This week’s challenge: homemade puff pastry. I’ll preface this post by saying something I rarely say because it goes against my cooking philosophy: buy the boxed kind. The homemade variety is so.time.consuming. It’s chilling and mixing and rolling and folding and turning. It’s patting out butter and keeping dough cold but not too cold. Here’s the recipe I used, from The Settlement Cookbook:
I hate to admit it, but the boxed kind tastes better, too because it’s loaded with terrible, terrible things. Like vegetable shortening. I am butter’s #1 fan, but I’m a little unfaithful when it comes to pie crust and pastries because the crunchy, crumbly, flaky texture from shortening is unmatched. Well, not quite unmatched–see pie crust made with chicken fat!
There’s some variation of homemade “puff paste” or puff pastry in every single one of my cookbooks, even the 1867 cookbook. Of course there would have been because the only ingredients you use are water, salt, flour, and butter. I looked up the origins of puff pastry and it’s been around a LONG TIME! It was invented in 1645 by a French pâtissier’s apprentice who created a bread made up of the only ingredients his ill father could eat: butter, flour, and water. The flaky layers, the crispness, the puffiness, all were happy accidents which eventually contributed to his highly regarded reputation as an artist.
I noticed I have been posting a lot of dessert lately. I don’t know why I’ve gravitated towards making sweet treats because I have the biggest salt tooth on the planet. For a little variety, I created something savory, and naturally sweet without a ton of added sugar.
Last week, Chris was going to make a shallot, prune, and lamb tagine (more on tagines later because they’re delightful dishes–both as a tool and as a type of food–well worth knowing about) but the week got busy, or we forgot the soak the clay pot, one, so I had about 20 shallots on my hands. They’re $1 a piece here in Fairbanks, and I couldn’t stand to see them so to waste, so what better way to use them than on a crisp, puffy pastry.
While the labor intensive pastry was chilling for the nth time, I sauteed the shallots in butter. Halfway through the caramelization process, I added some honey and balsamic vinegar. Once the shallots were nice and brown, I layered them on top of the uncooked puff pastry, brushed a bit more of the sauce on each and stuck the whole thing in the oven for about 30 minutes. While the pastry was cooking, I added a splash of white wine to the honey, butter, and balsamic vinegar mixture and let it simmer until it reduced to about half, which was drizzled on everything when it was done.
- 1 Prepared Puff Pastry
- 12 shallots, peeled
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 3 Tablespoons vinegar
- splash of white wine
- 2 Tablespoons rosemary, finely chopped
- Coarse salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- If you're using frozen puff pastry, now would be a good time to take it out of the freezer to let it thaw.
- In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat.
- While butter is melting, trim roots from shallots. Throw in pan and toss shallots to coat with butter.
- Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until the shallots are golden brown and slightly soft.
- Once shallots are golden, move shallots to the side of the pan. In the center, add balsamic vinegar and honey. Whisk until sauce is well blended. Toss shallots to coat and continue cooking for a few minutes. Turn heat to low.
- Arrange shallots on puff pastry, coating both sides with sauce as you're transferring them from the pan.
- Place in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Whisk in a splash of white wine to honey-butter-vinegar mixture and let simmer until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, take pan out of the oven, brush with more sauce and sprinkle with rosemary and coarse salt. Place in the oven again and bake for 5 minutes more.
- Remove from oven. Once pastry has cooled slightly, drizzle with any remaining sauce and serve immediately.