This weekend I had the pleasure of taking another cooking class from Elizabeth Faulkner and boy are you lucky that I did! The topic was Doughs and Dumplings. She wanted to teach us the techniques needed to create tender doughs and took great care to show us each step of the process. Elizabeth is passionate about pastries and gets really excited whenever she is talking about them, especially the history of baking in this country. Her enthusiasm is contagious and we all walked out of the class ready to get into our own kitchens and replicate everything she had made for us.
When she made hers, Elizabeth used a remarkable blueberry filling that was delicious, but because you guys love chocolate so much, I wanted to come up with a chocolate-based filling for you. My mother’s favorite ice cream was Rocky Road and in her honor that is the filling for these pastries! Gooey melted marshmallows and chocolate chips studded with toasted almonds for crunch. When you combine these with the crispy, slightly sweet pastry, it is a winner!
There is a desire by all beginning cooks to manhandle doughs. While this is fine with bread and pizza doughs that benefit from developing gluten, the proteins that give bread its wonderful chewiness, it is absolutely the opposite with pastries and biscuits. You don’t have to be gentle until you add liquid to the flour. Once you do that, every time you touch it you are developing gluten. You cannot avoid all gluten, so you let the dough rest which gives it a chance to relax. If you start working the dough and it shrinks back or you have to struggle to roll it out, cover and place it back in the refrigerator for a few more minutes.
Because the class was held in a private room upstairs in her restaurant Orson, there was limited electrical power. It provided the perfect excuse to show us how pastry doughs are made by hand. We have all gotten so used to using mixers and food processors that it was wonderful to see Elizabeth’s joy at getting her hands in the dough. As she pointed out, the only way to truly know when the dough is at the right stage is by the feel – when you have enough water or when the butter is at the right temperature – and you can only tell that by handling the dough!
I love taking cooking classes from pros because you always learn something new and reinforce earlier lessons. She started with beautiful white cheddar biscuits. As we watched, she worked the butter into the flour, using her thumbs and pressing the butter and flour mixture against her fingers (see photo above). You want the butter evenly coated with the flour and dispersed in the mixture. But be careful not to cut the butter into pieces that are too small. You have to start with fairly large pieces in order to have large pea-sized pieces visible in your final dough.
You treat this dough the same way you would if you were making croissants or Danish except that the butter is cut into the flour instead of being rolled in. Each time you roll it out and fold it in thirds it is called a “turn.” The more “turns” you give dough, the more layers of flakiness you are creating. You may be anxious to do more than 4 turns, but you run the risk of developing too much gluten.
The rests in between the turns are common in laminated doughs, but if you are pressed for time, you can skip a couple of the rest periods and double up on the turns. That means once you have rolled out the dough and folded it into thirds, instead of transferring it to the refrigerator immediately, roll it out again and fold into thirds again, in effect doing 2 turns at the same time. But be sure to only do this once in the process. The dough needs time for the gluten to relax and the butter to re-harden!
You can make the dough a day ahead and keep it well wrapped in the refrigerator overnight. This gives you some flexibility when you want to bake them. If you don’t want to make your own puff pastry, you can certainly use frozen versions. I urge you to buy the best quality you can find. Whole Foods usually carries a couple of options for you to choose from.
Elizabeth’s much-loved restaurant Citizen Cake is getting a new look and feel. She is re-tooling it into an old-fashioned style ice cream parlor with all the fun sundaes, phosphates, and other treats we loved as children. It will still have some of the items we expect including her Cobb Salad Sandwich, but expect and expanded ice cream and beverage selection. If you love Egg Creams and Hot Fudge Sundaes, this is the place to be in San Francisco! It will be ready to “open” around mid-September, with no interruption in service until then.
This fall she will be competing on the Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef.” We tried everything including bribery, but she wouldn’t tell us who won. You know all of San Francisco will be cheering her on each week! She also has a new cookbook coming out next year and I can’t wait. It will be filled with the foods she loves making for family and friends in her home. The working title is “Cooking Off The Clock” and it should be available for pre-ordering soon on Amazon and other websites. Keep an eye out for it and get a copy when it hits bookstores!
Enjoy and Happy Chocolate Monday!!
- Blitz Puff Pastry
- 10 oz all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- Pinch granulated sugar
- 6 oz ice-cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 tbsp cold crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 2/3 to 3/4 cup ice cold water (add ice cubes to water; remove before using)
- Egg Wash
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- Mini marshmallows
- Semisweet chocolate chips
- Lightly toasted chopped almonds
- Optional Topping
- Turbinado or other coarse sugar
- Semisweet chocolate chips
- Make the Pastry: In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Whisk to blend. Add the butter to the flour mixture and using your hands, smear the butter into the flour. You want the butter to be completely encased in flour but should be able to still see some obvious pieces.
- Make a well in the center and pour in the crème fraîche or heavy cream plus 2/3 cup ice water. Using your fingers, pull the dry mixture from the sides into the middle, mixing the flour and liquids until everything is equally moistened. If it is an extra dry day you may need to add the rest of the ice water just to dampen.
- Gather mixture together, pressing lightly to compact it into a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 to 2 hours. Even if the mixture looks dry and shaggy, it will continue to absorb the water as it rests. This time gives the gluten a chance to relax and the butter to re-harden.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin and working quickly, roll the dough out to approximately a 6x12-inch rectangle. Visually divide the dough into thirds; you will fold the dough just like you would a letter. With the long edge facing you, pick up the right side of the dough and fold it 2/3 of the width. Lift the left edge and fold it over the first, creating 3 layers. Fold this in half, wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator another hour.
- Roll the dough back out to a 6x12-inch rectangle and again fold it in thirds. Wrap in plastic and chill for another hour. If you are in a hurry, you can do two of these “turns” at the same time without chilling in between. You can make the dough to this point up to one day ahead.
- While the dough is chilling, make the egg wash. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water and cream. Set aside.
- Make the Pastries: Cut the dough into two pieces and rewrap one half, chilling it. Working with the other half, roll it out, adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking, until it is 1/4-inch thick. Even the edges with a knife, creating straight sides. Cut the dough into squares, about 6 to 12 pieces per half of the dough. The actual number of pieces will depend on the size of squares you cut.
- Check each piece and roll as needed for an even thickness. Brush each piece with a little of the egg wash. Place 3 to 4 mini marshmallows in the center of one of the squares. Top with about 1 tbsp chocolate chips and some of the almonds. Do not overfill each pastry. Top with a second square of pastry and gently press the edges together, pressing out any air and sealing the edges, the same way you would if you were making ravioli. Use the tines of a fork to press all the way around the outside edge, further sealing the edge. This helps keep the filling inside the pastry as it bakes, reducing the chance of leaks. Alternately you can place the filling closer to one edge and fold the pastry over creating turnovers.
- As you finish with each piece transfer it to a parchment-covered baking sheet. Using a fork poke a few holes in the top of each pastry, making sure the fork goes all the way through the top layer. You need to make sure the steam can escape. Brush the tops of each with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar for a crunchy sweet top crust.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Set tray of pastries in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes while the oven warms up. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. While they bake the marshmallows and chocolate will melt making a gooey, yummy filling.
- Place a wire rack over a sheet of parchment. Remove baked pastries from the oven and using a spatula, set on the wire rack to cool.
- After the pastries have cooled for about 15 minutes, melt about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in a saucepan and drizzle lightly over the top of each pastry in a zigzag pattern if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. They are best when eaten the same day they are baked.
- Yield: 6 to 12 pieces, depending on the size of the turnovers