Roughing up the puff

Admission time: I was very late to the Great British Bake-Off party.  Like I don’t think we started watching until fall of 2015 late (five seasons in if my research is correct).

People kept telling me I should watch it.  However, I’m a lackadaisical television viewer at best and downright neglectful at worst (like if I can’t immediately find the remote I don’t bother).  Also, with the exception of Top Chef, reality competition shows aren’t really my jam.  I think its because I was writing my dissertation (ie living under a rock) when Survivor kicked-off and so basically missed that genre’s bus.

Luckily I finally got the hint about the Great British Bake-Off and tried an episode.  From the first episode, TD and I have been periodically hooked.  The show is delightful.  Since I’m the last person on the planet to join in, you don’t need me to tell you all the reasons why. But I’ll give you two.  First, I love how nice everyone is.  I know that respect and cooperation are not generally considered the cornerstones of good reality TV.  But here (as in real life), it shines.   Second, the amazing baked goods (just call me captain obvious).  I’ve taken quite a bit of inspiration from the novel-to-us-in-the-U.S. bakes.

Case in point: rough puff pastry.

We made puff pastry in the baking course I took a few years ago.  And while I loved making it, puff pastry, like most laminated doughs isn’t really worth the time and effort.  In the full recipe you beat a block of butter into submission and then try to incorporate it into the dough by carefully rolling it in over many turns (there are more steps but they’re tedious and you don’t care).

However, rough puff is an entirely different story.  It’s kind of a combination of traditional laminated puff and pie dough.  The key is frozen, grated butter.

The reason we love puff pastry is in the name.  All of those beautiful layers of crisp and tender dough that surround any number of delicacies are as impressive to look at as they are delicious to eat.  This recipe achieves this through  three turns of the dough.  Turns refer to the laminating process whereby the dough is rolled out, folded, rested in the fridge and then the process is repeated.

Why should you make your own rough puff?  Well, it’s fun for starters.  With a little patience, it’s easy to make.  It’s also economical.  Puff pastry retails for about $5.50 for just over a pound (.32 per ounce).  The only real cost in rough puff is the butter.  Nice middle of the road domestic butter costs about $5 a pound where I live (or .31 an ounce).  The recipe calls for 13 TBS, or about 6.5 ounces of butter to yield a pound of dough.  That’s about $2 in butter.  Add in another .50 for flour and it’s still less than half the cost of store bought.  Finally, it’s probably better quality.  Pepperidge Farm is the king of puff (not bashing on them–I use it all the time).  However, if you check the ingredient list you’ll find that butter is not one of them.  They use shortening instead.  Shortening absolutely has its place in flakey pastry (it has a higher fat content than butter from a density perspective and so can create a more tender bite).  However, everyone knows butter tastes better.

If I still haven’t convinced you to make your own,  at least hear me out for the next two weeks.  I’m going to show you what I made with my rough puff.

Until next week…

Rough Puff Pastry

makes about 1 lb (16 ounces) of dough

not adapted even a little from Epicurious


  • 1 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 13 TBS FROZEN unsalted butter (1 stick plus 5 TBS)
  • 5 to 6 TBS iced water


  1. Sift together flour and salt into a chilled large metal bowl. Set a grater in flour mixture and coarsely grate frozen butter into flour, gently lifting flour and tossing to coat butter.
  2. Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water evenly over flour mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.
  3. Test mixture by gently squeezing a small handful: When it has the proper texture, it will hold together without crumbling apart. If necessary, add another tablespoon water, stirring until just incorporated and testing again. (If you overwork mixture or add too much water, pastry will be tough.)
  4. Gather mixture together and form into a 5-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 30 minutes. (Dough will be lumpy and streaky.)
  5. Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 15- by- 8-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you, then fold dough into thirds like a letter: bottom third up and top third down over dough. Rewrap dough and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
  6. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you on a floured surface and repeat rolling out, folding, and chilling 2 more times. Brush off any excess flour, then wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.

Note: This dough does really well in the freezer.  Double wrap and then bag it and it will be just fine in the freezer for up to a couple of months.  Thaw in the fridge for a couple of hours before using.


Butter, cinnamon and sugar my muffin

When I mentioned the big plans I had over the holidays to attempt making my own puff pastry dough, I had morning buns on the brain.  Alas, the sun was too inviting and I decided to play with puff pastry another day.

I still had morning buns on my mind though.

This recipe, if you can even call it that, is embarrassingly simple:  a sheet of puff, some butter, cinnamon and sugar.  Then, right out of the oven, an additional dip in butter and a final cinnamon and sugar bath (sort of like these french doughnuts).

I took these little darlings to work along with the Jesuites.  Someone very important in my organizations who had the ability  threatened to fire me if I ever brought them in again.  I think this means they were a hit.


Mini Morningish Buns

(one sheet of puff pastry yields 16 mini and 6 regular-sized buns, hun)


  • Sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp (or more to taste) of ground cinnamon
  • 12 TBS butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter your muffin pan.
  2. Combined sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl until cinnamon is thoroughly distributed.  Taste and add-more spice as desired.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry dough until about 18X10 inches.  Be sure to life the dough after each roll so that it does not stick to the surface.
  4. Spread a thin layer of butter over entire surface of dough (it will take about a stick of butter, maybe a little less).
  5. Generously sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture across the buttered surface, reserving at least 1/3 of a cup.
  6. Starting at the far long end of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly all the way to the edge of the closest long end.  The finished product will look like a log.
  7. If using a mini-muffin pan, cut log in half and then cut each half into quarters and half each quarter so that you have 16 small rolls.  If using a regular muffin-pan, cut the log in half and then each half into thirds.
  8. Carefully place each cut roll into the wells of the pan, cut side facing up.  You may want to squish the dough down a bit to get it to spread-out in the well.
  9. Bake until dark golden brown (20 to 30 minutes–begin watching at 20).
  10. While buns are baking, melt remaining butter.  Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.
  11. Remove buns from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
  12. Using tongs (or your fingers if you are brave), remove each bun, dip it in butter, roll it in the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture and set atop a cooling rack to cool.
  13. Try not to get fired from your job.


Not just a puff piece

A couple of years ago I went to work for a Catholic university of the St Ignatius of Loyola and Marymount persuasions.  While I’ve made my career in education, most often at the college-level, this was my first religiously-affiliated institution.

Always the diligent researcher, I went deep when preparing to interview for the job.  Part of my motivation was professional—I needed this prospective place of employment to know that I’d done my homework.  Selfishly, I also needed  to understand the values of the private, religiously affiliated institution.   See, I wasn’t raised Catholic.  In fact, even though both of my parents affiliate as Episcopal, WASP is the closest to religion I come.  And by WASP I mean the hair-band wearing, knowing how to use the appropriate fork and then stabbing you in the back with it part…not the actual Protestant part.    But, as usual, I digress.

In my research of this Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition, I was impressed by what I learned.  The Jesuits are known as teachers and seekers of knowledge. Among other things, their educational tradition seeks to produce not just successful leaders, leaders in the service of others.   It’s kind of their jam.  To this end, I was very drawn to the idea of a mission-driven university.  This was especially true provided this university’s triumvirate mission: the encouragement of learning, the education of the whole person and the service of faith and justice.

I’ll admit, at the time I didn’t really understand the service of faith piece.  But, the other components certainly read like the kind of place I’d like to be producing our future (in the form of college graduates).  I didn’t learn until I had an employee ID number that the mission truly  saturates the being of the institution.  It is in the classroom.  It is in the activities and programs in which students participate.  It is in the engagement of the alumni.  It is a pleasure to work in a place that strives to walk the talk.

I’ve also come to understand that this is pretty standard across other Catholic-Jesuit institutions.  Values are important.  Being a good person is important.  Striving to create a more just society is important.

Which, brings me to a bit of serendipity.  About the time I went to work at Loyola Marymount University, TD began collaborating with some colleagues on a documentary about the 1951 University of San Francisco football team (also a Jesuit university).  The story is poignantly emblematic of the racial climate of the time.  In a sentence, the University’s undefeated football team chose not to play in a bowl game rather than leave their black teammates behind.  Ironically, 1951 was the last season for football at both USF and Loyola University (now Loyola Marymount University). ’51 DONS airs this Sunday on ESPN (4:00 PM PST) and ESPN2 (7:00 PM PST):

You can also go here to learn more about the team.

Speaking of serendipity.  I had this post for Jesuite pastries scheduled for later in the month.  I actually didn’t think to line up my Jesuit themed bits and pieces until yesterday.  Sometimes I wonder about myself.

Jesuites are a french pastry  filled with almond cream and topped with almonds (and sometimes a layer of icing).  They get their name from the three-pointed hats Jesuits are said to have been fond of wearing back in the day.  Over the holidays I had big plans to make my own puff pastry.  But, unlike most of the country, the sun was shining in Southern California and I abandoned my winter-dark kitchen to go play outside.  So, for this recipe and its partner (that I’ll post later in the month), I used prepared pastry dough.


Almond cream recipe adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery

This recipe makes about a dozen Jesuits with two sheets of puff pastry.  I was pretty wasteful with the dough…a strategic cutting and you could get several more out of it.


  • 1/2 C + 2 1/2 TBS (75 grams) almond flour/meal
  • 2 1/4 tsp (7 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 ounces (73 grams) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 C + 2 TBS confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large eggs (1 for almond cream, one for egg wash)  (44 grams)
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • flaked almonds (I like the honey glazed variety from Trader Joes)


note: finished almond cream needs at least 2 hours in the fridge before use

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together almond flour and all purpose flour.  Set aside.
  2. Using an electric hand mixer, cream butter until it is the consistency of mayonnaise.
  3. Sift-in confectioner’s sugar and mix on high until fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the almond mixture in 2 additions, combining on low.
  5. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to combine all ingredients.
  6. Add in 1 egg and combined on low until mixture is smooth (about 30 seconds).
  7. Refrigerate until cold (at least two hours).  Can be made up to three days in advance, kept in an airtight container in the fridge.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  9. On a floured work surface, roll-out puff pastry to roughly 14X18 inches.
  10. Using a 12 inch bowl as a template, cut out a round using a sharp knife. Cut the circle into 6 equal parts.  You should have enough dough left at the corners of the rectangle not included in the circle to cut 4 additional triangles.  Repeat with second sheet of pastry.
  11. Space five triangles on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  12. Spread about a tablespoon of almond cream evenly across each triangle leaving about a centimeter along the edges.
  13. Top each triangle with a second triangle, pinching the edges (they’ll break free in the puffing-up process…this is supposed to happen).  Repeat until each triangle on your tray is topped.
  14. Paint each pastry with egg wash and top liberally with flaked almonds.
  15. Repeat with second baking sheet.
  16. Bake baking sheets one-at-a-time for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden brown and pastry puffs to about 3 inches.