The two most versatile recipes you can have in your baking arsenal are puff pastry and pastry cream. With these two ingredients, you can create a multitude of pastries and baked goods, from mille-feuille and cream puffs, to beignets and croissants.
Of course, store-bought puff pastry and pastry cream work just as well as homemade ones, and are definitely more convenient. But wouldn’t you want to create these things from scratch as a weekend project or just to show off to your friends? I know I do!
For Puff Pastry:
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- 150ml Cold Water
- 250g room temperature butter that is not exactly soft, but still spreadable.
- 250g Bread flour
For Pastry Cream:
- 1/4th cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tbs. Butter
- ¼ cup white sugar
- An extra 1/3rd cup white sugar
- 2 cups milk
- 1 whole egg
- 2 egg yolks
Making the Puff Pastry
- Sift 250g of bread flour and 1 tsp sea salt into a large mixing bowl.
- Crumble 250g of butter into small pieces and rub them gently into the flour. It’s ok if they’re not fully incorporated into the flour, but every piece of butter should be coated.
- Make a well in the flour. Pour 50ml of your cold water and mix until you have a firm and rough dough. Add extra water if necessary.
- Cover the bowl in cling film or a clean towel and let the dough rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
- Once the dough is done resting, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead gently and form into a rectangle with smooth surfaces.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough, but only in one direction. Do this until it’s around 7 by 19 inches wide. Make sure the edges are straight and even, and try not to overwork any streaks of butter on the surface.
- Take your now-rectangular dough, and mentally divide it horizontally into 3 even parts. Take the top third and fold it down into the center, then take the bottom third and fold it on top. Give the whole dough a quarter turn in any direction. Roll it out again until it’s three times the original length. Repeat 3 times.
- Fold as before, cover with cling film and chill for at least 20 mins before rolling to use. Fold it one more time into a neat rectangle. Cover with cling film and chill at least 20 minutes before using.
Making the Pastry Cream
- Stir your milk and quarter cup of sugar in a heavy sauce pan. Bring the heat up to medium until the whole thing is boiling gently.
- In another bowl, mix together the egg yolks, the egg, the remaining sugar, and the cornstarch. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
- Once the milk and sugar mix comes to a boil, pour into your egg mixture in slow, steady streams. Stir constantly to avoid cooking the eggs. Pour the custard back into the saucepan and slowly bring back to the boil, constantly stirring to ensure the egg doesn’t cook or the milk scorches the bottom.
- Once the mixture boils and thickens, remove from the heat. While it’s still hot, stir in your butter and vanilla, and mix until both are blended in completely. Pour into a container and place a piece of cling film directly onto its surface. Chill completely before using.