Intro: Puff Pastry and Strawberry Mille Feuille
Hello and welcome to this instructable on how to make puff pastry. Once you have given this a go you will be so amazed by the results that you won't take another look at the ready made kind on the freezer aisle. Make sure you have a couple of hours free for this and I'm sure you'll be ...
First and most importantly is the prep. You will need:
200 g (7.1 oz) flour - You can use either plain or strong white
150 ml (5.3 fl oz) cold water
150 g (5.3 oz) butter plus an extra 50 g (1.8 oz) of it cut into small cubes
A pinch of salt
A few drops of lemon juice or 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
Step 1: Rubbing in the Butter
The main point to remember throughout this process is to keep everything cold, so keep the butter and water in the fridge until you need it. Add the cubed butter in a bowl with the flour and with the tips of your fingers gradually rub the butter into the flour, tossing the mixture around until it is all blended in evenly, and resembles a soft sandy texture. Try to use the tips of your fingers as this will stop the butter from getting too warm in your hands.
Step 2: Mixing It All Together
Make a little dip in the middle of the flour mixture and add the lemon juice, salt, a few drops of the water and using your hand in a claw shape, start to mix everything until it comes together. Turn the bowl around once or twice and add a bit more water if it's still a bit dry. When it's all come together in one lump, lightly dust your counter, table etc with flour and you may find it useful to dust your hands with flour as this will stop the dough from sticking when you take it out of the bowl.
The dough may be a bit sticky at this point so make sure you have a little bowl of flour ready. Give the dough a gentle knead, just until it loses its stickiness, sprinkle a little more flour if you need to. As soon as you have a nice smooth ball, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Step 3: Prep the Butter
While the dough is chilling, take the remaining butter and cover it in plastic. Using either your hands or a rolling pin, start to squash the butter into a rough oblong "patty" shape. You may wish to open the plastic and fold the butter over and squash it down again.
What you want to try to aim for is approximately a 2.75"/7 cm x 3.75"/9.5 cm slab of butter that is about 1 cm thick. The trick is to make sure the butter is the same firmness as the dough when you start to roll it out. I will admit at this stage that I realized I hadn't softened the butter enough (as you will see in the following pictures), however this won't affect the end recipe and my instructions herein apply - It's not a bit deal if this happens but at least you will know what happens if something's wrong. Moving on...
Step 4: Getting Ready for 1st Fold
Give your surface a light dusting of flour and take out the chilled dough. Rub a little flour over the rolling pin (this will help it not stick to the dough) and start to roll it out into a rough rectangle shape, using your butter slab as a guide until it's about 3 times the size of the butter. As you roll out the dough, pick it up and sprinkle a little more flour underneath to stop it sticking.
Now is the fun part. With the butter at the top, fold the top third over into the middle and then fold the lower third over the top of that (so the bottom end is folded over the top). Try keep it in a neater rectangular shape. Rotate the slab so you're looking at it length-ways and gently roll it out again into an approximate 10"/25.5 cm x 5"/13 cm rectangle. Fold it again as above and press a lightly floured finger tip into one corner (this is to remind you how many folds you've done). Chill the pastry for about 10 - 15 minutes and repeat this process a further 5 times. As you roll it out each time, try to keep all edges as straight as you can, this will help the end result.
*As I explained earlier, you'll notice that the pastry looks a bit patchy - this is because the butter was a little too firm in the preceding step - this will however have no effect on the outcome of this instructable.
Step 5: Getting Ready to Bake and Mille Feuille
So now I have done six folds of the pastry and I have about 450 g/15 oz. For the following recipe, this is called mille feuille (meel-foye) which translates as "thousand sheets". It's basically layers of pastry with cream and fruit, but it makes an impressive dessert for dinner parties. In this example I will cut off about 1" of the pastry (you can freeze the rest for upto 1 month) and this should be enough for 2 people.
Preheat oven to 200c/392f (I have a fan-assisted oven, but I have found this to be about right) and roll the pastry out to about 5.5"/4 cm x 10"/25.5 cm and about 3 mm thick. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment, then place another sheet of parchment over the pastry and lay another baking sheet on top of that - This will give you a thin crispy sheet of pastry. Bake for around 10 - 15 minutes in the centre of the oven until golden brown. You can give it a check after 8 or 9 minutes then give it a bit longer if you need to. If you noticed at this stage that some butter leaked out, it's not a problem, the pastry will still rise and crisp up as it's supposed to.
Next you can transfer it to a wire rack to cool while you get the next bits ready, or just put it straight onto a board and chop off the edges to give you a neat rectangle. You can see from the pictures all the layers inside the pastry, that has come from the folding process.
Step 6: Assembling the Mille Feuille
Just to keep things quick and simple, I've made this as a single layer, though you might like to add another. Using a sharp knife (be careful!) divide the sheet into 6 (so 3 rectangles each). You can at this point keep the sheets in an airtight container for a few days.
Whip about 150 ml/ 5 fl oz of whipping or double cream, you can add a teaspoon of icing (confectioners) sugar to sweeten. To start to assemble the mille feuille, put a pea-sized blob of cream on the plate and place the first sheet on top to stop it moving. chop 6 strawberries, remove the stalks and cut them in half length-ways. Trim the ends if you need, to keep them all the same size and place 6 halves onto the sheet, then spoon or pipe some cream in the gaps, until it's just a little bit higher than the top of the strawberries then place the next sheet on top of that, then add another layer if you wish. Finish by dusting the top with some more powdered sugar. Et Voila! Bon Appetit!