"Oh my God, it's rising!" I called over BF and Roommate to peek through the oven window. There, with butter bubbling sides, rose my first ever homemade puff pastry that I had crafted earlier in the week at the Advanced Pastry class. As steam was released from the heated bits of butter that had been folded and folded and folded in with flour the puff pastry rose from a cold 1/8 of an inch thickness to over an inch in flaky height. Proof that I had not screwed up my first attempt at puff pastry but, surprisingly, succeeded in every way.
My confidence grew more than the puff did. I felt like a competent baker. That baking was something I might not only have potential for, but might actually even be good at, made me beam. All cupcake recipes aside this was a major milestone for me as I had always held puff pastry to be one of those quintessential recipes that separated the home baker from the professional baker. Given, I was far from a professional, but this was a step in the direction I wanted to go. I had made puff!
Oh, and the smell. Readers, store bought puff pastry does not smell like this when baking. The stuff you make yourself is richer and sweeter. The smell of cooking butter was one more aroma that interlaced the others already wafting in the perfumed apartment. Earlier, I had been reducing onions in olive oil and, yes, a bit more butter, and had tossed in some fresh thyme and minced garlic. Those were set on scored bits of rolled out puff, then topped with slices of fresh tomato that were brushed with olive oil. Some crumbled goat cheese for tang and a few bits of shaved Parmesan finished it appropriately. The scent of all this melding together in the oven was intoxicating and so heavy with butter you almost became drunk on it.
After 25 minutes at 425F I took them out of the oven and placed a chiffonade of basil on each one. Striking is the best way to describe their visual appeal, though rustic would work equally well.
They looked small and dainty, but the amount of fat and goodness in each one made them a full meal. None of us talked as we ate. We just sat in silence determined to enjoy the flavor of the cheese, and the flaky, crumbly texture of the golden puff pastry. Only the occasional smacking of lips or "Mmmm" escaped us.
And it's true, so true: homemade puff pastry can't be beat. The frozen stuff has its place; homemade is a real time sucker and requires a lot of attention, but the task itself is easy-peasy. You just have to have patience, a few pounds of butter (yes, pounds), some spare hours, and a heavy hand on your rolling pin.
I cannot wait to put together the mille feuilles next weekend.