One of the techniques I’ve shied away from has been making puff pastry. Although I can be fairly tenacious, when I feel like I’ve worked diligently on something and it doesn’t turn out, I’m not willing to jump back to the task to get it right. Let me adjust that — when it comes to something that isn’t important in the grander scheme of things, that is. Making puff pastry would fit into that category. If you’re a pro at making puff pastry, then you’re most likely thinking, “What a quitter. It’s not that challenging…” and I would agree temporarily, but being the contrary person I am by nature, I’d come back with, “Yes, but when’s the last time you tore down a fence in your pajamas on the spur of a Monday morning moment while enjoying your first cup of coffee?” And then I’d go inside and start a not quite puff pastry dough, but yeasted laminated dough all the same.
I think what annoys me most about my failings as a cook is the waste. Yes, I absolutely learn something in the process of failing and know it to be an extremely important aspect of learning, but it’s the time invested when I’ve put off doing something else. It’s the waste of product if it’s not eaten, and therefore, a waste of money as well.
Sounds grand, doesn’t it? It’s really because I don’t like having my butt kicked by a recipe.
A good strategy after a colossal failure is to break down the task. Perhaps begin again with something similar, but not quite as involved. After success once, give it another go and pat yourself on the back. Bask in the glow of your accomplishment and then instead of tackling the dreaded initial failure again, try another recipe, again similar, but a bit more involved. Practice developing patience with copious amounts of deep breathing. Think about those turns and all that butter nestled between those layers. Still not quite puff pastry, but getting close.
So very close. And some chocolate never hurts in the process, right?
I’ll get there. I will. You wait.
Pastry Ring with Dark Chocolate and Cardamom
For the pastry…
2 lg. eggs
3/4 c. warm water
1 pkg. active dry yeast
4 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 T sugar
2 c. unsalted butter, divided
1-1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
For the filling…
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter at room temp
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. ground almonds
1/2 c. finely grated semi-sweet chocolate
For the wash…
1 lg. egg yolk
2 T milk
In a small bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the warm water (105-115 degrees F) and sprinkle over the yeast. Stir to dissolve the yeast and set aside for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift the flour and add the salt, sugar, and cardamom. Cut 1/2 c. of the cold butter into small cubes and mix it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter, or with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the yeast liquid. With a wooden spoon, working from the center and circling outward, incorporate the flour gradually until it is all combined. With a floured hand, knead the mixture in the bowl into a smooth dough, about 2 minutes. Form a ball and cover, allowing it to rest int the fridge about 20 minutes.
While the dough is resting, with a rolling pin, beat the remaining 1-1/2 c. cold butter between sheets of plastic wrap until it is soft and creamy and set aside.
On a very lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a loose rectangle, about 3/8″ thick. With an offset spatula, spread butter over 2/3’s of the rectangle. Fold the unbuttered third of the rectangle over the center third. Then fold the remaining buttered third over the other two. You now have three layers of dough with butter in between two of them.
Turn the dough so that the long side is perpendicular to you. This is a quarter turn. Roll it into another rectangle, about 1/4″ thick. Fold it into thirds exactly as before but no butter is added this time. Complete 3 more turns. Sprinkle it very lightly with flour, wrap well in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Toward the end of the chilling time, make the filling. Cream together the sugar and butter until smooth. Stir in the ground almonds and vanilla until well mixed. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Roll the chilled dough to 3/8″ thickness and a rectangle about 25″ x 10″. Spread the filling over the dough leaving a 1/2″ border around the edges. Sprinkle the shredded chocolate over the filling.
Beginning at the nearest long end, tightly roll the dough away, creating a long rope. Make sure the edge is underneath. Bring the two edges around to meet one another to form a ring, and dampen the ends with water to help them adhere. Place the ring on a parchment covered baking sheet.
With a pair of kitchen scissors dipped in flour, cut diagonal slices into the ring about 1-2″ apart, making sure not to slice down too far into the bottom. If desired, twist the slices a bit so that they’ll lean into one another.
Make the wash by mixing the egg yolk and the milk, then brush over the pastry. Avoid brushing on the inside of the swirl. If desired, sprinkle a coarse-grained sugar such as demerara over the top of the pastry ring.
Bake for about 25 minutes, turning the pastry once in the middle of the baking time. It should be well-puffed and very deep brown when it is done. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before moving it to a rack to cool a bit more before serving.
- This recipe was adapted from one found in the Joy of Cooking. I have to say that following the directions in that cookbook make me want to rip my eyeballs out. Is it the only cookbook in publication that believes that method is helpful, or am I the only one who doesn’t care for it?
- I began the dough early one day and allowed it to rest in the refrigerator overnight before resuming the turns. I allowed it to chill again for 2 hours after finishing the turns.
- Evidently, this one recipe can make 2-9″ rings. I, of course, made one humongous ring. So now I’m wondering about the effect of that information on my end product. The upper portion of the pastry was light, crunchy, and flaky. The bottom not so much. And I was worried to leave it in the oven longer, so who knows. Maybe you have some advice for me?
- I chose to sprinkle on the grated chocolate instead of mixing it into the filling. I’m thinking I should have mixed it. At some point, all the butter melted and I can’t help thinking some flavor was lost. I was careful not to cut too far down into the pastry when making my slashes, but must have done so in some places because there was a pool of butter and filling.
- The pastry is very light, buttery, and not too sweet. If you’re one who loves sweet and gooey pastry, then this won’t be something you’ll enjoy, but we enjoyed it. My husband took half to work, and I gave the rest to my mother, so it will serve quite a few.
- Will I make this again? Maybe. I still have croissants to tackle which means conquering puff pastry. Stay tuned.
- A printable version of this recipe is available here.
- The shaved chocolate I used was provided by Mars, Inc. who was sponsoring a taste test of their American Heritage Chocolate. Mars, Inc. also makes Dove chocolate. Although the Dove chocolate is sliky smooth and very creamy, the American Heritage chocolate is very firm, crunchy, and has an interesting spice to its flavor. We truly enjoyed its flavor. It’s a handcrafted dark chocolate made from an authentic colonial recipe and contains chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, spices, nautral flavors, annatto, and salt.
- Annatto in chocolate? Interesting. Evidently, it was used to deepen the color of chocolate in Europe until the 17th century, so that’s why it the colonial recipe includes it. I’m used to seeing annatto in ground form (achiote molido), or in a small paste brick usually incorporated into Mexican recipes. In fact, I have a chicken recipe lined up.
- It specifies that the chocolate can be substituted for any recipe that calls for semi-sweet chocolate, but that it should only be grated or shaved.
- I also received a couple of colonial recipes with my samples, one of which is a Chocolate Tart made with rice flour that I’m planning on making soon.
- For more information about American Heritage Chocolate, visit their web site. It’s full of information, including some great videos on how chocolate was made in colonial times. (You can take the person out of teaching, but you can’t take the teacher out of the person…I’m a complete nerd!)