P1080206Pâte feuilletée, or puff pastry, sounds like such a challenge to make–all that rolling, all that butter. It turned out easier than I had thought and far more delicious than readymade pie crust. That is saying something, because store-bought pie crust in France is, honestly, fantastic.

I used the recipe from my 1933 cookbook, “Le Nouveau Livre de Cuisine,” by a so-called Blanche Caramel. I had previously read that you have to beat the cold butter with a rolling pin, and not just any rolling pin but the plain wooden dowel kind. While Blanche specifies using a wooden rolling pin, she says nothing about batting butter. She even says that “in winter, it’s necessary to soften the butter a little by putting it in a bowl warmed by bowling water.”

While I understand the science of it–the “lean” water-based dough is wrapped around cold butter and the air bubbles released during baking are what make this pastry puff–I also am intrigued by the fact that puff pastry predates refrigeration. Only 3% of French homes had frigos (fridges) in 1950. What did Blanche do? Are we depriving ourselves of fresh, preservative-free puff pastry because we are worried about not living up to cold butter standards?

Let me say: Do not be afraid!

flour 2
Heap of flour. Make a well. Add salt.

Some years ago, I toured the château of Guise (pronounced geez) in northern France and learned that in medieval times, people collected ice, stuck it in the deep cellars beneath the chateau, packed with straw for insulation, and used it to make sweet sorbets during following months. Here are my notes from that trip:

The underground tunnels were very effective at keeping things cool. People would put snow and ice in them and it would keep for several months into the spring, and they would eat fruit sorbets made from the ice. However, it didn’t occur to them to use ice to keep food cool and fresh. One thing they used to do, and our guide said she found a medieval recipe for this, was to take a fresh pheasant and bury it in manure with the head sticking out. When the beak came off gently, it was ready—the meat would be falling off the bones. You’d unearth it, clean off the maggots, and  cook it in lots of spices and wine to mask the fact that it was rotten. If people had such lousy teeth back then, they needed the meat falling off the bones so they could just gum it, since they evidently couldn’t chew.

Anyway….Blanche says the dough must rest in a cool place (“au frais”), and I did take that to mean my fridge.

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Add water little by little and knead by hand.

The ingredients are simplicity itself:

200 g (2 cups) flour

4 g (1 tsp) salt

100 g (3.5 oz. or 7/8 cup) water

200 g (a tad over 7 oz. or 7/8 cup) butter

The recipe starts with the flour on a pastry board–just as my grandma seemed to start all of her cooking, from homemade noodles and dumplings to massive batches of cookies. Come to think of it, my grandma was of Blanche’s era, a housewife in the 1930s.

Make a well in the heap of flour. Pour in the salt, and little by little add the water while kneading by hand. The dough will be smooth and soft.

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A soft ball of dough. Isn’t it amazing that the same ingredients behind pastry heaven can give you paste? Or can thicken a sauce? Or turn into Christmas ornaments?

Form it into a ball, cover with a tea towel and let it rest for an hour or two.P1080194Sprinkle the pastry board with flour and roll out the dough until it’s 1 cm (less than half an inch) thick. Slather it with all the butter.

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A cardiac-crushing thickness of butter.

Fold the dough in half, then half again, sealing the edges so the butter doesn’t escape.

P1080197Roll it out as long as possible without tearing. Fold it in thirds lengthwise and then again in thirds along the width. Let it rest (in a fridge if you have one) for 10 minutes. That’s called “one turn” of the dough.

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No need to worry about beauty at this point. Sprinkle butter squirts with flour to keep them from sticking to your rolling pin.

Roll out the dough again, fold it in quarters. Roll that out and fold it in thirds lengthwise then in thirds along the width. Let it rest (in the fridge!) for 10 minutes. That is the second turn of the dough.

Do another turn of the dough and your puff pastry is ready to use. I cut it in half and put it in two 9-inch pie pans.P1080201While it was resting, I prepared quiche innards:

6 eggs

2 cups milk or cream or sour cream or yogurt or a mix of any or all of them

minced onion

cheese

some leftover ham

any other leftovers in the fridge

The only thing I measure with quiche is the number of eggs. Three fills one 9-inch pie pan. I had enough crust for two, so I used six eggs. Quiche is a good place to use up egg whites or yolks left from some other recipe. P1080203Beat the eggs with a fork. Add the milk /cream/yogurt, which makes the quiche less dense and more fluffy. Add whatever else you want in your quiche. Don’t forget salt and pepper, and maybe some herbs if you feel like it.

Stab the bottom of the crust with a fork a few times. Pour in the quiche filling. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Fahrenheit. I considered pre-baking the crust and then went without and it was fine–no soggy bottom at all.

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Bon appétit!

 

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19 thoughts on “Puff Pastry and a Quiche

  1. Wow! Looks absolutely delicious! My mouth is watering just reading your post. And thanks for the step by step (with photos!) …some of us need that kind of a tutorial.

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    1. Funny thing: I asked my kid what we should have for dinner tonight–pizza or quiche. The choice was quiche and my kid is making this pâte feuilletée crust. Which is proof it isn’t too hard. Of course we haven’t eaten it yet, so maybe I’ll eat my words.

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    1. It took a good 45 minutes. But check after 35 minutes or so. Your oven might run hot vs. others. If the egg mixture doesn’t jiggle, it’s done.
      BTW, since the last comment we had dinner. Our kid’s try at making puff pastry was a huge success.

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  2. I have wanted to try puff pastry for forever, but for some reason I am intimidated. I guess if your child can do it I should be brave.

    Jacques Pépin said until 1945 every garden was organic. Not as informative as your pheasant story. 🙂

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    1. Hi, can you please unsubscribe me from follow-up comments only? I still want email blog notifications but no longer wish to be informed if there is a new comment to an existing post.

      Thank you

      Marie Cunningham

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  3. It does look amazing and chapeau to you for making the puff yourself. I have done occasionally over the years and you can taste the difference. Your step by step instructions are excellent. The filling looks lovely. I actually never put cheese per se into mine. I use an old Lorraine recipe given me by a native of the area about 30 years ago. In it one uses simply crème fraîche or alternatively some curd cheese which here would be fromage blanc mixed with faisselle. It is light and wobbly and satisfies my husband’s no cooked cheese fixation. You are so right about what you say about modern notions of food safety. Bunkum in my opinion and to the horror and now that they are grown up, amusement of my daughters 🙂

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      1. Like Gratin Dauphinoise, Quiche Lorraine has no cheese. Which is not to say that other savoury flans can’t include it. And ironically my husband loves cooked bleu and is not averse to a tarte au bleu noix in these parts.

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  4. I have got to try it. I can almost feel the slight crunch of my fork in the crust. Yum. My mom used to make filled leaf lard cakes once a year using the same method. As much as I would drool over the thought of them I have yet to try it. One day…

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