There’s something magical and fascinating about puff pastry and the way the buttery dough rises up to form crisp, golden layers of which there are anywhere between 513 up to 1459.
This week I’ll be learning for a second time in my life how to make puff pastry from scratch.
I first made it at the Pacific Culinary Institute in Vancouver. It was time-consuming work requiring what seemed like endless rolling combined with deft handling of the dough. And, then there was the butter. Oh so much of it, carefully and methodically rolled in between each layer.
It is thought that early puff pastry found its origins in Rome but was then re-introduced and perfected in the 17th Century by legendary French chef Marie Antoine Carême.
Carême, who likened the art of pastry to architecture, is credited with developing the ‘six turn’ method that resulted in unparalleled layers of light, flaky pastry.
Well that’s all well and good if you’re a master pastry chef. I’m most certainly am not. Yet.
For now I'll just stick to the store-bought kind, which for my purposes, is fantastic. While I’m not creating the kind of otherworldly delights found in Paris’ Poilane, I am winning friends nonetheless thanks to Careme pastry.
Unlike other ready-made pastry Careme is actually handmade using natural ingredients. Based in South Australia's Barossa Valley, Careme sells four types of artisan pastry including sour cream shortcrust and all-butter puff pastry which I used to make these berry and ricotta danishes.
Berry & Ricotta Danishes
12 strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
1/2 cup of blueberries, washed
2 Tbsp of castor sugar
1/8 cup of water
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of castor (berry) sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp of all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp of icing sugar
3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
3 sheets of store-bought puff pastry
Equipment: 1 baking sheet lined with baking paper
- Thaw puff pastry according to packet instructions. Once thawed, place pastry in the fridge to keep cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Place the berries in a saucepan over a medium-low heat. Sprinkle on castor sugar and add water. Cover saucepan with a lid and shake the saucepan around to coat the berries. Poach berries for about 5 minutes or until they soften but still retain their shape. Set aside to cool.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C (350F).
- Make the ricotta filling by combining all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon to thoroughly combine. Set aside.
- Prepare the glaze by mixing icing sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
- Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and place sheets on a clean, dry surface. Use a small, sharp knife to cut 10 8cm x 6cm (3" x 2.5") rectangles. Place 5 of the pastry rectangles on the lined baking sheet, making sure there is space in between them as they will expand. Lightly brush edges with a little water. We will call these the "pastry rectangle bases".
- Cut smaller rectangles out of the remaining 5 pastry rectangles so that you have small frames of about 1.5cm (1/2") in width.
8. Place the frames on top of the pastry bases on the baking sheet. See the diagram below.
9. Fill the middle of the frame with about 3-4 tablespoons of ricotta mixture. Top with several berries (reserve some for topping once the danishes are baked). Repeat process with remaining pastry frames.
10. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the pastry puffs up and is golden. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Top with remaining poached berries and sprinkle on a little icing sugar just before serving.