And by that, I most definitely am not referring to people. Flaky people are one of the worst, and I don’t even want to go into detail because that would have to be a whole blog post on its own (I’ve got a lot of experience from my university days, believe me). But flaky pastries? Now that is the only good kind of flaky in my book. Wouldn’t you agree?
It’s funny how carefully I am going through Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook. I believe the correct term for what I am doing is savouring her book. Baking the recipes one by one is perhaps a testament to my love, positive review, and glowing recommendation of her cookbook. All the recipes I have made so far have been scrumptious, and I have been really pleased with the enthusiastic feedback from family and friends. I wanted to try something a little different instead of my usual quick breads and cookies, and it just so happened that I was in the mood for something flaky.
These pufflets are not only pretty to behold, but they had such great flavour. I liked them best still warm, following just a few minutes of cooling from the oven. The dough was so flaky and crunchy, with clear notes of cottage cheese. I used strawberry jam and Nutella to fill the pufflets, but I think I’ll pass on the Nutella next time. It had such a strong flavour that it drowned out everything else! The fruit jams better complemented the savouriness of the cheese in the dough. My pufflets were assembled into all different shapes and sizes, and my baby brother’s favourites were the little ones that looked a bit like ravioli. He would pop them into his mouth with a crunch.
My only issue with this recipe was actually how wet the dough was, but I forgot to drain out the liquid that came with the cottage cheese so that was my bad. I was initially afraid my dough wouldn’t come together because of this, but it all turned out for the best in the end. I think the best way to make these would be into bite-sized traingular pieces- easy to pick up and easy to munch. I wasn’t able to fill my puffs evenly with jam. Some of the ones that fell short with the jam filling mostly tasted like ricotta cheese, but the ones that were filled right were pretty darn fantastic.
Cottage Cheese Pufflets
from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours, pages 148 to 149 | Makes about 48 puffs, sized 2-1/4 inches
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cottage cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
about 1/4 cup preserves, maramalade or jam of choice
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
1. Prepare the dough: In a mixer on medium speed, mix together butter, sugar and salt, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter is completely creamy.
2. Add the cottage cheese and vanilla, then continue mixing, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mixture becomes velvety like whipped cream cheese.
3. Turn down the mixer to low, then slowly add the flour just until it is thoroughly blended into the dough. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a piece of plastic wrap.
4. Using the plastic wrap, shape the dough into a rectangle and or square, pat it down and cover it completely. Refrigerate the dough overnight.* (The dough can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months, then defrosted overnight in the refrigerator before using.)
5. Once ready to bake: Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. To roll out dough, you can work it between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap**, or simply roll it out on a lightly floured surface.
7. Cut the dough in half and place one half into the refrigerator. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into a rectangle with a thickness of about 1/8 inch. If at any time the dough seems too soft, pop it back into the fridge for a quick chill.
8. Using a cookie cutter, a pastry wheel/pizza cutter, or simply a paring knife, cut the the dough into 2- to 3-inch squares.
9. Put a dab of jam on each square of dough, just off centre, then with a wet finger, moisten the edges of the dough. Fold the dough over to enclose the jam, forming a triangle, then press lightly to seal the edges. You can also use a fork to crimp the edges if desired.
10. Repeat with remaining squares and line the pufflets on the baking sheets, spacing them about 1/2-inch apart.
11. Poke minute steam holes in the centre of each pufflet using a toothpick or the end of your fork.***
12. Bake the pufflets one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes, or until puffed, firm, and beautifully golden. Transfer the pufflets to a rack, dust with confectioner’s sugar, then cool to warm or room temperature before serving.****
13. Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.
*The book originally instructs to refrigerate at least 3 hours, but based on what I read from other blogs, the dough was a bit too soft to handle even after this period. I refrigerated mine overnight so it was less difficult to handle, but you would still have to work quickly to prevent the dough from getting too soft.
**I recommend using two pieces of plastic wrap when rolling out the dough. There is less risk of sticking or dough breakage this way.
***If not baking immediately, you can freeze them on a tray, then once frozen, transfer them into an airtight container to store. The pufflets do not need to be fully defrosted before baking, but you may need to add at least 2 more minutes to the baking time.
****It is best served warm, in my opinion. The flavours really shine, especially that of the cottage cheese.
After being encouraged by these delicious puffs, I decided to make another flaky recipe from Dorie’s book. I’ve been thinking of making fruit-filled hand-pies for a while so I chose to do her Apple Turnovers (pages 316 to 317). Quite frankly, I have never encountered any problems with any of Dorie’s recipes before this one. The dough was really difficult to work with, almost nightmarishly so, even after her prescribed hours of refrigeration. As soon as you get the dough out of the fridge, you would need to be as quick as the wind in cutting and shaping the turnovers. Handling them too much or too long will soften them up, but doing it on cling wrap helped a lot!
I wonder if overnight freezing would make a difference with the consistency of the dough. I also wonder if keeping the dough a little thicker would help. Mine would break apart so easily every time I tried to pick them up or fold them, which is why I ended up shaping them using plastic wrap, then sliding them onto my baking sheet. I had a few broken pieces of turnovers, but it might have been partially my fault as I overfilled them and made them too big. Like I said, the dough is really fragile. Even once my turnovers were baked, the ones that didn’t break apart during assembly would split apart once picked up to be eaten because the filling was too heavy. I definitely think that making the turnovers into bite-sized treats can improve the eating experience greatly.
Well after all that has been said, these turnovers actually taste really good. From the moment the house started smelling of cinnamon and crust, I knew that despite all the difficulties in making these turnovers, they would still yield something delicious. (That’s a Dorie Greenspan recipe for you!) The crust was so flaky and tasty, and the filling was just rightly spiced, with all that lovely apple and cinnamon flavours shining through.
For me, this is one of those recipes I’m willing to labor over for the sake of being able to bake all the recipes contained in my favourite cookbooks. Although the result is fairly good, I’m not so sure if it’s worth another repeat, another round of so much time and effort. But I do feel that if you are a fan of Dorie Greenspan, it would be good if you could do this recipe at least once just to get a feel of it; and maybe even modify the recipe’s instructions if you like the results enough, yes?
I have been reluctant to give this particular recipe another go, but after coming across this post, I see that it is possible to actually make these turnovers look perfect! Maybe I’ll make them again anyway with some slight modifications– when I get one of my slaving-away-in-the-kitchen spells, that is. And really, that is not such a rare occurence.