quick puff pastry + rustic rosemary tart
You know those furrowed-brow-type people you see in the grocery store picking up packages of this or that, frowning at labels and then returning the offending products to the shelf with a disgusted little shake of their heads? I am one of those people. I like to think I’m not the only one of those people, but it stands to reason that if there were more of us the labels wouldn’t be quite so full of unpronounceable bullshit. Which brings me to the puff pastry.
Unless you live near a Trader Joe’s or a Whole Foods (I don’t) and are comfortable spending six or seven dollars on a sixteen ounce package of crap-free frozen puff pastry (I’m not), your choices are limited: Pepperidge Farm in all of its partially hydrogenated glory or nothing at all. I’ve generally gone with the nothing at all option, but after years of rejecting scads of perfectly delicious-sounding tart recipes, I had a puff pastry epiphany. “How hard can it be?” I thought, and set about gathering the necessary ingredients.
Namely flour and butter. Lots and lots of butter.
And while many of the recipes available online use words like “difficult,” “time-consuming,” or “painstaking” (geez!), I found the process to be none of those things. Making puff pastry is no more difficult or time-consuming than making pie crust (or sugar cookies, if that’s your thing). Plus if you don’t misread the recipe and add (ahem) three times the amount of salt required, your homemade puff pastry will be infinitely better than anything you can afford to buy at the grocery.
And then you can do all sorts of wonderful things with it, like slather it with goat cheese and sprinkle it with rosemary and eat it very slowly, dabbing your finger around after errant flakes of pastry and contemplating the magical union of flour-salt-butter-water while your goat-cheese-hating boyfriend, who is supposed to be enjoying his very own frozen pizza, interrupts you every few minutes to sheepishly ask, “Hey, can I have another little bite of that?” And because you love him very much, you will simply smile and pass him a slice without even the slightest trace of smugness.
Quick Puff Pastry
from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine’s Baking Illustrated
(makes enough for 2 tarts)
3 c. flour
1½ T. sugar (traditional puff pastry does not include sugar, and I might eliminate it next time)
1½ t. salt (that would be teaspoons, not tablespoons. just to be extra-clear.)
1½ c. (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼” cubes
9 T. ice water
2 t. fresh lemon juice
1) Place the flour, sugar (if using), and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add ¼ of the butter cubes and process until the butter is in dime-size pieces, four 1-second pulses. Add the remaining butter and process to coat the cubes with flour, two 1-second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
2) Combine the ice water and lemon juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle half the liquid over the flour and butter mixture and toss until just combined. Keep adding the liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clumps together in your hand. Turn the dough out onto your nice, clean countertop. It will be pretty dry and shaggy at this point.
3) Fraisage the dough. What? You don’t know what the hell fraisage means? Okay, fine. I didn’t either:
4) Brace the heel of one hand against the countertop and drag small portions of the dough forward in short brisk strokes, forming a large clump. Gather the dough together and repeat this process a second time. (here’s a nifty little illustration) Press the dough into an 8″x4″ rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
5) Sprinkle your countertop with flour and roll the dough into a 15″x10″ rectangle. Fold lengthwise into thirds. Starting from the narrow end, loosely roll up the dough as you would a pair of socks (for example). Press it to form a 6″x5″ rectangle. Repeat this process, first chilling the dough if it’s soft and sticky. When the second folding, rolling and flattening is complete, return the dough to its plastic and chill for at least an hour.
6) That’s it, you’re done. The puff pastry dough will keep in the refrigerator for two days or in the freezer for one month.
Rustic Rosemary Tart
adapted from Fine Cooking
(serves 6-8 as an appetizer)
3 oz. goat cheese
3 T. heavy cream
½ recipe puff pastry (or, if you insist, 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed)
zest of 1 lemon
3 T. fresh rosemary leaves
freshly ground black pepper
1) Preheat the oven to 450°F. Crumble the goat cheese into a small bowl. Add the cream and lemon zest and mash together with a fork to combine.
2) Lightly flour your countertop and roll the puff pastry out into a 12″x17″ rectangle. Dip a pastry brush (or your finger will work just fine) in water and brush a ¾” border around the pastry. Fold the edges in and press to create a border.
3) Smear the cheese mixture evenly inside the borders of the pastry and scatter the rosemary leaves over the cheese. Grind a little black pepper evenly over the top. Bake until the tarts are puffed and golden brown, about 15-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Slice and serve hot.