Puff, the magic pastry….

pear_tatin_plate_0062As far as I can remember, it was in the 70’s that I realised how much I enjoyed cooking.The first manifestation of the important place that cooking had taken in my life was not the sudden appearance of well designed cooking utensils and accessories in our kitchen; it was the sea change of the ingredients that were now to be found in our store cupboard.  Each week would mark an increase in the selection of oils, vinegars, dried pulses, flours, grains, sugars, and all imaginable varieties of spices and seasonings. Bundles of dark, sticky vanilla pods would stand in a tall, thin glass jar next to a squat one filled with Turkish dried apricots. Small bottles of liqueurs and spirits managed not to get immediately drunk and instead remained intact, ready to add to their flavours to a sauce or a dessert. These were the building bricks of flavour.The volume of my carefully chosen pots, pans and utensils increased in direct proportion to my slowly growing ability to make food taste delicious. Taste is where my heart lies which leaves refinement on the shelf. It may be that I have seen too much carefully presented food during my career that makes me so distrustful and, more to the point, disinterested in carefully crafted platefuls. It may also serve as a handy excuse for my lack of so many culinary skills amongst which is the making of puff pastry. I lack the will as well as the skill.

And this is all leading where? It is leading to the pastry base or the top, depending at which stage of the cooking at which we find ourselves, of a tarte tatin. I was in the habit of making a sweet, crumbly pastry as the tatin’s base until last week’s epiphany when a bowl of golden plums were begging to be encased in a pastry nest which, in turn, led me to research the possibilities for a plum tatin on the internet where I found a recipe by Mary Cadogan. Now, up to this point, I have religiously made the pastry of my tatins from one of Mary’s recipes that called for a pastry of flour, butter, sugar and egg yolk. A deliciously sweet, yellow pastry it was and is, but, it was and is time consuming; what with chilling the pastry whilst washing up rolling pins, pastry boards and all the other paraphernalia. The new plum epiphany had a shop bought puff pastry base.

As you may well imagine, I blanched. I even tried to ring Mary to confirm that this was a mistake, but she had fled to England in shame, or so I imagined. More research quickly showed me that it was I that who had remained in ignorance of current tatin practice. I am now a shop bought puff pastry devotee rejoicing in the reduction of preparation time for a tarte tatin that makes it a fine example of “fastish food”.

I should mention that the tatin at the beginning of this post is made of pears although, when turned tatin like, they may look like the golden plums which, as did a similarly coloured fleece to Aeneas in ancient times, cause me to set out my simpler voyage of discovery…..if Aeneas had just googled “Golden Fleece” he would have realised that it was just a load of tassle bollocks written by an early precursor of the  Θ. Κ.Ροωλινγ that was to come.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in Baking, Cooking, desserts, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Herbs and Spices, Humour, Kitchens, Mary Cadogan, Olive oil, Photography, tart, tarte tatin, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Puff, the magic pastry….

  1. margaret21 says:

    What make do you use? I was very sniffy about French ready made pastry (and English too I hasten to add) until I discovered Picard, which is, in my opinion, the business. And you can roll out your own preferred shape. Good stuff.

  2. Mad Dog says:

    What? I’d rather spend more time in the kitchen. Shop bought might be quick, but home made tastes much better.
    It doesn’t look like it photographs any differently though – great pictures 😉

  3. Love the photo of the pears in the pan. Hello! People! You and The Dog can slave away at the pastry if you want, but I have never used anything but store bought or some of the pastry M. Parret has made at the boulangerie with his own butter. Really 😀

  4. Absolutely mouthwatering!!!!!

  5. Store bought, ready-made pastry?! Why I… I… do the same thing. I can’t give you a hard time for something I do as well, can I? That would be rather hypocritical of me, I suppose.

  6. How very yellow and golden. Perfect!

  7. Lori M-I says:

    Store bought puff pastry? I am well acquainted with that melody. Welcome to the dark side my friend. I think you’re going to like it here.

  8. afracooking says:

    Fabulous! I can almost smell it baking. As I have never found good ready made puff (and have never dared to try my hand at anything more than a rough puff) I make my tarte tatin with regular pastry – but oh my yours looks so beautiful!

  9. Beautiful photos. Home made puff wins every time – I cannot find a store bought to match in Australia

  10. Forgive me Roger, for I too have sinned and often use shop bought puff pastry. Well, I have never actually made the real thing…maybe I should. When I’m down with my demolition job. Beautiful shots, making me crave something sweet now!

  11. Roger–What a delicious sentence, “Bundles of dark, sticky vanilla pods would stand in a tall, thin glass jar next to a squat one filled with Turkish dried apricots.” I think it’s wonderful that you can see your culinary interest being tempted by all those new food in the ’70’s. Lucky man.

  12. saucygander says:

    Much of what you said about oils, vinegar. liqueurs rings true. My pantry has grown so much over the last few years.
    As for puffs pastry, I am still in the fake it till you make it camp….but it’s on the to do list for this year!

  13. Michelle says:

    Homemade puff pastry is a bridge too far for me, too. The Dufour brand here in the States is wonderful, though expensive. So envious of your beautiful pears!

  14. One can make puff pastry from scratch? Really?? I thought it always came out of the freezer case at the market. Like Michelle, Dufour is my pick.

  15. If store bought puff pastry might be a sin, than I admit that I love to be a sinner(ess)! I by mine in middle eastern stores and works perfectly for me. Tartin with pears is a perfect choice for fall tarts, a bit juicy and so delicious. I often put on the bottom a layer of cream cheese or cream fraiche mixed with vanilla sugar, lemon zest and an egg, makes it a bit more sinful !!! Don’t we love to sin?

  16. Store bought puff pastry is perfect to me. I really don’t have a brand that I prefer… Buitoni maybe. But what’s inside and what you do with it is what count and those pears are stunning! 🙂

  17. I have been too hurried wit my pastry of late. Most inspiring post, Roger.

  18. cecilia says:

    The pastry here is frankly not worth shit (I know your cringe when i swear but there you are – it is dreadful stuff).. So i am doomed to the washing up. Now I am going to have to find out what MD’s recipe is. I bet it is better than mine.. I will look up Mary’s recipe, i have never used an egg yolk as well. I loved your description of the love of cooking, lurking and creeping up on you from the shelves and scented racks.. I have always cooked, but I only occassionally drift into the love of cooking. Though when cooking with someone else, like my daughter or sons who taste everything, (and live far far away) then I feel a love of cooking.. i think a lot of it is sharing a taste, sharing the raising of the eyebrows.. c

  19. ChgoJohn says:

    Great post, Roger. I’ve never attempted puff pastry; my rolling pin skills being so bad as to be absent altogether. That tart tatin is certainly tempting me to give ti a try. I can only imagine the aroma in your kitchen.

  20. Someone once commented (not kindly) on the overflowing products in my pantry.. I was miffed.. who wouldn’t want a pantry filled chockablock with stuff for cooking:D

  21. I’m always amazed to see that my cupboard is full, but there’s nothing to eat – 90% of the stuff is spices, herbs, vinegar, baking powder and cornflour. Welcome to the world of shop-bought pastry… it’s easier on the Dark Side. I’m picky about the ones I buy, though; real butter or nothing at all for me.

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