Sunday, September 25, 2016

Apple Picking and Puff Pastry

Fall is officially upon us, although this week was still brutally hot in Georgia. Despite the hot weather, some friends and I went to a local orchard to go apple picking! We went to an orchard that had a lot of different apples to choose from and pick. The orchard we went to also had cow milking and pig racing! Both of them were pretty anticlimactic... Nonetheless we had a great time!

My favorite part of the day was a little stop we made on the way back.  On the way to the orchard, we saw a huge field of sunflowers from the road. We decided to take a quick adventure on the way back to Atlanta. The field had over 90,000 sunflowers, and lots of bees and butterflies to support! I'd say the only negative was when I stepped in an ant pile (ouch!). The orchard was about an hour and a half from the city, so we definitely made the most of the trip there!

We picked a total of 62 apples, and split it up between 8 of us. I don't usually eat apples, but the season calls for lots of apple desserts. I put together a quick cobbler and a pie, but I really wanted to make a flaky pastry with some of my apples.

I haven't made puff pastry since culinary school. It was only once before, and I understand why I haven't tried to make it again. It's a time consuming dough, but the finished product is well worth it! Laminated dough is something really special- every layer you make ends up in the finished product, creating the most wonderful texture. On top of that, the dough itself is not sweet.

Apple Puff Pastry (makes 12)

8 oz Flour
2.7 oz Water
2 oz Butter, Softened
Pinch Salt
1/3 of an Egg (mix it, then add only a third)
1 oz White Wine 

8 oz Plugra Butter, for Butter Block

1. Place the water, egg, wine, butter into a mixing bowl for a standing mixer. Then add the dry ingredients into the bowl. Use a dough hook attachment to mix the dough well.
2. Once the dough has started to gather and pulls away from the sides, turn on a timer and continue to mix on low speed for 6 minutes.
3. After 6 minutes, shape the dough into a square shape, wrap the dough, and put it into the fridge to rest.
4. Make a butter envelope by folding a piece of parchment paper to 7 inches x7 inches. You should be able to make an envelope shape. This is done by folding the parchment in half, short end to short end. Then, fold the sides in toward the center, so that the area inside of the fold is 7 inches. Then, fold the top portion of the parchment down, so that the square is complete.
5. Place the plugra butter block into the envelope. Use your rolling pin to roll the butter into the shape of the square. Make sure it's evenly rolled out. Place in the fridge to harden.
6. Once the dough and butter are at a similar consistency, pull them both out. They should both be firm but not hard.
7. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 10 inch x 10 inch square. Place the butter block on the dough, so that it sits as a diamond within the square. Bring the corners of the dough together to cover the butter. Do not overlap the dough corners.
8. Roll out the dough to a long rectangle. This is the portion of the dough where you make multiple folds to create layers of butter and dough. The first fold should be a 3-fold. Fold one side in, and the other side over, so that it is like a letter. Wrap and rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.
9. Roll out the dough in the opposite direction of the last fold. If the fold finished on the side, you should rotate the dough 90 degrees, so that the fold would finish on top or bottom. Roll out the dough to a long rectangle again. Fold the right side about 1/4 of the way inward. Then, fold the other side to meet the first flap. Then, fold the dough in half. Wrap the dough and rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.
10. Remove the dough from the fridge and repeat steps 8 and 9, so that you have performed a 3 fold, a 4 fold, a 3 fold, and another 4 fold.
11. Place the dough back into the fridge to rest until you are ready to assemble.

Frangipane (Almond Cream)
.5 stick Butter
2 oz Sugar
1.5 oz Almond Flour
1 egg
.5 oz Flour
.5 tsp Vanilla

1. Cream butter, sugar, and almond flour together in a bowl.
2. Add egg and vanilla.
3. Scrape the bowl to make sure that the ingredients are well incorporated.
4. Add flour and mix until incorporated.
Final puff pastry dough
2 Apples
2 tbsp Sugar
Pinch Clove
Pinch Cinnamon
Pinch Ground Ginger

1. Roll out the puff pastry to about 1/8 inch thick. You can leave it a tiny bit thicker, but you want it to be less than 1/4 inch.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
3. Cut the rolled dough to 3.5 x 3.5 inch squares.
4. Place squares onto a flat, parchment lined sheet pan. There should be some space in between each.
5. Pipe frangipane into the center third of the pastry. This should be a layer that is not too thin or too thick. I look for something about 1/2 an inch thick.
6. Slice your apple into 1/4ths. Then slice out the core by make a diagonal cut. Cut the apple piece in half.
7. Taking the 1/8th of the apple, lay it on its side, so that the flesh faces away from you. Use your knife to slice about 1/8 inch pieces. You can discard the end pieces.
8. Arrange the sliced apples on top of the frangipane.
8. Sprinkle a small amount of the sugar and spice mixture over the top. 
9. Bake the pastry for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. 

Once the apple pastries come out, they are flaky and tasty. The apples have a great natural sweetness that pairs perfectly with the almond cream and nutty pastry. If you're eating this after a day or multiple, be sure that you put it into the toaster oven for a short time. This will allow the pastry to recrisp. If you are short on time, you can also recreate this using store bought puff pastry.

I'm not the biggest dessert person, but I am a total sucker for french pastry. I love that it isn't too sweet, but still has a lot of integrity. French pastry is completely classic, elegant, beautiful, and tasty! It is a little bit time consuming, but definitely worth the effort.


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