Pasta and puff pastry
It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. It was great to try some homemade pasta and puff pastry sheets during the semester break.
While trying to kick back and recharge over the semester break, I’ve had more time to spend in the kitchen. I can spend hours slaving away and numbing out while my brain focuses on the task at hand. I’m certainly not the only person who finds cooking therapeutic but during the cold and rainy winter days, the kitchen beckons just round the corner, safe and warm. These holidays, I have pushed myself and attempted a big batch of pasta and my very first attempt at home made puff pastry sheets. I can confirm it took me hours and a lot of effort, but I now have a big quantity of solid basics to cook with.
Before embarking on my pasta sheets, I always assemble my kitchen playlist while my hands are clean. When my music is ready and I’ve got all of my ingredients, I begin. I would previously make a small to medium sized batch. However, once I realised that I go through my pasta quickly and I could freeze it, I doubled the recipe. Once I have completed my dough and rested it, I put it aside in the fridge. If, on the rare occasion I am organised, I try to make it a day in advance so I don’t pressure on myself to have a bowl of food ready before midnight (this happened when I first attempted ravioli and it was well into the night before it was ready to eat). I can be slow in the kitchen. It is a space where I never feel stressed but I am usually happy with the food I produce. The best thing about having a readily available quantity of past dough is the infinite types of pasta, sauces and filling I can try. With my mum’s trusty pasta sheet roller, I try anything and everything. Some key things I have learnt when making pasta sheets are;
- Don’t roll too fast or rapidly
- Heavily cover the noodle bundles with flour to ensure they don’t stick
- Test different noodles and thicknesses, and cooking times to see what you like
- If I am ever feeling lazy, I just roll out the sheets and use them in a homemade lasagne
The dreaded puff pastry
I have heard that puff pastry can be a fickle thing. I can attest to this. It isn’t an overly labour-intensive process but it does take a whole day. Each roll and fold might only take ten minutes but the intermittent two hour resting period can make the process drag on. I tried to do some solid research before starting to see where people go wrong and what makes a good puff pastry (so much butter it is sinful). Some key things I learnt included;
- Don’t be afraid to pound it out a bit to start rolling it
- It needs lots of butter but don’t over do it (mine sadly had a bit too much and was almost too flaky)
- Fold the butter layer over the dough (apparently modern pastry chef consensus is that the butter layer remains on the outside for a better puff)
- Don’t be afraid to roll it nice and thin once you are ready to cook with it
Once I had finished, I didn’t think I had too much puff to work with. After I cut it in half and rolled it out, and half again, and half again… I realised that I had a lot more than I initially thought. Although it was a slightly painful process, the end result left me with a rich buttery puff that lasted days and carried me through multiple recipes. It was nice to come home, pull it out of the fridge and just roll it and cook. Having it readily available gave me a lot more creativity in my cooking and made the process seem quicker and more organised. Amongst the recipes included two onion, thyme and camembert tarts, puff coated pears drizzled in honey and some pumpkin and ricotta puff triangles. As always cooking fills my days, makes me feel productive and gives me a relaxed sense of satisfaction.