Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Cookbook: Pastry for Beginners

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.

When I bring the dough out of the refrigerator, it is time to laminate the dough. I dust it and the clean surface with a little bit of flour. I roll out the dough, to create a 12-by-15-inch rectangle. It is, of course, difficult to roll the chilled dough. I lift one short end of the dough and fold it to the center of the rectangle. Then I fold the other short end over the first to create a letter fold. I turn the dough 90 degrees, the first turn. I roll the dough out again into a 12-by-15-inch rectangle and fold it into a letter again. I cover it and freeze it for 20 minutes. On and on I go. I remove the dough and place it on the surface so that the long edge is parallel to the counter. I roll it out again to a 12-by-15-inch rectangle. I fold it again and rotate it 90 degrees. Again I roll it out into the rectangle and complete one more fold. I place it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Finally, I complete two more turns, fold it, and then chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Now the dough is ready to be used.

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 bake the pastries for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. The pastries cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

I'm pretty happy with the Strawberries and Cream Danish. I am very happy with the layers.

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  1. I was scared of making pasty, but over the last couple of years I have made shortcrust and rough puff pastry, but still haven't tried choux!!

    1. Choux pastry looks even more daunting than puff pastry. I hope to try it later this year.

  2. Oh my, that Danish looks wonderful! I'm impressed!

    1. It was an incredible amount of work. But I feel a sense of satisfaction that I did it.

  3. i have never been a good cook, but i used to be a great baker. now....not so much.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  4. I'm seriously impressed! I've made choux a few times but puff has always scared me off. The results look amazing though! How do you feel like the homemade compared to the store bought frozen puff?

    1. I've never tried the store bought frozen puff, so I can't compare. This was not sweet but it was wonderfully buttery.

  5. Wow you are a baker! Pastry too. I'm very impressed. beautiful danishes.

    1. This cookbook was perfect for a first try at puff pastry. I hope to try choux one day.

  6. Woa, I'm impressed. I've never made a choux pastry either and I cheat with puff pastry with this recipe https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/rough-puff-pastry. Works every time :-)


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