When looking for recipes for fruit I often come across puff pastry. Most of the time the recipe calls for already-made puff pastry dough that you can buy at the supermarket. I’m stuck on making things from scratch whenever possible, so I have never yet bought puff pastry dough. But I understand why people do. It’s because puff pastry is an art form. It is definitely not easy to make a beautiful, flaky pastry dough for a tart, from scratch. And, it takes patience. Such perfection is created with extra thin actual layers of butter and flour. But it sure does taste good to bite into such buttery joy surrounding your favorite cooked fruit.
Most of the time I will just make a simple pie. I have never made the for-real puff pastry, but I have evolved using my favorite pie dough recipe that calls for lots of butter. I simply use a different technique to create a homestyle puff pastry that is not so time consuming or difficult. It doesn’t look as pretty, but sure does taste flaky and delicious. The secret is to cut up your dough instead of mixing it.
Ingredients for Pie/Puff Pastry Dough – Makes two pie shells or twelve puff pastries
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 cups cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup cold water with ice cubes in it
Ingredients for Puff Pastry Filling
- 12 slices of butter
- 3 tbs brown sugar
- 6 pears peeled, cut in half, cored then sliced thinly
To make your puff pastry, work directly on your clean counter or a large cutting board. Mix together the flours, salt and sugar and make a pile with the mixture. Cut the butter into small chunks and place the chunks on top of the pile of flour. Use a large knife or a straight edge like a pastry dough shaper, and continuously cut the butter into the flour, until the butter is in very small chunks, about like peas, and spread evenly throughout the flour. This takes me about seven or eight minutes. Gather it all into a pile again and make an indentation in the top and pour about a quarter cup of ice water in. Now gradually cut the water and flour mixture together. Use the remaining quarter cup of water over the top and cut that into your mixture, until you wind up with a dryish flaky mixture that doesn’t seem to hold together.
Avoid the temptation to work it with your hands at this point. You want to retain this flakiness, or you will wind up with pie dough. Use your shaper or large knife and make a rectangle with your dough, about four inches high. Fold your rectangle in half by sliding your straight edge under half of your mixture and placing it over the other half. It will be flaky and messy. Shape it back into a rectangle with your straight edge, press down on it lightly to spread it out a little, and then fold it in half again. These are homestyle layers that you are making. It will be messy again, so shape it into a rectangle another time, fold it one more time, and then shape it one last time. Your butter will be getting warm by now, making your mixture a little less crumbly. Wrap your dough, shaped in a rectangle, and put it in the freezer for ten minutes, or the fridge for about half an hour.
In the mean time you can get your filling ready by mixing together the butter, sugar and cinnamon to taste, and slicing your fruit. When your dough is chilled, cut your rectangle in half. Take one half and roll it out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Do NOT over roll it. If you need to, sprinkle a little four to keep the butter from sticking to your rolling pin. If it is a little crumbly just press it with the palm of your hand to form your dough around the edges. Cut your large rectangle into six even pieces. Brush each piece with your butter cinnamon sugar mixture, and place your fruit on top in the middle. It should be just malleable enough now to fold up the edges of the dough and pinch them together to form a low border to keep the fruit in. Use a spatula to place each one on a cookie sheet. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough, or save that half in the freezer or fridge, for future use.
Cook your pastry in a preheated oven at 400 degrees, for twenty minutes, or until golden brown. Serve while still a little warm and you will enjoy every bit of the buttery goodness mixed with fresh fruit. The flakiness of the dough, created by keeping the butter and flour as separated as possible, is worth the extra fifteen or twenty minutes it takes to make these pastry treats once in awhile, instead of the always dependable pie.