Puff: The magic pastry

  • Article by: BY KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 18, 2012 - 2:57 PM

Puff pastry doesn't have to mean hours of folding, rolling and waiting. Our recipe saves time and effort - a crucial consideration when cherry turnovers are the reward.

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To regular readers of Baking Central, we know we can sound like a broken record. Oh, this is so easy ... Anyone can make this ... You can't beat homemade.

We trust that you find us true to our word. More to the point, we hope you enjoy learning new baking skills (or honing existing ones) as we explore how basic ingredients and techniques come together to create foods that don't depend on a package, a bakery or a culinary degree.

All of which brings us to puff pastry.

Puff pastry is an ethereal delicacy that, at first bite, seems like something best left to the professionals to prepare. Flakes of butter lurk between innumerable layers of dough, waiting for a blast of oven heat to convert just enough moisture into steam to create crisp strata of pastry.

Classic recipes are time-consuming and a bit intimidating, calling for chilled butter being added to chilled dough, then rolling, folding and chilling that for 30 minutes. Then repeating this process again. And again. And once more. Oh, did we mention the importance of keeping everything chilled?

Fortunately, there is an easier way to make puff pastry that delivers scrumptious results with about 10 minutes of mixing. Let the dough chill a few hours, or overnight, then use it to make those hallmarks of a summer picnic, cherry turnovers.

We cobbled together the best ideas from several sources to create this pastry. The basic recipe is from "Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts," although we liked the tip from the folks at King Arthur Flour to add a bit of baking powder to give to the dough "some added oomph in the oven," given that we're taking a few shortcuts.

The method comes from "The Modern Baker," by Nick Malgieri, which uses an ingenious technique of rolling folded dough into a spiral to create countless layers in one fell swoop.

While cherries are a classic filling, Door County's harvest doesn't start coming in until July, so we've suggested a few other ideas for these not-so-big turnovers. Fruit preserves are an easy option, and a good bet because the best fillings are quite thick. Because there's no sugar in this dough, it also can be used to make savory turnovers filled with mushrooms, leeks, sautéed greens, a mix of cheeses -- whatever strikes your fancy as the farmers markets open.

Turnovers make some of the best handheld meals or desserts, and with a batch of dough stashed in your freezer (pulled out to thaw overnight), you can make a delectable picnic lunch in less than an hour.

You know the drill: Oh, this is so easy ... Anyone can make this ... You can't beat homemade.

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