Simple and effective you might say, which could well be my motto when it comes to presentation of my bakes. Nothing too fancy for me.
But at the same time, I love the challenge of difficult and sometimes, I must admit, time consuming techniques. And so I made my own puff pastry, and what’s more using the ultimate six-fold method for the first time. Call me crazy, but I find it very rewarding and in a funny way relaxing to make this pastry. But you could certainly use shop bought, Jus Rol all butter puff for instance. Even better, if you can find it, is the one from Dorset Pastry. This was even recommended by my baking guru Richard Bertinet.
I’ve given methods for two quantities of pastry below. The first is the quanty I actually used. The second is the usual quantity of shop bought puff pastry. As it happens it’s quite easy to scale the recipe up or down as required.
To make 16
- 300g butter puff pastry
- 120g caster vanilla caster sugar
To make 20
- 375g butter puff pastry
- 150g vanilla caster sugar
- Two or three baking sheets lined with baking parchment
- A ruler
Dust your worktop generously with caster sugar, and roll the pastry slowly and gently into a rectangle, 50x16cm if you’re using 300g puff pastry, 50x20cm if you’re using 375g. To stop the pastry sticking, lift and move it every so often, and redistribute or add more sugar to the worktop if necessary. Check the dimensions regularly with your ruler, and pat the pastry into shape as required.
Having made your rectangle, dust it liberally with sugar and run the rolling pin gently over it to press the sugar into the surface. Use your ruler to identify the middle of the long sides and fold each short side inwards to meet at this point, leaving a slight gap in the middle of about .5cm.
Dust the newly exposed surfaces with sugar and fold these into the middle once more. Dust again, then fold one whole side over the top of the other one. Press together gently, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up.
Preheat the oven to 220C (adjust for fan oven).
Use a sharp knife to cut the roll into 1cm slices. Place these cut side up on the lined baking sheets, leaving plenty of space between them (a bit further apart than in my photo as some of mine met up in the baking). Gently separate the two sides of each slice to leave a slight gap for them to expand into. Dust again with sugar.
As soon as they go in in the oven, turn the temperature down by 20 degrees. Give them 10-12 minutes until they are a light golden colour, then take them out and turn them over using a palette knife. Watch you don’t burn yourself on the hot sugar. When you return the trays to the oven, turn them round and swap them between shelves, so they brown more evenly. Give them another 7-10 minutes until they are a lovely rich golden colour on both sides.
Transfer them immediately to a wire rack. Do not put them on top of each other until their caramelised coating has set as they will stick to each other.
I adapted this recipe from the one in The Great British Bake Off - How to Bake the Perfect Victoria Sponge and Other Baking Secrets (aka the book for Series 2 of GBBO).
The usual advice is to trim the rectangle of pastry to the required size with a sharp knife. I thought that might be quite a challenge, not to mention wondering what to do with the trimmings. So I preferred to just try and roll it out to the right size. This was actually quite easy. I was prepared to have a couple of raggedy palmiers at each end of the roll, but this turned out not to be an issue, as any imperfections disappeared in the bake. I did however place the end slices with their cut sides upwards. If your roll is particulary uneven at the ends you could always neaten them up before doing the slicing.
I used a shop bought vanilla caster sugar (Fiddes and Payne – a bit pricey, but very tasty). Of course you could make your own (you probably do – shame on me for not doing so!).
You could use ordinary caster sugar. I’ve seen recipes that specify icing sugar and also granulated sugar. These would produce a different result, but no doubt equally delicious.
You could mix ground cinnamon or cardamom into the sugar. You could brush the pastry with melted butter before dusting with sugar. You could scatter with ground almonds or other nuts, or grated citrus zest. The possibilities are endless. I shall certainly be exploring some of them.