Recently I discovered the joys of pre-made puff pastry. Despite what might seem to be my penchant for studying long laborious cooking techniques, even I find it too time consuming to make puff pastry dough from scratch for every occasion. Somedays you just want to eat a tart and you want to eat it NOW. For me the consolation is at least knowing how exactly puff pastry works. Puff pastry is puffy because the dough has many hundreds of layers of butter dispersed throughout, through a long laborious process of folding, rolling, and resting the dough. When the pastry is baked, the butter melts and boils, steam lifts the layers of dough which cook into crisp pockets of air, and the pastry rises.
Unlike other doughs, puff pastry does not involve leaveners or yeast so the entire rise of the pastry is down to the layers of butter in the dough. Resting is required to relax the gluten strands and working in cold temperatures on all surfaces is important so the butter won’t melt while you’re rolling it in.
Asparagus, Spinach, and Mozzarella Tart
Heat some oil and garlic in a pan and wilt spinach into it.
Cut pastry into squares, and place layers of mozzarella, asparagus, and spinach in the center of the pastry and fold in.
Bake at 200ªC for about 15-20 minutes.
(Potato+Celery+Lentil balls made from leftover Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie)
Interesting discovery: Real Buffalo Mozzarella will produce a huge amount of liquid when baked in a tart like this, unlike some of the supermarket housebrand Grated Mozzarella packs, which I’ve gotten used to cooking/baking with. I was rather alarmed at first to see all the water coming out from the good/expensive mozzarella cheese. I checked the packaging on Sainsburys’ Grated Mozzarella and it seems that the addition of an anti-caking agent (potato starch) may be responsible for the lack of water and (favourably) chewy texture of their Mozzarella which the veggie eaters in the house have commented has quite an uncannily “meat texture”.
When I have more time I should like to explore and design a more comprehensive visual dictionary of pastry folds and other dough techniques. This is the result of one pomodoro’s work on the idea…