I will open with the moral of the past week: just buy puff pastry. That's right, buy the frozen stuff in the grocery store and don't think twice about making your own.
I advise this from the very bottom of my heart: your shoulders and respiratory system will thank you. I also say this because, despite the past week being devoted entirely to puff pastry (with more to come next week), apparently even the top restaurants use the frozen stuff. Surprised? So was I. But, according to multiple chef-instructors, there is little difference in the taste of frozen or freshly-made puff pastry. Since it is incredibly time consuming to make even a small batch, I can now understand why restaurants would just use the frozen version.
We made a "quick puff pastry" dough last Thursday, which chilled over the weekend, and was used to create the hors d'oeuvres on Monday night. My partner and I worked to create a smoked salmon mille feuille and baklava.
The salmon mille feuille was a light, fresh little bite. It reminded me of a (very) mini version of the salmon in puff pastry my Mum makes for Christmas Eve dinner. Just a touch of the dill-butter sauce would have made these even more tasty.
For some reason I was never a fan of baklava. It was not because the quality of the baklava I was tasting was not good - we got it at Greek Fest every year - but I just didn't like it. This was much to the enjoyment of my Dad, who every year would pick-up a few pieces for me, "forgetting" that I didn't care for the taste of this dessert. Surprisingly, it never seemed to go to waste.
Looking at the ingredients, I could not figure out why I had not enjoyed this treat. We ground up the nuts and added the cinnamon and sugar. The process of actually assembling the baklava was quite time consuming: every layer of "dough" was six sheets of phyllo dough. And each sheet of phyllo dough had to be completely coated with a wash of clarified butter.
But the work was absolutely worth it. Fresh from the oven, it was coated with the cinnamon-infused honey syrup. Delectable.
Tuesday evening was spent preparing our puff pastry dough for the remainder of the week. It was incredible to see how much butter could be Incorporated into a seemingly small amount of dough (one pound of butter to one pound of dough). The first hour spent rolling and folding the dough was quiet and relaxing. The next three hours of rolling and folding the dough were not as enjoyable.
Wednesday morning, my arms and shoulders ached from all the rolling the previous night. I was still battling a head cold from the week before and inhaling all that flour dust made it even worse.
That night we were able to use the industrial sheeter, which was basically a giant pasta roller. I was at least thankful we did not have roll our dough into the necessary 14" x 16" and 11" x 22" sheets required for our desserts that evening.
The first dessert was apple strip, a rustic looking treat that seemed to beg for a hot cup of espresso. This went over incredibly well the next morning at work. In fact, it went so quickly, I didn't even get to take a piece. Most people decided that this was in fact the best treat thus far, restoring my quickly fading confidence in them after the peach pie incident last week.
The second treat was a gateau pitthiviers, which was a mound of almond frangipane sandwiched between two large circles of puff pastry. It was incredibly beautiful emerging from the oven.
I was even more surprised when we cut into it, the slices looked so pillowy soft. They tasted wonderful and went over very well the next morning when I served a slice to Mike with his morning coffee. So much so, I was forbidden from taking them to work and encouraged to make more whenever I wanted.
Thursday evening seemed to be a continuation from the previous night, as a mixed berry fruit strip and a napoleon were on the menu for the evening.
The fruit strip was similar to the night before, except the puff pastry shell was blind baked and, once cooled, filled with lightened pastry cream and topped with freshly-cut berries. I chose raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.
The napoleon was a cute little treat, although the fondant dried very quickly, making it difficult to draw the lines through the chocolate.
Next Thursday will mark the halfway point in the program. I can't believe how quickly it's going; in the middle of my long weeks, I feel like I will have this schedule forever. But the weekends offer me a brief moment to catch my breath and reflect on just how fast the time has passed already.