Whether it’s the cold, the holidays or you’ve finally accepted the winter weight that mysteriously appears around your midriff during the chilliest months of the year, December is a time to indulge.
And what’s more indulgent than a puff pastry? Warm, chilled, savoury or sweet, puff pastries can be stuffed with anything from chocolate cream to wild mushrooms. Because December is one of the busiest months when it comes to baking, we asked two Alberta chefs how to pull off the perfect puff pastry.
Chef Darnell Japp of Bears Den, Bearspaw
Chef Japp is known for his savoury takes on puff pastries (Beef Wellington is one of his favourites). Puff pastries seem intimidating to make at home, but Japp says if you’re capable of following a recipe, you’re capable of creating a work of puffed art.
“Puff pastry is very versatile and can be filled with almost anything,” Japp says. “Always thaw frozen puff pastry in the fridge. You don’t want it to get warm before you start working with it.”
Puff pastry can burn easily, so remember to keep an eye on the dough while it’s baking. While some pastry fillings are fine to add in as is, Japp recommends giving finicky ingredients more attention.
“For high moisture foods like mushrooms and tomatoes, try pre-cooking or roasting to reduce some of the water before baking,” he says.
From bite-sized tarts (try tackling butternut squash with fried sage) or family-style classics like chicken pot pie, Japp says any type of puff pastry you can dream up, you can probably make too.
Chef Arnaud Valade of Arno’s Pastry, Edmonton
If you really want to show off, impress your holiday guests with a decadent dessert puff pastry. And who better to trust than a pastry chef from France?
Chef Valade is the vision behind Arno’s Pastry in Edmonton, where you can gorge on French-inspired treats like chouquettes, lemon meringue tarts, and chocolate and pear cake. The good news? Valade says you don’t have to have Michelin-star experience to make these delicacies at home.
“It’s really not that hard once you know the technique,” he says. “The dough has to be the right consistency before piping. You also have to control the humidity inside your oven or else the pastry doesn’t puff.”
Valade says it’s easy to forget, but four simple ingredients make up the base for all sweet puff pastries: flour, butter, sugar and eggs. To echo Chef Japp’s advice, Valade says it’s crucial to follow your recipe exactly or else your pastry will fall flat (literally).