Saturday, March 15, 2014

roasted strawberry tart - featuring cheater's puff pastry

A couple weeks ago I made for ya'll a delicious Mini Blueberry Tart. And that was fun and all but, you really haven't had fun until you've made this tart. And I know you're probably thinking to yourself, what's the difference, this one is just going to be topped with strawberries instead of blueberries. It's okay to be wrong sometimes. Instead of a pate sucree for the tart crust, we're going to be using a puff pastry. But not just any puff pastry dough, our own homemade one. That's right, so if you've been itching to now how those fancy french get their dough to become all flaky and such stick around for the answer.

The donations at the Chow Creations studios have been basically nonexistent this week. Which means a couple things. The first is that I'm broke. And the second means that I'm too broke to buy puff pastry dough, or good puns. Which means I have to make my own, which isn't the easiest thing to do, a close second to performing open-heart surgery on a fly. That's why I've devised this Cheater's Puff Pastry Dough which allows you to make puff pastry in less than 5 minutes. What what.

The key to this recipe is your mise en place, your preparation. You want to start with all of your components ready to go and for this recipe it starts with the butta'. Start with 4 tablespoons, or 1/4 cup, or half a stick of butter. Cut that into large pieces. Then take an additional 2 sticks of butter, that's 1 cup, and cut that up into little cubes. Refrigerate the butter until it is is cold. You should do this step like an hour before you even think about making the dough. 

Measure your ice water and reserve that on the side for the next step. It's important that everything is nice and cold, and stays cold because that is key to the success of this recipe. Now that we have all of our components we can begin the pulsation. In a food processor throw in your flour, confectioners sugar, and salt along with the 4 tablespoons of butter from the refrigerator. Pulse for five seconds. This first increment of butter prevents the dough from being too elastic and it makes it easier to handle. Add the rest of your butter and I mean it when I say this, pulse only twice. Down up down up. That's it. It's okay to see medium chunks of butter but overworking the dough, any dough, is a big no no. Drizzle in half of your water and do the same thing. Down up down up, resist any primal urges. Finally pour in the rest of your water and pulse three times. 

When you dump it onto the countertop you're going to think that you did something terribly wrong. There are still chunks of butter and some of the flour isn't completely worked in, that's normal. If your doubt wasn't caused by the previous reasons mentioned then you probably did something wrong, I'm not a miracle worker, I'm Asian. Anyways, gently and swiftly because we don't want the butter to melt, work the dough into a log. Flour your work surface and a rolling pin and smack the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. 

Then comes the layering process. In a traditional puff pastry we would do what is, well what I call, a "3"-fold. This is when you fold a third of the dough towards the center and then fold the remaining third over that. Look at the picture if you're confused. The reason why puff pastry is rarely made from scratch amongst amatuer bakers is because you need to do this step 6 times in order to create the 700 some layers that puff pastry is known for. Then the butter starts to melt so you need to let it harden in the refrigerator and then half your day is gone it's a nightmare. That's why in this shortcut puff pastry method I've tried to work around those little obstacles. Cooking is all about working smart, not hard. 

Roll the dough out to another 1/4 inch thickness and we're going to fold a final time. However this time we are going to do a book fold which is just folding both sides to the center and then folding the two sides over each other. I forgot to take a picture of that so look it up if you're still confused. Now we're done with the folding. These two steps are only going to give use a couple layers. The way we are going to create all those iconic layers is by rolling it up. Make the rectangle of dough a little bit longer and roll it up from one end. Flatten, wrap, and refrigerate. You can store this dough for up to six days in the refrigerator and 6 months in the freezer. If at any time during that entire process your dough began sticking just add more flour. 

Now that our dough is prepared we can move on to the strawberries. I have these beautiful strawberries that we got from the farmer's market. Perfecto. I'm going to hull and slice these and toss them into a large bowl. 

We're going to marinade these strawberries in a balsamic and honey reduction which just works perfectly with the berries. A little sour a little sweet. Over a small sauce pan take balsamic vinegar and sugar and reduce it by half. Add honey and if you want, some sprigs of mint. While it's lukewarm pour it over the strawberries and leave it to macerate over the counter. It should sit there for at least ten minutes, more would obviously be better. 

Finally the baking portion. Preheat the oven to 350 and place a rack in the center position. Flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch. Try to keep it as rectangular as you can but you can always cut away the rounded edges afterwards. When you're transferring your dough to another surface you can roll the dough onto a rolling pin and it'll make a heck of a lot easier. The more you know. Lay the dough on an oiled rack, don't follow my example in the picture. Later on I had to transfer the entire tart off of the foil so the bottom would get crispy. Arrange your berries on the crust keeping it an inch away from the edge. Brush the edges with butter and sprinkle with sugar, preferably a coarse sugar but granulated would work also. 

Bake for 30-45 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your crust, or the reliability of your oven, the times may vary. It's important that the crust underneath the fruit is golden and crisp or else your tart will be soggy. All you're looking for is that the food is brown. Like Anne Burrell says, brown food is tasty food. Do not take your tart out prematurely that will ruin all of the hard work you have put in up until this point. You will start to see the layers begin puffing up. That's because of the steam in between the layers of fat that forces the layers up and apart. For those of you who care this is called mechanical leavening. 

When the tart cools it'll get crispier, but like all baked desserts things always taste better fresh so try to make it on the day you want to serve. And speaking of serving, serve this tart with a dusting of powdered sugar and if you like a cream of your choice, whipped or ice. 

Well that's it. I know it seems like a hassle but the lasting result will be completely worth it, well if it lasts that long. Gosh the puns are just terrible this week. Anyways, puff pastry is really just a treat for all you who attempt it, so I really recommend everyone have it on their bucket list. Forget all you know about store bought puff pastry. So I hope all of you try this, the recipe is down below. And as always, 



Sweet Puff Pastry
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled 
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
4 tablespoons confectioner sugar 
2/3 cup cold water

Balsamic Strawberries
1 pint of strawberries
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey
some mint (optional)

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