Is store bought puff pastry really good enough?

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How many times have you heard a chef on TV say that store bought puff pastry is just as good as making it yourself? Probably many times! I know I have and I have never seen a recipe that says “first make puff pastry”. No one makes puff pastry aside from a few bakeries out there. Most businesses determined, long ago, that it is not cost effective to pay someone to spend the entire day making just laminated dough. They tend to have it shipped frozen and roll out the thawed dough to make their pastries.

Hey, I get it! I made full puff pastry in culinary school and it was a serious chore! But have you heard of “rough puff” dough? If you are a fan of The Great British Baking Show, then there is a good chance that you are aware of this baking shortcut.

I got to thinking, is store bought really just as good? I decided to make two identical tarts, one with store bought puff pastry and one with rough puff and compare the end products.

Puff pastry is all about building layers and keeping everything cold. I am currently in my kitchen in Tucson and the temperature the day I made this was 86°F, so not ideal conditions! But I went for it anyway, and here is what I found out.

Let’s start with the rough puff which is only four ingredients: flour, salt, butter and milk (or water). Since one huge advantage store bought dough has over making your own is time, I needed to record how long the rough puff takes to prepare.

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I gathered my hardware

I set my phone timer and hit start.

 

I combined 1 cup of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, whisked it together. Next was the addition of 5 oz. of COLD. European butter. Why specifically European? It is comes from grass fed cows and gives the pastry a quality our domestic butter just can’t match. But if you don’t have access to that, just make sure your butter is cold!!

 

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Look how yellow that butter is! 

The butter is cut into the flour and salt mixture until small bits of butter are visible.

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Lastly add the 1/4 cup COLD milk or water and combine until a shaggy dough forms.

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This is where the folding come into play. Pat the dough, on a well floured board, into a rectangle, about 8 X 10 and then fold into thirds. This is your first fold.

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Rotate 90 degrees, and repeat by rolling into the 8 X 10 rectangle and fold the dough into thirds and onto itself again. That is fold number two. The goal is to do this a total of 6 folds.

IMG_3921After my third fold is where the temperature in my kitchen caught up to me! The butter was getting soft, so after the third fold I had to put the dough into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to cool down. I finished the next three folds (for a total of 6) as quickly as I could and then the dough needs to be refrigerated for an hour before proceeding.

 

So, how long did it take to get to this point? When I got the pastry into the fridge for the 1 hour rest I hit stop on my clock.

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Since I had to stop and chill the dough and then let it sit for more than the recommended hour to firm up, my time was longer than it should have been. If I had done this in my Seattle kitchen, I think it would have only been about 30 minutes.

 

By comparison, if I was using store bought I would have saved this 50 minutes.

It was now time to make the tarts. First I pulled out the chilled rough puff pastry, rolled it into a 10 X14 rectangle, pricked the pastry with a fork. I returned this to the fridge while I prepared the store bought dough.

 

The store bought puff pastry was thawed, in the fridge overnight so all that was needed was to unfold it, roll it into a 10 x 14 rectangle and dock the dough. Since the store bought was already in a 9 X 9 inch sheet, the rolling out process was also faster.

So far they look fairly equal, except for their color.

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The dough on the left is the store bought and the right is the rough puff

There is a big difference in color thanks to the rich butter. There was also extra dough from the rough puff but nothing left over from the thinner store bought sheet. I used the extra dough to decorate the rough puff so I wouldn’t get them confused in the oven!

With Thanksgiving around the corner I decided to make pear, apple and cranberry tarts. Once the filling was in place they both went into the 400°F oven for 30 minutes.

They both looked great!

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Rough puff tart

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Store bought tart

Visually, there doesn’t appear to be too much of a difference! Choosing the lowest points of each crust to measure the depth of the crust showed that they were practically the same. A slight edge could go to the rough puff.

 

Slicing it open and looking at the layers did show a difference.

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store bought, end on view=dense, no air pockets

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Store bought bottom edge=small air pockets with a few layers

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rough puff, end on view=large air pockets, very flaky

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rough puff, bottom edge=air pockets all along the bottom edge

Now it was time for the taste test! My hubby was the judge, he was given a slice of each but it was a blind test. He did not like the buttery flavor of the rough puff! He said it was too buttery for his taste. It was also the flakiest of the two tarts, but the store bought was tasty too!

 

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The verdict? I felt that the rough puff was worth the extra time and effort. I would like to take one more crack at it with a cooler kitchen! I did like the flakiness and the extra butter flavor did not bother me!! Although if you are tight for time, then the store bought is just as good as making your own.

Rough Puff Pastry

A quick puff pastry recipe that is buttery and flaky and easy to make.

Credit: E2 Bakes Brooklyn

Ingredients

-1 cup flour

-1/4 Teaspoon kosher salt

-5 OZ. good quality European Butter, cold

-1/4 cup milk or water, cold

 

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms
  2. Flour a smooth surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours. 

Apple, Pear and Cranberry tart

  • Servings: 1 10 X 14 tart
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

A simple and elegant fruit tart. Perfect for a buffet table and can be served at room temperature.

Credit: invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-2/3 cup dried cranberries

-1/4 cup Calvados or Brandy

-1-2 apple, peeled cored and sliced thin

-1-2 pears, peeled cored and sliced thin

-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

-2 Tablespoons butter

-1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup

-egg wash as needed

 

Directions

  1. Place dried cranberries into a shallow bowl and add the Calvados, or Brandy or Water to rehydrate. Allow a minimum of 15 minutes.
  2. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and pears. Arrange in a pattern over the pastry dough. Add the cranberries and sprinkle with the sugar.
  3. Dot the tart with the butter and brush the crust with the egg wash. Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.
  4. Brush the warm tart with the maple syrup. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Black & White & Color, Photo Challenge

Here is my contribution to Linda’s challenge today. I generally take a photo of each sunrise here in Tucson. I am partial to the beautiful colors, but was a little curious how the image would be affected if it were in black and white. Very different pictures!

Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!

 

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Two Challenges, One Post!

Two of my favorite people currently have challenges due today.

Roda, from Growing Self Blog has her “Critter Connection, Fall Edition” and Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles started a “Black and White and Color” photo challenge.

I decided to mash them up today. I do need to explain a little bit about the critter I chose. We recently visited the Tucson Botanical Garden and when I saw this animal I immediately thought of Roda. I checked the “rules” for her challenge, and at no time did she specifically say the “critter” had to be currently roaming the earth.

I didn’t bother checking Linda’s rules because, well she doesn’t do rules!! So, I present the following:

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This velociraptor was part of the Botanical Gardens, prehistoric section. There were a couple other large reptiles, but this was my favorite.

I hope you ladies are ok with my interpretation of the challenges! Love you both 🙂

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Guest in Jest #18 Invisible-No-More

I was honored to be a Guest in Jest on Linda’s blog! If you haven’t done so already, check out her site and consider submitting a story for her to share 🙂

Everyone Else Has the Best Titles

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My name is Dee Dee, and I go by Dtills on WordPress. I started my blog, Invisible-no-more.com because I felt, well, invisible! I had entered that magical time known as “the midlife crisis”, sort of fell into it really, and couldn’t figure out how to begin the painful process of pulling my life together. My youngest had gone off to college, my husband and I were not connecting well and I felt alone and isolated. My blog is a chronicle of those activities, actions and connections formed that have helped me piece together a future that I now feel is hopeful and engaging. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have helped me as I work through this transition!

As for an amusing story, well this was not all that amusing at the time, but with the passage of 23 years, it has taken on…

View original post 849 more words

Half Marathon Training, October Wrap Up!

So here it is, November 7th, and I am just now getting around to posting the results of our last half marathon! I have been a little preoccupied with some other things, but now I am ready to get some closure on this, my fourth half!

I am not going to post our training schedule from October because it was a joke! We did not stick to it at all. We started off ok. October 3rd and 5th went as planned.

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I got my 5 miles in amongst the swirling leaves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and October 5th was a gorgeous 4 miles on a sunny day!IMG_0087

That’s when the wheels pretty much came off the bus! We fly to Kauai and had a marvelous time, not running! Well, my hubby did manage a 4 mile run but the humidity and hiking knocked me out! So when we returned on the 12th, it was a tough 5 miles for me!

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Even though the run was hard the weather was stunning! Fall had made it’s way into Seattle while we were gone!

 

 

 

Now it was time to log some serious miles if we wanted to get ready for the half! We did 11 miles around Seward Park on a spectacular day! Mount Rainier was out big time 🙂

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It was tough! And with only two weeks to the half, I was getting worried!

I did three shorter runs on the 18th, 20th and 22nd, these would be the last in Seattle, and in the rain, before we hit the road for the 24 hour drive to Tucson.

We were trapped in the car until the 25th. This is when everything became real! We had a total of 5 days to get acclimated to the elevation, heat and hills (so many hills!).

I ran 5 miles on the 25th and 4 more on the 27th-just two days to the half!

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I have never felt so unprepared for a half marathon in my life! Training was not where I wanted it to be, I was not acclimated at all and nutrition? Forget about it! But the day came anyway!

Fortunately the organizer brilliantly had the start before sunrise, at 6:30am. The first 8-8.5 miles went really well. I was happy with the temperature and felt pretty good. Then mile 9 hit, like a brick wall! The temperature started to climb and the oxygen felt like it was gone from the atmosphere. My legs turned to lead, as they often do, and I began a strategy of walking up the hills and running the flats and downhills only. Interestingly, I was not that much slower than my worst time. I ran about the same this time as I did for my first half marathon. I did finish, and that was the goal. How did my hubby do? Only off by two minutes from his current PR!! I hate him-no I don’t-yes I do!

We were both happy to have survived! One of the cool things about the medals was that they linked up to make map of Tucson. Do you remember the 10k we ran last month? That is the medal from the 10k race on the right in the picture above. If you finished the half marathon in October, you received the medal on the left, and when you put them together you get a mountain scene. Kinda cool! We have not seen that before. There was a third medal to make the scene even larger, but that was for a 5k back in August and we were in Seattle at that time.

Since it was Sunday we got home, showered and headed out to celebrate our “victories” by watching the SeaHawks Game!

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Everything turned out great, we can still walk and the Hawks won the game! Now I am running to just enjoy it and really haven’t thought about the next race. It will be number 5 for me, so I want it to be a special location. Any suggestions??

French-Irish Beef Stew, the short version!

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Back in December (almost 1 year ago!) I posted a recipe that I called French-Irish Beef Stew. I explained that the name reflected the marriage of both a traditional French Bourgeon and a hearty Irish stew, full of potatoes and other veggies. We do love that recipe but it requires an overnight step making it a two day process. Don’t get me wrong, the time is totally worth it! But sometimes we want dinner a little faster than that, so this version was born!

I began by dicing five slices of applewood smoked bacon and browning it in a Tablespoon of olive oil in a 6 quart, Dutch oven.

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The bacon was removed from the pan and set aside for later. The beef cubes were dried well with paper towels to facilitate browning. Salt and pepper were added and the beef was seared in the hot oil on all sides. This was done in batches, and in a single layer, to ensure that the beef did not sweat and was able to caramelize properly. This was added to the pan of bacon for later.

The batches take time, but it is a really important step to develop the flavor fully. While the beef was cooking I began prepping the vegetables.

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Two yellow onions were diced, as well as several cloves of garlic

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The carrots were cut into 1 inch pieces, on the bias

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Three Yukon Gold potatoes were diced

When the last batch of beef came out of the pot, the onions, carrots and potatoes were added and cooked for 10-15 minutes until the onions became translucent.

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After that time, the garlic was added and the mixture cooked for another minute or so. Then the beef and bacon were reintroduced to the pot.

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Now comes the good stuff! 1 bottle (750 ml) of red wine was added along with enough beef broth to cover the contents.

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Finally, tomato paste and thyme were stirred into the mixture. The pot was covered and placed into an oven, set at 250°F for 1 hour and a half, or until the veggies and beef were fork tender.

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The next addition was the sautéed mushrooms, which I like to do separately and then add to the stew near the end. You could put them directly into the stew but by preparing them independently it will add another level of flavor.

I happen to have some fancy mushrooms left over from a different recipe. I made “fancy mushroom toast” earlier in the week. If you haven’t had that, I do recommend it!

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Fancy Mushroom Toast, with 5 different types of mushrooms

You could use any type of mushroom for this stew, I just happen to have purchased more than I needed for the toasts! Sauté the mushrooms in a combination of butter and olive oil, until soft and dark brown in color. Reserve for later.

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When the stew is done cooking add the sautéed mushrooms and we like to add frozen peas (the Irish side again). The stew needs to be thickened at this point and I like to use a beurre manié. (so French!)

 

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Combine 2 T of butter with 2 T flour to make a paste. You will be able to add as much or as little as you like to thicken your sauce to your liking.

 

 

Bring the pot to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 15 minutes to make sure the flour taste has cooked off and that the components are heated through.

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Now you are ready plate it up! I added a little chopped parsley and a big spoon.

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Enjoy this one!

French-Irish Stew, the Short Version

  • Servings: 6-10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

A hearty stew that marries the best of classic, rich French techniques with the earthy notes of an Irish stew.

Credit: Invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-4-6 slices applewood bacon, diced (about 8 oz)

-1 Tablespoon olive oil

-2 1/2 pounds good quality chuck beef, cut into 1 inch cubes

-kosher salt

-fresh ground pepper

-2 yellow onions, cut into 1 inch cubes

-1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1 – 1 ½ inch cubes

-1 lb. small Yukon gold potatoes, halved or quartered

-3 – 5 garlic cloves, minced

-1 750ml bottle of red wine

-2 c. beef broth (or enough to cover the meat and veggies)

-1 T tomato paste

-1 t. fresh thyme leaves (or ½ t dried thyme leaves)

-1 T kosher salt

-2 t. fresh ground pepper

 

-4 T room temperature unsalted butter, divided

-2 T all purpose flour

-8 oz. fresh mushrooms, thickly sliced

-1 10oz. package of frozen peas

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven at 250° F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the bacon over medium heat. Remove the bacon and reserve for later.
  3. Completely dry all the beef cubes with paper towels. Add salt and pepper to taste and sear the beef in the bacon fat in small batches. Do not crowd the pan, take your time and sear all the sides. Remove the beef and store it with the bacon for later.
  4. Add the onions, carrots and potatoes to the pot and allow to brown for 15 to 20 minutes, or until your desired doneness. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the bottle wine over the stew and add enough of the beef broth to cover the meat and vegetables.
  6. Add the tomato paste, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the reserved beef and bacon, and any accumulated juices from the pan into the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover and put into the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until the vegetables are fork tender.
  7. When the stew is done in the oven place on the stove over medium heat. Combine 2 T of butter with the flour to make a paste. Add the beurre manié in small batches by stirring into the stew, it will begin to thicken immediately. Sauté the mushrooms in the remaining 2T of butter. Add the mushrooms and peas to the stew and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Season to taste. 

 

 

Have You Read Jay’s Novel Yet?

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Our very own James J. Cudney has written his debut novel, “Watching Glass Shatter”. The moment I read the synopsis, I knew I had to get involved!

From Jay’s website: This is my truth now

Book Summary

A contemporary fiction novel focusing on a New England family’s drama set in current times. The wealthy Glass family has lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons each react to his death in their own way while preparing for the reading of his will. But it is Olivia who receives a very unexpected confession from her late husband about one of their sons that could shatter the whole family.

Prior to revealing the secret to her children, Olivia needs to figure out which boy Ben is referring to in the confession he left her in his will. While the family attorney is searching for the mysterious Rowena Hector whom Ben says holds the answers, Olivia asks her sons to each spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past. But when Olivia visits her sons, she quickly learns that each one has been keeping his own secret from her.

Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life altering, but she will not rest until she is able to bring her family back together after Ben’s untimely death. Will she be able to fix them or will the whole family implode? We all need family. We all want to fit in. We’re a mix of quirky fun!

I knew this was going to be good, but I didn’t realize how much I would be drawn into the story from the first chapter! Jay is clearly a talented story teller and, while my version was purchased before further editing, I am confident that any literary alterations will only enhance an already superior body of work.

Jay will be starting a blog tour to promote his novel and I am honored to say the Invisible No More will his first stop! I want to encourage you all to read “Watching Glass Shatter” before he kicks off  the tour so we can all talk about the story, appreciate his interviews and we can all say “we knew him when”!

I purchased his ebook from Amazon, it is currently only available in this format. I don’t own a Kindle but Amazon has a free Kindle reader app which can be downloaded so you can start enjoying the story right away! It was easy to install and worked great, I am now reading his novel on my iPad.

Here is the link to purchase the book: Watching Glass Shatter

I will be posting a full review prior to the blog tour kick off, the schedule is below.

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You are going to be hearing a lot about this next month, so why not get a head start and see what all the (much deserved) hype is all about!