I knew I wanted to have a go at making at puff pastry for the first time and I could not resist these beautifully fresh, purple-hued figs, so I put them together to form these Puff Pastry Fig Tartlets. I am really delighted with how they turned out.
Okay, I know that fundamentally anything that contains butter, sugar and fresh fruit has the potential to be totally delicious but these little tarts took me by surprise.
Puff Pastry aside, they are very simple and quick to make; basically squares of pastry, brushed in egg wash, top with fresh figs, sprinkled with golden caster and baked. The pastry dough puffs up to give a light, buttery, crispy pastry. The figs are softened and their juice, baked with the sprinkled sugar, gives a wonderful, fig flavoured syrup. Totally delicious. These could be served with afternoon tea, as a dessert served with a little mascarpone and drizzled honey on the side, or even for breakfast with a coffee.
So now I have managed to convince you that these little gems are worth a try, can I persuade you to consider a little homemade puff pastry experimentation?…
Why bother, I hear you mutter, when you can just buy it? This is true, but let me tell you, once you have made this pastry once, you will never feel that the shop-bought variety comes anywhere close to this.
I am not quite sure why I have never got around to it making it before now. The closest thing I have done to this is making croissant dough – another laminated dough. (Again, shop bought croissants are just a poor imitation to homemade ones). I suppose I have wavered because I know it can be a bit of a long winded process. Anyway, this being my first attempt, I have done a bit of research.
So where to look for a reliable recipe?
I referred to a number of my recipe books and all four had different recipes and different chilling times. My trusted ‘The Silver Palate Cookbook’ recipe consisted of nothing more than flour, salt, ice water and butter. Thomas Keller’s ‘Bouchon Bakery’ consists of the same but with the addition of white wine vinegar. Martha Stewart’s recipe is also similar but with the addition of a little sugar. Paul Hollywood’s recipe omits the white wine vinegar but includes eggs. So which way to go?
The actual work time in the kitchen is minimal but some recipes allow for resting and chilling for up to two nights. This is even too long for me!
I have come up with a combination of methods, chilling times and recipe ingredients that work for me and seem practical.I have used the traditional ingredients: flour, salt, water, white wine vinegar and butter. I have used a combination of strong white bread flour and cake flour, although you could use just plain instead of the cake flour. I have used white wine vinegar as this acts as a tenderiser (you learn something new every day) and makes the pastry more flaky.
The key to a successful puff pastry is to keep everything as chilled as possible and to be as neat as possible in the rolling in order to form the layers. Mine is by no means perfect, indeed, an expert may say that some areas are a bit ‘rough puff’ but I guess success comes with practise.
Just a point about the chill times. Whilst the recipe may repeatedly say ‘chill for 1 hour’, please do not be constrained by this. If you are out the house and a few hours go by, don’t worry. There is no need to rush. Indeed, a couple of my sources suggest leaving the final chilling over night or 7 hours for a second time. Just go with what works for you. You friends will think you are going a little crazy if you leave a gathering to go and ‘turn’ your pastry!
The great thing about puff pastry is that it can be used for sweet and savoury bakes and freezes very well (wrapped in food wrap, then a plastic bag). Maybe if you go to the trouble of making this, you could double the batch and freeze half of it?
In my eyes, this puff pastry is worth the effort. I will not buy shop-bought again. This is too delicious.
- 150g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 150g cake flour, or plain flour
- 1 pinch of salt
- 180ml cold water
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 250g unsalted, French butter, chilled
- 7 fresh figs
- Egg wash, 1 egg beaten and strained through a sieve
- 50g golden caster sugar, for sprinkling
- In a bowl, or a freestanding mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix together the flours, salt, white wine vinegar and water. When the dough comes together, tip onto a floured work surface and knead for approximately 5-10 minutes. Form into a ball shape. In a lightly greased large bowl, place the ball of dough and score the top of it, using a sharp knife, with a cross (this helps in the resting of the dough). Cover the bowl with food wrap and chill in the fridge for 7 hours.
- Layer the chilled butter, top and bottom in some food wrap, and with a rolling pin, batter and roll it down into a rectangle approximately 20 cm x 40cm. Put on a baking sheet and place in the fridge for it to chill and harden again.
- After 7 hours of chilling, lightly dust the work surface and roll the dough out to approximately 20cm x 60cm rectangle. Place the chilled butter on the bottom two thirds of the dough, removing the food wrap as you go. Ensure that the butter comes to the edges and the more neat the position, the better result you will receive with your pastry. Trim any excess or ragged edges if need be.
- Fold the top third (unbuttered part) of the dough down onto the butter and bring the bottom third of the dough and butter combination up and over it. Push it down and pinch the edges together to neaten it and ensure no butter is exposed. You now have a three layers of dough and two of butter. In a lightly floured dusted plastic bag, place the dough into it and return to the fridge, ensuring it is flat. Chill for a least one hour.
- On your floured work surface, remove the dough from the bag and again roll the dough out to a rectangle 20 cm x 60cm again, with the short end towards you. This time the pastry will be folded as a Book Turn. Fold the bottom quarter up to the half way point of the dough and the top quarter down to the middle until the dough meets. Fold the dough along the centre line. Chill for a further one hour.
- Repeat with the single turn rolling and folding process - roll to 20cm x 60cm again and fold into thirds again as in the first rolling/folding process. Chill for a one hour.
- Repeat this single turn process one final time.
- Whilst the dough is chilling for a final time, prepare the figs by gently washing them and drying them gently with a soft cloth, or kitchen paper. Remove the tough stems and slice each fig into eighths.
- Prepare the egg wash by beating a egg and passing it through a sieve.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.
- Roll the chilled dough onto a lightly floured work surface, aiming to achieve a square approximately 30cm x 30cm. With a sharp knife, score and cut the dough into equal squares, approximately 10cm x 10cm. Place each square onto a parchment lined baking tray. Carefully brush the pastry with the egg wash, being careful not to let it spill down the sides otherwise the pastry will not 'puff'.
- Arrange six of the fig eighths onto each piece of pastry. Sprinkle generously with the golden caster sugar. Bake for approximately 25 minutes on the top shelf of your oven. (If you do not want to bake all the tartlets at once, they can be stored in the fridge for up to two days prior to baking).
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Source: Methods and Recipe adapted from a combination of Paul Hollywood’s ‘How To Bake’, Martha Stewarts’ ‘Baking Handbook’ and Thomas Keller’s ‘Bouchon Bakery’. Researched also from Rosso & Lukins’ ‘The Silver Palate Cookbook’