Puff pastry is a beautiful thing. It's what we call a laminated dough, made by repeatedly folding butter and dough together until the layers are paper thin. When the heat of the oven hits the dough, steam expands from the melting butter and voila: you've got a light and delicately flaky pastry.
But as anyone who has tried to make puff pastry from scratch can attest, it not only takes time, but it's also kind of a pain in the ass. The temperature of the butter and the dough, as well as the ambient conditions of the room you're in, need to be just right for the pastry to turn out perfectly. Even after years of practice, it still makes me nervous. It's no wonder that most of us would rather just pop a package of pre-made frozen puff pastry in the shopping cart.
But most of us don't know what we're missing. From-scratch puff pastry is awesome. And many of us don't realize that there's an easier way to do it.
Years ago I came across blitz puff pastry, a method which does away with the worst step of the traditional method: perfectly encasing a block of butter into an envelope of dough. Instead, blitz puff pastry incorporates cubes of frozen butter, and after successive folding and rolling out, the chunks of butter flatten out and become layered into the dough. The results are very close to a traditional method, and much more foolproof. Yes, there is still a time commitment, but it comes without the usual stress.
Once you make up your own batch of Blitz Puff Pastry, what are you going to do with it? Here are three great ideas: the best Apple Turnovers you've ever had in your life, juicy Plum Tarts, and a savory Breakfast Egg Tart.
The Apple Turnovers are giant and luscious. Pre-cooking the apple and cinnamon filling gives you a head start on softening the apples, allowing you to focus on baking the pastry just right. Formed into the traditional triangle shape, these can even be made in advance and kept frozen.
Slightly easier to make are the juicy Plum Tarts. Pile fresh ripe plums and cinnamon sugar onto squares of puff pastry and bake until the pastry is golden and crisp and the fruit is soft.
For a savory twist, try the Ultimate Breakfast Tart: fill puff pastry shells with cheese, cherry tomatoes, and an egg. Pre-baking the puff pastry means all the components end up with the right texture: the pastry is crisp, the cheese melted, and the egg is just cooked through.
A final note to keep in mind no matter what recipe you choose: Always bake puff pastry when in a semi-frozen state to get the most "lift" from the butter. Once the pastry has softened at room temperature, it's a dud. If needed, re-chill the dough/pastry before baking.