Pul­ver­iz­ing the puff pas­try pet peeve

Northern Pen - - Municipal - Terry Bursey New­found­land Ridge Baklava A La Mode

If there was ever a time as a chef when I was close to a full-on mind and spirit melt­down, it was be­cause of puff pas­try. Other yeast-free bak­ing prac­tices are a spot-on de­light for me (aside from pie, of course) but whether it was find­ing that per­fect oven heat, rolling that strudel log with­out tear­ing it or even keep­ing the phyllo from dry­ing out… I sucked at it.

I’m a lit­tle ashamed to say that for the ma­jor­ity of my ca­reer so far I’ve avoided pas­try like the plague rather than ac­tu­ally prac­tic­ing to im­prove. I saw the whole thing as an an­noy­ance of mon­u­men­tal pro­por­tions rather than a chal­lenge I could over­come and that “pet peeve” des­ig­na­tion that I hung over pas­tries had to die if I was to grow. Tack­ling this how­ever was about as dif­fi­cult as you would imag­ine, but with a smidgeon (wow, that’s an ac­tual word) of anger so strong that it makes you want to saw a chain­saw in half with a larger; more pow­er­ful chain­saw.

Know­ing full well that Eng­land is a smor­gas­bord (that’s an ac­tual word too) of pas­try, I de­cided I had to break that pet peeve and de­vote some ag­o­niz­ing time and money to prac­tice. Start­ing out small, I fussed with some ap­ple fill­ing, phyllo dough sheets and but­ter to make some generic strudels. All of which were tasty but ter­ri­ble, if that makes sense. Back and forth I trudged from my tablet to my counter and stove un­til I fi­nally got ev­ery last puff pas­try recipe that I owned right, along with three creative ap­pli­ca­tions. But not be­fore spend­ing al­most $200 and throw­ing my favourite cof­fee mug 60 feet out into the woods in frus­tra­tion.

Out of those three creative dishes I made with puff pas­try dur­ing my hellish night­mare, the tasti­est is: ½ cup honey ¼ cup corn syrup 1/3 cup but­ter, melted 1 cup cof­fee cream, chilled 5 sheets phyllo pas­try, halfed 2 cups par­tridge berries 1 cup sugar 1 egg white 1 tsp vanilla

This creative ap­pli­ca­tion was the eas­i­est part of it all. Af­ter star­ing at a box puff pas­try treat and won­der­ing how they bake it with the cream fill­ing sealed in­side with­out turn­ing it soggy. I asked my­self how I would do it if I tried and I fig­ured the most log­i­cal way would be to freeze the cream layer first and assem­ble the rest quickly enough to have it stay mostly frozen. Sure enough, it worked on the first shot…mi­nus a cou­ple bur­net edges. Luck­ily, that wasn’t some­thing a bread knife couldn’t fix be­fore I lost my tem­per again.

Happy Bak­ing!

Direc­tionsIn a small saucepan on medium high heat, ren­der your par­tridge­ber­ries with ¾ of the sugar, set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, whisk cof­fee cream with re­main­ing sugar and vanilla un­til forms stiff peaks, re­frig­er­ate. Cut phyllo sheets in half. Melt but­ter in mi­crowave for 15 sec­onds, stir mi­crowave and again for 10 sec­onds. Brush bot­tom sheet with but­ter, add a sheet, top with par­tridge­berry coulis, add an­other sheet brush with but­ter, add a new sheet, dol­lop with cream layer, freeze for 20 min. Quickly add ad­di­tional sheets while brush­ing with but­ter un­til all is used, brush top with egg white. In a pre­heated oven at 350 F, bake pas­try for ap­prox. 15 min­utes or un­til golden brown. Top with mix­ture of honey and corn syrup. Op­tional: Top with ice cream and de­sired top­pings.

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