog post from Veena Azmanov:

I wanted to make bear claws with my puff pastry, and LITTLE DID I KNOW that bear claws are usually made with DANISH dough which is DIFFERENT than both croissant dough and puff pastry. How exactly, I’m not sure. Some shit about eggs. Anyway, I wasn’t making danish dough, I was making puff pastry, so I had to scour Pinterest for bear claw recipes that used puff pastry, and I cobbled my final bake together from these various blogs:

For the construction of the bear claws and bake temp/time I used this recipe from Mr. Food Test Kitchen (which sounds and looks like if a food blog was a drug front):

For the almond filling I used this recipe from AllRecipes, which my mom and I have actually made before. I really like the filling, but look at those bear claws. They look so sad. They look like wallets. (They are tasty though)

I actually learned from my previous mistake and made sure that I didn’t add too much water to the lean dough, so it was a WAY less sticky situation and the dough rolled out very nicely. One thing I liked a lot about the HomeBaker recipe is that it gave dimensions for how big to roll the square of dough, and also how long the dough should measure each time you roll it out. I feel like I always have to guess and then I’m never sure if I rolled it out to the correct size.

The “lean dough”, consisting of flour, water, and just a little butter. (SEE I’M TRYING TO PUT IN MORE PHOTOS OF THE PROCESS. I’M TRYING)
The butter block about to be folded into the lean dough
The butter block encased in the lean dough, before the first turn

Doing the folds and turns is the trickiest part, because you have to make sure that the butter isn’t too warm or too cold, and also that you don’t smush the layers down too much. Honestly for me the trickiest thing was that the dough had a tendency to want to spring back to it’s original size, so I really had to put some muscle into the rolling. It paid off though, because after what seemed like 3,000 years I had completed all 6 turns and had some smooth beautiful puff pastry dough.

After rolling the dough (butter block inside) ready to be turned. Also don’t ask why there’s a fucking Jenga game in the picture there is exactly 1 room in my house with good lighting and it’s not the fucking kitchen so I had to run the dough back and forth between the kitchen and the other room to take pictures THIS IS WHY I NEVER HAVE PROCESS PICS
As you can see from the above two photos, you fold the dough into thirds (this is called a “book fold”), turn the dough 1 quarter turn, and you’ve completed your first “roll, fold, turn” round!

As usual I decided to not plan my time wisely and finish making the bear claws in the morning before work so my mom and I could eat them for breakfast. I made the almond filling, rolled out my puff pastry dough (I only needed half) and shaped them into cute little crescents, complete with slits cut for the…..bear toes….I guess. Finally I brushed a little egg-wash on top and sprinkled them with slivered almonds.

I’m on the train to FlakyTown

Just like the palmiers, I am SO HAPPY with how these turned out. They puffed BEAUTIFULLY, and yes the filling spilled out a tiny bit, but they all remained intact and gorgeous and so so so flaky. Once they came out of the oven I just drizzled a little glaze over them and we had warm bear claws for brekky. If I could critique the dough recipe, I would just say that there could be a littttlleee more butter flavor; the butter to flour ratio of this recipe was a little lower that some of the others I’ve seen. Regardless, they were still crisp and flaky and almondy and for a second I forgot that the world sucks.

Bear claws are the best y’all

I’m so pleased with how well puff pastry making is going. I thought for sure I would have to re-do the dough 500 times, but really it’s been a much easier process than I thought it would be. Here’s what I learned from this round:

  1. Once again, chilling the dough is critical.
  2. The dough has a tendency to spring back, but next time I’m going to try to give the dough more time to relax in between folds, apparently this will help (and also prevent the dough from becoming tough)
  3. Try to keep your edges even when folding and turning the dough to keep things nice and neat
  4. Puff pastry with a higher butter to flour ratio is a little bit more flavorful, but also probably harder to work
  5. The world may have run out of toilet paper, but baking still makes things a little better.

Stay healthy out there y’all. Next up it’s croissant time.

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