The second recipe in the Puff Pastry section of The Modern Baker is, like the instant puff pastry, used as a base for many of the recipes that follow. I was a little nervous the first time I made the pastry layer, as I knew another recipe would rise or fall based on how well I did making the base.
The recipe isn’t particularly difficult, although the technique was new to me. I began by flouring a pastry mat and rolling out a quarter batch of puff pastry dough.
The dough was very firm when I got it out of the fridge. I pressed it with the rolling pin using short strokes rather than rolling from end to end. This flattened the dough and began to soften it.
Once the dough had softened up a bit, I rolled it (without going over the ends), turned it 90°, rolled again, and continued turning and rolling until I had a thin rectangle of dough.
A few more turns and rolls, and the dough was the size of my 10 x 15-inch pan. I checked the size by laying a piece of parchment cut to the size of the pan on top of the dough.
To transfer the dough to the pan, I folded it in thirds, then lifted it to the parchment-covered jellyroll sheet.
I fit the dough in the pan, then covered it loosely with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for a few hours before baking it.
When I was ready to bake the dough, I preheated the oven to 350°F. Once the oven was heated, I took the dough out of the refrigerator, uncovered it, and pricked the surface of the dough with a fork.
This is where the recipe got interesting. In order to keep the pastry layer flat while baking, I covered it with parchment,…
…then topped it with another jellyroll pan.
I baked the pastry layer for 20 minutes, then grabbed both pans and flipped them over and baked the dough for another 15 minutes on the other side. (The recipe called for baking the pastry for 15 minutes, then flipping the pan and baking an additional 10 minutes. Even though my oven heats correctly, it took an additional five minutes on each side. I suspect this is because my pans are double insulated airflow pans.) I took the pans out of the oven, lifted the top one off, then checked the pastry for doneness. It was crispy and nicely browned.
I replaced the top pan and cooled the pastry layer between the pans to keep it from curling as it cooled. Then I removed it from the pans and let it rest on cooling rack until I was ready to use it.
One of the classic uses of a baked puff pastry layer is for a dessert called “mille-feuille”, which translates to “thousand leaves”, referring to the layers that well-made puff pastry exhibits.
Nick’s instant puff pastry dough, prepared this way, is perfect for mille-feuille, Napoleons, and any other recipe requiring a thin, shatteringly crisp pastry layer. But a word of warning: most recipes require you to cut the pasty layer to the size or shape needed for that particular application. The layer cuts beautifully, but it may take some resolve on your part not to shove all the scrap pieces in your mouth.
More resolve than I have.