Fast Feuilletage, Cheese and Bacon Biscuits
About 8 years ago, the store bought kind was the only puff pastry I dared use, and it was new to me, not having been available in the States before we moved to France. It wasn't long before I started to yearn for something more. I learned quickly, to tell the difference between store bought and higher quality puff pastry. I found out from a friend that I could buy a better product at my local bakery, ready to use in my home creations, and soon left store bought feuiletée behind.
I was going to the trouble of calling ahead and making an order for puff pastry every time I was going to need it, and in general making things more complicated for myself than I had to in the end. I was so afraid of making a mess, ruining it and spoiling a hard-earned expensive lump of butter for a little puff that I refused to even try it.
At one family gathering years ago, someone asked about bakery-bought use of puff pastry apero treat I had brought to a party. I was proud of my creative use of the puff, and told her how to do it. Through some snafu, she misunderstood that I had actually prepared the pastry from scratch. I was so embarrassed that she was going around telling everyone as she passed the platter around. The guilt was horrible. I don't know why I didn't call everyone to the middle of the room and announce that I didn't fold the puff myself. It snowballed in my mind. It became an ethical crisis. The psychological trauma of the guilt set in motion a mission to get up to speed with puff pastry. That was when I realized it's not as hard as people think. And everybody's human.
As long as you keep everything cold, full style puff pastry does come together without magic, and tastes phenomenally better than any kind of feuilletée you can buy anywhere, even those being sold by artisan bakers. The reason is simple. You have chosen your own butter. The butter used in pastry is very important, possibly the most important aspect of anything at all. It makes all the difference in flavor. When someone is in a neighborhood bakery business, they are naturally going to try and maximize their profit margin. Many cheaper butters will taste significantly better than the mix of chemicals and agents used in store bought pastry. But you are in for a real treat if you pick and choose the best tasting butter you can find for your feuilletée. In fact, it will be a revelation.
This is all well and good. Who has time for pâte feuilletée? I rarely do these days, and neither do I have a need for the spectacle that a full style puff pastry can bring to a meal. I am actually more satisfied with home style kitchen table kinds of pastries, as you know already.
This is why today I want to come full circle and share one recipe with you that features a fast feuilletée, one that needs no chilling between layers. It can be thrown together lickety split, literally from start to finish in 10 minutes, and will do for any and all kitchen table tartes and turnovers, quiches for which you would like a little more puff and buttery taste, and apéro treats that will be popped quickly - in other words, those things we'd like to add a little flair and individuality to but don't need layer upon layer of even puffing, or sculptural finesse.
From my list of many variations, here is one recipe for a delicious spicy bacon cheese apéro biscuit. I developed it for baking in the wood fired oven, although any hot oven will do.
Peppery Fast Feuilletée Rolls (pictured above.)
good for serving with Champagne or Beer.
Yield: 10 very fattening biscuits. This recipe can be doubled.
125 g. flour (type 55 or AP)
a generous pinch of sea salt
1 good sized chipotle pepper in adobo (the kind that comes moist in a can, just one pepper)
1/2 of a thick slice of bacon
30 g. hard sharp cheese like mimolette, pecorino or cheddar
30 g. Swiss style mountain cheese like Emmenthal
60 g. VERY COLD water (weigh it)
- Roughly work the butter into the flour, no need to get too fussy about it being evenly incorporated, it will seem crumbly but have some chunks of butter in it the size of peas.
- Chop/mince the chipotle, mince the bacon very fine, and mince the cheese into itty little bitty cubes (you might even grate the cheese if you have a grater on hand.)
- Throw all this finely minced and grated stuff into the butter & flour mixture and toss to coat everything with flour. Turn it over and toss repeatedly with a wooden spoon to see that the additions are distributed evenly throughout.
- Add 60 g. very cold water and work it as quickly as you can with your hands into a dough. Do not knead the dough more than you have to to get it to come together.
- Immediately pat this dough into a rough rectangle, and using flour generously to keep it from sticking to your board, roll it out to about a centimeter or 1/2" thick. If it sticks, use a knife to release it, and sprinkle the wet side with flour.
- Fold it over into thirds, one side and then the other, overlapping.
- Do not chill in between folding. Roll it out again, and then fold it again, turning the rougher edges into the center.
- You've done it twice, do it two more times. You do not have to chill this in between rolling.
- After your final folding, roll it out again, and roll that up into a log. Slice off 1cm or 1/2 inch slices, place them on the baking sheet with a couple of inches between them, and bake in a 400F/200C/hot oven until they turn brown.
- These will be quite soft. You have to let them cool thoroughly and turn nice and crisp. Keep them out of sight until guests arrive.