Baking · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Pastry

France: Puff Pastry and Allumettes

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Now as a home baker, there are some recipes that most people agree are just not worth trying, either through difficulty or through the ability to get ready-made equivalents very easily. Unfortunately, those type of recipes bring out my competitive spirit, and my ‘I-can-do-that’ mood. It was this mood that has led to the latest endeavor – making puff pastry.

I know, why? Is it really worth it when you can buy a perfectly acceptable version very easily? I think it’s a bucket-list type thing – it’s nice to be able to say you can do it, even if you don’t for the majority of the time! The timing was perfect – I had just been invited to take part in the Our Growing Edge event by Genie at Bunny Eats Design (hosted his month by Sonya at And More Food), and was looking for something appropriate – voilà! 

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Recently I gained my Masters degree from Cambridge and as a gift was given an Amazon voucher, the gift of everything! If, as Bill Bailey says, the Argos catalogue is the ‘laminated book of dreams’, then Amazon must be the digital equivalent – they sell everything! As a baking geek though my choice was the Foundation Recipes book from Le Cordon Bleu – probably the closest I’ll get to actually going there! (though a girl can dream!) The logical thing to do then was to start at the beginning, which was – you guessed it – puff pastry! Whilst very time consuming, it turned out well, and the allumettes given here proved very popular with Max (who is by now getting used to coming home to many different baked goods to try!)

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Allumettes are made from anchovies and Gruyere cheese sandwiched in between two layers of puff pastry. Now to be completely honest, the cheese in these is not Gruyere, but Cheddar – I had it in the fridge and I could only buy a massive block of Gruyere which might have ended up going to waste. However, Cheddar works well and you can take your pick when making them – the recipe is the same.

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I have included the recipe for puff pastry here, but if you don’t want to make it, then follow the final steps with ready-made pastry.

Allumettes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz/250g plain flour (sifted)
  • 1/4oz/5g salt
  • 3 1/2floz/100ml cold water
  • 7oz/200g butter
  • 4-6 anchovy fillets
  • 1 egg (for eggwash)
  • 3 1/2oz/100g Cheddar cheese (or Gruyere, depending on you budget!)

Instructions:

Set out a silicon baking mat on the work surface and lightly dust with flour. Sift the flour onto the work surface and make a well in the centre. Add the salt and water (carefully, ensuring the water doesn’t run all over you, like it did to me!) and mix together with your fingers. Add half the butter and incorporate using your fingers, until the mixture forms a coarse dough (I ended up almost kneading it – probably not conventional, but it did the job!) Shape it into a ball, cut a large cross in the top and refrigerate in a plastic bag overnight.

The next morning, place the remaining 100g of butter between 2 sheets of baking paper, and hit with a rolling pin until flat, before forming into a square about 1cm thick. Remove the puff pastry from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll the pastry into a cross shape, using the cuts as a guide. The centre of the cross should be thicker than the outer arms in order to make a good pastry. Place the square of dough in the centre and fold the two side arms over the butter. Turn by 90 degrees and repeat with the other two arms of the cross. Press the seams well to seal and tap with the rolling pin (just to make sure!)

Roll out the dough to a rectangle three times the length of the original and about 1cm thick. Fold the bottom third up and then the top third down, making sure the edges are even. Rotate by 90 degrees ( a quarter turn), and roll out and fold as before. Turn once more, place twofinger marks in the top left hand corner and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and place with the indents in the top left hand corner. Repeat the previous fold and roll sequence another two times before marking with four imprints (as before) and refrigerating for 20 minutes. Remove and repeat the process once more before placing back in the fridge for a final chill.

Finely chop the anchovies and mix with the grated cheese. Roll the pastry into a large rectangle and cut in half, brushing one half with the egg wash. Spread with the cheese and anchovy mixture, before topping with the second half of the pastry. Cut into strips and taking each end of the strip, twist three times before placing on a lined baking sheet.Brush with eggwash before baking in an oven preheated to  425°F/220°C/Gas mark 7 for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

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