I feel confident baking many things. Cookies are something I've baked all my life. My Grandma Ashley's biscuit recipe is brilliant. Quick breads are a snap. I've made a million yeast rolls. I've loved making delicious homemade pie crust. I've even dared to make empanadas and clafoutis and kolaches.
I boldly call myself a baker.
Pastry? Do I make pastry? Well, yes, pies and little tarts. I've made cinnamon rolls and yeast rolls.
What about puff pastry? Choux pastry?
Here I deflate. No. I haven't ever tried making puff pastry or choux pastry. They looked a bit, well, daunting.
Then Pastry for Beginners arrived. I read over the recipe for puff pastry.
I think I can.
Puff Pastry Master Recipe
(Note: The recipe says that prep time is 45 minutes, with another 1 hour and 30 minutes for chilling time. Maybe I will eventually get the time down to that, but I worked on my dough for more than four hours.)
I begin by slicing a stick of butter lengthwise into thirds.
I lay the strips of butter on a piece of parchment paper about the length of a baking sheet, making a 4-by-5 rectangle. I gently press the butter together. The butter goes into the freezer to chill while I prepare the dough.
In a large bowl, I whisk 1 1/2 cups flour with 1/4 teaspoon salt. I make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. I use my hands to slowly fold the flour into the center. Then I add 1/2 cup ice-cold water and continue to mix and knead until a smooth dough forms.
I dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with flour, and place the dough ball on the floured counter, working it back and forth from the center, rolling it into an 8-by-10-inch rectangle. I then place the butter layer on top of the dough rectangle so that the corners of the butter point to the edges of the dough.
I fold the corners of the dough over the butter like an envelope. Then I cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
I'm going to use it to make Strawberries and Cream Danish.
I start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F. I line the baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick spray.
To make the filling, I blend cream cheese and sugar in a bowl. Then I add one large egg yolk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. I mix these together, careful not to whip the mixture.
I take the dough out of the refrigerator and unfold the sheet. I cut it into a 10-by-10-inch square. I cut the sheet evenly into 9 squares and place the squares on the baking sheet. I cut an inner square on the inside of each square by lightly pressing a knife about 1/2 inch from the edge.
I place 1 heaping teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture into the center of each square.
I put half of a strawberry in the center of the cream cheese mixture, cut-side down. I place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes.
I make an egg wash by whisking 1 large egg with 1 teaspoon of water. I remove the Danish from the refrigerator. I brush the edges of each pastry with the egg wash.
I'm pretty happy with the Strawberries and Cream Danish. I am very happy with the layers.
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