Vol Au Vent Puff Paste
|Cold butter||3⁄4 Cup (12 tbs) (ice cold)|
|Ice water||18 Tablespoon|
|Lard||3⁄4 Cup (12 tbs)|
|Flour||3 Cup (48 tbs)|
In a cold mixing bowl cut the 1/2 cup butter and the lard into the sifted flour until it is the size of small marbles or large peas. (We do mean lard, not vegetable shortening. Jesse insists that good old pork lard mixed with butter makes far better puff paste than either pure butter by itself or butter mixed with any other fat.)
Although most cookbooks advise using knives to cut the shortening into the flour, Jesse achieves wonderful results with a light aluminum kitchen spoon, with the edge of which he lightly slices the ice cold lumps into the flour.
Jesse taught me how to do this, working always with an inward and upward "scooping" stroke of the spoon, with a short outward and upward twist of the wrist; the outer edge of the spoon slices into the flour, not only cutting the shortening lumps but also each time lifting a bit of flour and some pastry lumps, thus introducing more and more air into the flour with each cutting stroke.
Jesse particularly cautions against using the spoon with a "mashing" motion that would tend to press or squeeze the grease into the flour rather than flaking it in.
I am sure this is one of his top secrets for fine pastry making, and the method has worked wonders for me in biscuits and rolls as well as puff paste.
To keep the butter and lard hard while working, have the bowl very cold before beginning, and then stand it in a pan of ice water while cutting the grease into the flour.
When the shortening has been thoroughly flaked into the flour until it is in lumps of the large pea size, add 18 tablespoons of ice water, three or four spoonfuls at a time, lightly and quickly mixing it into the flour with the same scooping motion; do not knead or mash with the spoon.
Adding the water in such small quantities keeps it colder while mixing and prevents the shortening from melting; also, you avoid "flooding" your dough.
The dough should be slightly on the damp side when it is lifted from the bowl; if it is too dry it will not roll out thinly without breaking or cracking.
Jesse never touches dough with his hands except when absolutely necessary this also helps keep the shortening cold.
He lifts the dough from the bowl with the spoon, gently drops it on a lightly floured board, and sifts a light coat of flour atop the lump.
Then he rolls the dough out immediately, with no kneading and no waiting, to 1/4 inch thickness.
He then takes the extra 1/4 pound of butter from the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, where he has let it get very cold (not frozen), and chips small lumps from it to scatter all over the rolled dough, using about half the butter.
Then, very lightly, he taps the flour sifter over the dough to leave an ever so thin dusting of flour over the butter dotted surface.
Next he quickly folds the dough in half and rolls this out slightly.
He repeats the butter dotting procedure and again flips the dough in half (thus having four layers of pastry sandwiched together with floured butter lumps between them).
The dough is then divided by cutting off a piece equal to one third of its size, with a sharp knife.
Set this aside in the refriger.