Spring is finally here, and it’s the peak season for fresh delicate strawberries, juicy asparagus, ramps, carrots, and rhubarb. Keeping it light and fresh is the best way to celebrate the season. According to Charles Duque, Managing Director, Americas for the French Dairy Board, “Nothing marks spring like asparagus or strawberry tarts, made with homemade puff pastry,” adding, “making perfectly flaky puff pastry is easier than you might think, it’s also much tastier, and the secret is French butter.”
Puff pastry, also known as pâte feuilletée, is made from a laminated dough composed of flour, butter and a pinch of salt that quickly and easily bakes into a flaky, light crust. Pastry chef and culinary instructor Jenni Field of Fearless in the Kitchen Pastry Chef Online shares, “I love using imported butter from France in my laminated dough. French butter is generally made with cultured cream, using milk from grass-fed cows, and as such, it provides a rich flavor. It is also higher in butterfat than American butter.”
Jenni adds “While water does provide steam for rising, I much prefer using French butter for my laminated puff pastry. The slightly drier texture stays workable longer during all the rolling and folding necessary to make thin and lovely layers in laminated dough.” Best of all, you don’t need to be a pro to make puff pastry. Field shares her online tutorials and recipes for both a “blitz puff” or rough puff pastry as well as regular classic puff pastry.
Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan also shares a “not so rough-to-make quick puff pastry” recipe in her xoxoDorie newsletter and says it’s fun to make and takes only twenty minutes. Even faster? Justin Chapple of Food and Wine magazine offers his trademark “Mad Genius” tips to making puff pastry in just fifteen minutes. He slices frozen butter in the food processor, uses bread flour as a base and layers in the slices of butter before rolling it out with a final secret rolling pin tip that he learned from Jacques Pepin.
Once you’ve made puff pastry you can use it to create a wide variety of dishes. For speedy and impressive appetizers and desserts, bake sheets of puff pastry dough and top with Hollandaise and asparagus or pastry cream and strawberries. Says Field, “Puff pastry is a lovely dough to use as a base for many springtime ingredients. The buttery flavor and flakey layers really let the delicate flavors of springtime shine. Consider filling a vol au vent with a tarragon-flecked chicken salad or serving a simple asparagus, ramp, or fiddlehead tart in a puff pastry shell.”
Head to Recipes for more delicious recipes, tips, and tricks using French butter.