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Tips for working w/ frozen puff pastry


Tony S.
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I had zero pastry experience before today when I attempted to make a fresh fruit tart for my niece. Basically puff pastry topped with pastry cream and strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, and mango. I bought frozen puff pastry from the grocery store and let it thaw on the counter for 40 minutes or so, as per the instructions on the box. After it thawed I had the hardest time unfolding the pastry and keeping it in a relatively even square that it should be. It just stuck together and I felt like I was stretching it too much in order to separate it. And one portion got really thin while the part that it was in contact with was thicker than the rest, like the layers didn't separate where they were supposed to. And while I did dock the pastry before putting in the oven, it still puffed up like a pillow. After it cooled I had to press it down and flatten it so I could spread the pastry cream on top, thus making a bunch of flaky crumbs on top. The finished tart tasted fine, but I really wasn't happy with the way it looked.

So what are the secrets of working with puff pastry. Specifically unfolding it so it remains a nice even sheet. Should I try unfold it while it's still a bit frozen? Perhaps I let it thaw too much. It was pretty warm today. And why wouldn't the docking keep it from puffing up so much?

Any advice would be appreciated. I'd like to try this again, but there was a point there where I was getting pretty frustrated with it all. Thanks.

fruit tart2.jpg

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In the restaurant, we had large sheets of puff pastry, which was nice because it was very easy to work with. When I've gotton the store bought puff pastry, unfolding it has been a nightmare, you never get an even sheet. I'd say after unfolding it, keep it chilled or in the freezer so when you handle it it wont pull apart into a thin sheet. I'm sorry, but thats that best advice I can give you, after I saw that sheet all folded up and the messy sheet that became of it, I stopped getting the stuff. If you look around, you may be able to find a place that sells puff pastry in larger flat sheets, like 9x11 or so

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Thanks. The unfolding part was definitely the most difficult. Once I got it unfolded the best I could I didn't really handle it much more. The first one I did try to roll it out a bit but it was sticking to the rolling pin and I wasn't sure about dusting it w/ flour so I just left it as it was.

I'll have to do some hunting to see if I can find larger sheets.

I'm curious though (and this thought just popped into my head so I haven't really thought it through)...What if I didn't unfold it at all. If I kept it chilled, could I just roll it to the size I want? That is basically how it's made anyway, right? Roll it, tri-fold it, chill it, roll again.

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... I just roll it to the size I want? ...

That was my thought - I've never seen puff pastry sold folded, but back in the UK in the 70's there was "Jus-rol" brand - it was sold frozen in a 1/2" thick slab that was maybe 9 x 4, and you rolled it out to the thickness you wanted.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I seem to have read somewhere, fairly recently, like within the last couple of days, an "expert" of some ilk (i.e., a "name" chef) suggest that when using store-bought puff pastry two things will help you out tremendously. First, thaw overnight in the fridge. Second, DON'T unfold. Put it, cold from the fridge, on your counter, and roll it to size in the folded state. Gives you more layers, and ensures that everything stays smooth and even.

Makes a great deal of sense to me. Wish I could give you a source to add to the 'cred, but, as I said, to me it makes sense.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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And here I was envious of Americans being able to buy puff pastry that just needed to be unfolded. Here in Canada, the brand you usually see in the grocery store is sold in a solid block & you roll it to size. Sounds like that's the way to go.

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If you are in the US, Smart & Final stores sell a box of frozen puff that's flat. Catch is, it's a big box and thus a hefty investment. That said, if you have the freezer space, it's very convenient because you can pull out single sheets to thaw and leave the rest frozen.

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read the ingredients, especially before purchasing a big box. some commercial "puff pastry" is made without butter. all sorts of hydrolized what-have-you in there...what's the point of that? puff=butter, imho.

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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And here I was envious of Americans being able to buy puff pastry that just needed to be unfolded. Here in Canada, the brand you usually see in the grocery store is sold in a solid block & you roll it to size. Sounds like that's the way to go.

Actually, President's Choice makes a puff pastry that's mostly butter and comes in rolled sheets. You just unroll and go. I always thaw it overnight in the fridge and have never had any trouble with it.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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If you are in the US, Smart & Final stores sell a box of frozen puff that's flat. Catch is, it's a big box and thus a hefty investment. That said, if you have the freezer space, it's very convenient because you can pull out single sheets to thaw and leave the rest frozen.

Thanks Lisa. That's funny b/c my bro-in-law is a manager at a Smart & Final. I'll have to find out from him if his store carries them and the price. I'm sure he could get me a discount. :biggrin:

And thanks everyone else for the tips. Nice to know that I wasn't so off-base with that "not unfolding" idea.

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It's weird seeing folded puff pastry in the US. It was always sold unfolded in Australia and I can't understand what possible benefit there would be to it being folded.

I'm sure it's all just about packaging and display space in the store. Probably easier & more effective to display a 3" tall box than a 9" one. Grocery stores probably don't move as many boxes of puff pastry as they do, say, frozen pizzas which would be a similar size as unfolded pastry. Therefore don't want to dedicate the amount of freezer space needed to display the larger box. That's just speculation on my part though.

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Tony, in regards to your question of docking/puffing, some recipes (such as for mille feuille) have you put a second baking sheet on top of the pastry, effectively weighing it down so it can't puff too much. I thought this might be undesireable since I assumed that puffing up was part of the point of puff pastry, to get nice distinct layers, but perhaps this isn't the case.

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Tony, in regards to your question of docking/puffing, some recipes (such as for mille feuille) have you put a second baking sheet on top of the pastry, effectively weighing it down so it can't puff too much. I thought this might be undesireable since I assumed that puffing up was part of the point of puff pastry, to get nice distinct layers, but perhaps this isn't the case.

I've seen that done on a cooking show once but didn't think about it before hand. And my intent was to create a border that would puff and the interior to remain relatively flat. Well considering how much trouble I had unfolding the pastry and keeping it even, folding in the edges for a border was just ineffective. But I docked the interior section quite a bit, at least I thought it was enough. Perhaps since the dough got pretty soft, the holes just kinda sealed up before they could be of any use.

I watched an old episode of "Good Eats" on puff pastry and my dough looked nothing like the dough Alton was working with. Obviously I made a lot of mistakes in regards to defrosting and handling. Next time I'll try to correct some of those mistakes.

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... what possible benefit there would be to it being folded.

Since we're speculatin',

Speculation 1: if it's folded, you won't mistake it for shortcrust when you're running on auto-pilot (hmm, not so credible)

Speculation 2: if it's folded, it's less likely to end up broken before it reaches the customer's home (much more likely)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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