Posted on

Puff Pastry

puff pastry

Puff pastry forms the foundation of as many sweet and savory treats as you can dream up, so it’s perfect to have on hand during the holidays for easy desserts and hors d’oeuvres. The much-loved dough bakes up into hundreds of delicate layers of buttery pastry, which can serve as a base for a tart, a wrapper for a turnover, or the layers of a napoleon, to name a few.

 

Puff pastry is made by repeatedly rolling and folding a block of butter into a tender dough until the butter is divided into scores of layers within the mass. This technique is known as laminating; when the dough is baked, the water in the butter turns to steam, causing the layers to rise and create a light, flaky pastry.

 

Here, we show two ways to make puff pastry at home. The classic version will give you the most layers, but it’s time-consuming to make. The quick version requires fewer turns and results in fewer layers, but the results are still delicate and delicious.

 

Classic Puff Pastry

For the puff dough:

3 cups (15 oz./470 g.) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup (4 oz./125 g.) cake flour

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm.) pieces

1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml.) ice water, or as needed

 

For the butter package:

1 lb. (500 g.) unsalted butter

2 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour

 

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 2 cups (10 oz./315 g.) of the all-purpose flour and the salt. Pour in the ice water and mix on low speed until a smooth batter forms. Scatter the butter pieces over the surface. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the remaining all-purpose flour and cake flour, 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g.) at a time, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.

 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 15-20 seconds to make sure it is smooth and not sticky. Flatten the dough, shape into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to overnight.

 

To make the butter package, using a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, beat or knead the butter on a work surface to flatten and warm it until it is cool and pliable, about 60°F (16°C). Sprinkle the butter with the flour and gently beat the butter with the rolling pin to press the flour into the butter. Shape the butter into a 6-inch (15-cm.) square about 3/4 inch (2 cm.) thick. If the butter has become too warm, wrap and refrigerate just until firm but still pliable (60°F/16°C).

 

To laminate the dough, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch (30-cm.) square. Place the butter at a diagonal in the center of the dough. Fold over the corners of the dough to meet in the center, covering the butter completely. Pat with your hands to form an 8-inch (20-cm.) square, then turn the square over so the seams are underneath. Roll out into a rectangle 24 inches (60 cm.) long by about 8 inches (20 cm.) wide, with a short side facing you. Fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. This is the first turn. Rotate the dough a quarter turn clockwise so that a fold is on your left.Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Repeat to make 5 more turns, rolling, folding and chilling the dough each time, for a total of 6 turns. Each time you start, make sure you have a fold on your left. After the final turn, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to overnight before shaping. Makes about 2 lb. (1 kg.) dough.

 

*NOTE: Many recipes call for 1 lb. (500 g.) of dough, or half of this recipe. Puff pastry is easily stored for later use; just cut the finished dough into quarters, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, place in a zippered plastic bag, and freeze for up to 1 month.

 

Weekend Project: Puff Pastry

 

Quick Puff Pastry

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz./235 g.) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g.) cake flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 lb. (250 g.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm.) pieces

1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) ice water

 

BY HAND: In a bowl, stir together the flours and the salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of large peas. Sprinkle the ice water over the surface and toss and stir with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula until it is absorbed. With your hands, pat the mixture into a loose ball.

 

BY FOOD PROCESSOR: Combine the flours and the salt and process briefly to mix. Scatter the butter over the flour and pulse about 10 times until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of large peas. Pour in the water and pulse 2 or 3 times until the dough starts to gather together, but before it forms a ball.

 

BY STAND MIXER: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flours and salt. Scatter the butter over the flour and mix on low speed until the butter is coated with flour. Pour in the water and mix just until the water is absorbed and the butter is still in large pieces.

 

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, dust the top lightly with flour, and pat into a rectangle 3/4-inch (2-cm.) thick. Roll out the dough into a rectangle 12 inches (30 cm.) long, about 7 inches (18 cm.) wide, and 1/2 inch (12 mm.) thick.

 

With a short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. Rotate the dough a quarter turn clockwise (so a seam is on your left) and repeat the process, rolling the dough into a 12-by-7-inch (30-by-18-cm.) rectangle and folding into thirds. Repeat the process a third time.

 

If at any time the dough begins to warm up and the butter begins to soften, place the dough in the refrigerator to chill for 20-30 minutes. After the third and final turn, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to overnight before shaping.

 

For longer storage, cut the puff into quarters, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, place in an airtight plastic bag, and freeze for up to 1 month.

 

Posted on

Chewy Chocolate Meringues

meringues

Crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, these gems not only are a cinch to make but also are completely addictive—you won’t be able to stop at one (or two or three). The cocoa nibs add a nice crunch and nutty flavor, but if you can’t find them, don’t worry; they can be left out.

 

Chewy Chocolate Meringues

 

1 cup egg whites (about 7)

2 cups sugar

5 Tbs. natural cocoa powder

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 oz. cocoa nibs

 

Space 2 racks evenly in the middle of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

 

In a clean, dry, heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Set over but not touching simmering water in a saucepan. Whisk constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat.

 

Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg mixture on high speed until stiff and glossy. Sift the cocoa powder over the meringue. Sprinkle with the chocolate and cocoa nibs, then fold together gently with a rubber spatula until combined.

 

Drop the meringue by heaping tablespoons, spaced slightly apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 9 minutes. Rotate the pans and bake until the cookies are fluffy, full of cracks and spring back when touched, about 9 minutes more. Carefully pick up the parchment sheets and transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to wire racks to cool. Makes about 2 dozen meringues.

 

Posted on

Bake a Layer Cake

layer

A towering, decadent, showstopping cake is the best way to celebrate a special occasion, whether it’s Easter Sunday or a spring birthday. Here are our best tips for pulling off your most memorable dessert yet!

Our Celebration Layer Cake Pans

make it easy to bake each layer, and with their pretty scalloped edges, you don’t even need to frost the sides before serving! Our Test Kitchen cooks love these pans because they work with almost any batter: our mixes, other prepared mixes or a scratch white or chocolate cake. Whether you’re using the layer cake pans or a regular cake pan, be sure to brush the pans with melted butter and dust with flour before baking, then cool them on a wire rack before frosting.

Slice into layers

If you’re using a standard cake pan, you’ll need to slice it in half horizontally. Hold a ruler up to the side of the cake base and, using toothpicks, mark the midpoint at regular intervals around the cake. Using a long, thin serrated bread knife, split the cake horizontally into even layers. Put one layer, cut side up, on a cardboard circle. Place the other layer, cut side down, on a sheet of plastic wrap.

Fill the cake.

 When filling a layer cake, jams should be spread thinly, while rich fillings, such as curd, pastry cream or buttercream, should be thicker. Lighter fillings like mousse should be thick, but never thicker than the cake layer. Mound the filling in the center of the layer and, using an icing spatula, spread it to the edge. Flip the other layer over onto the filling, cut side up. Gently push the layer evenly into place. Repeat with remaining layers (remember, you can make as many as you want)!

Frost and finish.

Before you start frosting, you need to make a crumb coat — a thin layer of frosting that sticks to the crumbs so they don’t mess up the surface. Place the filled cake on a work surface and put a small amount of frosting on top. Using an icing spatula, smooth a thin layer of frosting over the cake. The crumb coating should be thin and even, covering the entire surface of the cake. Refrigerate until firm, 15 to 20 minutes, before frosting.

To frost, mound the frosting in the center of the cake and use an icing spatula to smooth it gently and evenly over the top. Smooth down the frosting with broad strokes; be sure not to touch the spatula to the cake without icing on it, or you could pick up crumbs.

Dip the spatula in warm water and wipe clean with a damp kitchen towel as needed. The top of the cake should be flat. Whether you frost the sides is up to you — leaving them bare gives you a more casual dessert, while frosting them looks a little fancier.

Posted on

Banana Cream Pie

Jan-6-Banana-Cream-Pie-652x652

Most people would find it tough to choose a favorite pie, but banana cream pie would surely be on many short lists. The diner classic shines even more brightly when made at home, as each bite features a heavenly medley of buttery crust, velvety vanilla filling, rich whipped cream and slices of ripe, sweet banana.

Banana Cream Pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups (6 1/2 oz/220 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
5 Tbs. (2 1/2 oz./75 g) cold unsalted butter
2 Tbs. vegetable shortening, chilled
About 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) ice water

For the filling:
3 cups (24 fl. oz./750 ml) whole milk
1/3 cup (1 1/3 oz./40 g) cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (5 oz./155 g) sugar
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
1 vanilla bean
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 large bananas, peeled and thinly sliced

For the chocolate curls (optional):
About 6 oz. (185 g) semisweet chocolate, in a single piece

For the whipped cream:
1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) heavy cream
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the crust, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the butter and shortening into chunks and scatter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture just until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas.

Drizzle the ice water over the flour mixture and toss with a fork until the dough forms moist clumps. If the dough seems too crumbly, add a little more ice water.

Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Or, overwrap with aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month, then thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Place the unwrapped dough on a floured work surface and dust with flour. (If the dough is cold, let it stand for a few minutes to soften.) Roll out into a round about 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter and 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Transfer to a 9-inch (23-cm) pie dish, fitting the dough into the bottom and sides. Trim the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch (2-cm) overhang. Fold the overhang under, then flute the edge. Using a fork, pierce the dough all over, then line with aluminum foil and freeze for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Place the dough-lined pan on a baking sheet and fill the foil with pie weights. Bake until the dough looks dry and is barely golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the milk and the cornstarch. In a heatproof bowl, beat the yolks until blended. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the yolks.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining 2 1/2 cups (20 fl. oz./625 ml) milk, the sugar and salt. Using a paring knife, slit the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds into the saucepan and add the pod. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, then return to the saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil, whisking constantly.

Reduce the heat to low and let bubble for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve into a stainless-steel bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg white and the vanilla pod. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the filling, and pierce the plastic a few times with a knife tip to allow the steam to escape. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water and let cool until lukewarm.

Spread the banana slices in the cooled pie crust. Spread the filling on top. Press a clean piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

When ready to serve, make the chocolate curls and whipped cream. To make the chocolate curls, warm the chocolate in a microwave oven on medium-low (30 percent) to soften just slightly, about 15 seconds. Using a vegetable peeler, shave curls from the chocolate onto a sheet of parchment paper. Refrigerate the curls to firm them slightly before using, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a chilled bowl, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla. Using a mixer on medium-high speed, beat until soft peaks form.

To serve, remove the plastic wrap from the pie and spread and swirl the whipped cream over the filling. Scatter the chocolate curls over the whipped cream, cut into wedges and serve. Serves 8.

Posted on

Recipe Roundup: Pancakes!

Fotor0916120737-652x489

It’s National Pancake Day! What better excuse to treat yourself to your favorite childhood breakfast? A big stack of fluffy, comforting pancakes — complete with your favorite topping — is an easy way to please the whole family (and they’re just as good for dinner). Here are some of our favorite recipes.

 

Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry SyrupButtermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup
Buttermilk makes these pancakes light and fluffy — you can also add fresh blueberries to the batter for double-berry flavor.
Sweet Potato Pancakes with WalnutsSweet Potato Pancakes with Walnuts
Here, vitamin-rich sweet potatoes star along with crunchy walnuts in a modern take on traditional pancakes, dense with nutrition and full of flavor.
Bacon-and-Cheddar-Cornmeal-JohnnycakesBacon-and-Cheddar Cornmeal Johnnycakes
The subtle crunch of cornmeal gives johnnycakes a bit of heft. Our version, embellished with crisp bits of bacon and sharp cheddar cheese and served with honey or syrup, makes a delicious sweet-and-salty treat.
Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Berry CompoteLemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Berry ompoteC
Ricotta cheese lends a delicate, airy texture to these mini pancakes, and freshly grated lemon zest adds a hint of citrus flavor. They’re served with a warm compote of fresh tart-sweet berries.
Caramelized Pear Oven PancakeCaramelized Pear Oven Pancake
This beautiful oven pancake makes an impressive presentation, but it’s actually super simple to prepare. It’s also a quick way to make pancakes for a group! Tip: you can serve the pancake as a dessert, too — just add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Banana PancakesBanana Pancakes
This recipe features bananas in two ways: a ripe one is mashed into the batter for added texture and flavor, and slices of fresh bananas are served on top. It’s a great meal to make with kids.
Apple PancakesApple Pancakes
These apple pancakes are flavored with warm spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Grated apple is blended into the batter, then a thin apple slice is cooked inside each pancake for a pretty presentation.
Buckwheat-Blueberry PancakesBuckwheat-Blueberry Pancakes
Buckwheat flour lends flavor and whole-grain goodness to this classic pancake recipe, while tart-sweet blueberries give the tender pancakes bursts of fruit flavor.
Sweet Potato Pancakes with Pecans and Brown Sugar SauceSweet Potato Pancakes with Pecans and Brown Sugar Sauce
These gently spiced sweet potato pancakes represent the best of Southern down-home cooking, with a topping of toasted pecans and a drizzle of buttery brown sugar sauce. They’re the perfect treat for a cozy weekend morning with family.
Oatmeal PancakesOatmeal Pancakes
These pancakes get an extra boost rolled oats and buttermilk, and you can use whatever mix of fresh and dried fruits and toasted nuts you like. Try sliced strawberries, chopped dried apples and almonds.