It is a mistake to consider the making of puff-paste too difficult for any but an experienced cook to undertake. No one need hesitate to attempt it, and if the few simple rules are strictly observed there will be success. The materials are few and inexpensive, and within the compass of the most moderate household. If light, good pastry can be substituted for the sodden crust of the ordinary pie, it will be found not only more palatable, but far more digestible and wholesome. Confections of puff-paste can be served on all occasions, and always make an acceptable dish, whereas ordinary pastry is excluded from any but the most informal service.
The most important rule for making puff-paste, and the secret of success, is to have cold paste and a hot oven. It is well to have a marble slab to roll it on, but this is not positively essential. A warm, damp day should be avoided. The paste will keep on ice for a day or two before it is baked, and for several days in a dry place after it is baked, and if placed in the oven for a few moments just before serving, it will have the same crispness as when just baked. If there is no room colder than the kitchen to work in when mixing the paste, stand by an open window or in a current of air, for it is necessary to keep the paste cold during the whole time of preparing it. Use pastry flour if convenient (Plant's St. Louis Flour). It car be obtained at all first-class grocers. It has a very fine grain and can easily be distinguished from ordinary flour by rubbing a little between the thumb and forefinger.
½ pound or 1 cupful of butter. ½ pound or 2 cupfuls of flour.
½ teaspoonful of salt.
¼ to ½ cupful of ice-water.
1st. Put the butter in a bowl of ice-water, and work it with the hand until it becomes smooth and flexible; then place it in a napkin and knead it a little to free it from moisture. Pat ii into a flat square cake, and place it on the ice until ready to use.
2d. Sift the flour and salt together on a board or marble slab reserve a little flour to be used for dusting the slab. Make a well in the center, and pour in a part of the water. Work in the flour, and use enough water to make a smooth paste. The exact amount of water cannot be given, as at certain times the flour absorbs more than at others. Gather in all the crumbs, and work the paste as you would bread dough until it becomes smooth. Roll it in a napkin, and place it on ice for fifteen minutes, that it may become thoroughly cold.
3d. Sprinkle the slab lightly with flour. Roll the cold paste into a square piece; place the cold butter in the center, and fold the paste over it, first from the sides and then the ends, keeping the shape square, and folding so the butter is completely incased, and cannot escape through the folds when rolled. This must be absolutely guarded against at all times, and can be prevented if the paste is rolled evenly and folded properly. Turn the folded side down, and with a rolling-pin roll it lightly away from you into a long, narrow strip, keeping it as even as possible. Fold it over, making three even layers of paste. This is called "giving it one turn"; then roll the folded strip again, and fold as before. This must be repeated until it has had six turns, which is as many as it should receive to give it its greatest lightness. After each turn, if it shows signs of softening, otherwise after each two turns, wrap the paste in a napkin, and place it in a pan, which should be placed between two other pans containing cracked ice, and let it remain there twenty to thirty minutes. Great care must be used in rolling the paste to keep the edges even, so that the layers will be even, and to roll lightly and always away from you, so as not to break the air-bubbles which give the lightness to the paste. The rolling is made easier by lightly pounding as well as rolling the paste. After each folding press the edges gently with the rolling-pin to shut in the air, and turn the paste so as to roll in a different direction. The paste should slip on the slab. If it does not, it sticks, and must be put on the ice at once. When it has had six turns cut it into the desired forms, and place again on the ice for twenty to thirty minutes before putting it in the oven. The trimmings, put together and rolled, make a good bottom crust for tart bands, or a top crust for mince pies.
THREE PANS ARRANGED FOR CHILLING PUFF PASTE - THE UPPER AND UNDER ONES HOLDING CRACKED ICE, THE CENTER ONE HOLDING THE PASTE WRAPPED IN A NAPKIN.
The baking of puff-paste is as important a matter as the rolling. The oven must be very hot, with the greatest heat at the bottom, so the paste may rise before it begins to brown; therefore put it on the bottom of the oven and lay a paper on the shelf for a few minutes. Do not open the door for the first five minutes. It is essential to have the oven very hot. It must not, however, scorch the paste, and if it scorches open the draughts at once, and place a basin of ice-water in the oven to lower the temperature. The amount given in this receipt makes about six pate shells or one vol-au-vent case.