Baking basics: How to cook puff pastry, as shown in All Day Baking by Michael and Pippa James

Making it is not as difficult as you might think. In particular, the perception that it's time consuming can be off-putting; it does take time, but it's short bursts of work punctuated by long rests. Pictures: Lisa Cohen
Making it is not as difficult as you might think. In particular, the perception that it's time consuming can be off-putting; it does take time, but it's short bursts of work punctuated by long rests. Pictures: Lisa Cohen

For every two lovers of sweet baked treats, there is at least another who will take the gruyere gougere or the curry pastie every time, thank you. All Day Baking: Savoury, Not Sweet is a baking cookbook - at last - for them. Its mission is to deliver comforting, inventive and wholegrain-forward ideas for pies, sausage rolls, pasties and myriad other mostly pastry-based recipes, alongside gutsy accompaniments that equip the reader with the tools to transform delicious bakes into nourishing any-time-of-day meals.

  • All Day Baking, by Michael and Pippa James. Hardie Grant Books, $45. Photographer: Lisa Cohen

Puff pastry

Puff pastry can look spectacular and has many uses. Making it is not as difficult as you might think. In particular, the perception that it's time consuming can be off-putting; it does take time, but it's short bursts of work punctuated by long rests. I recommend breaking down the process into small chunks: prepare the dough and butter block two days before you want to bake, laminate the butter into the dough the next day, then let it rest overnight in the fridge before using.

This recipe is tried and tested and gives excellent results. It is set up so that you can use a standard 250g block of butter. It may make more pastry than you need, but if you are going to invest the time to make it, you'll be thankful that you've got some ready to go for next time and, once made, it freezes really well.

Take note of the weather and observe how the butter is performing. If it's too soft, it might need more time in the fridge between folds; if it's too hard, it will crack. The vinegar helps to prevent discolouration and also helps with the gluten cross-linking.

Ingredients

70g unsalted butter, chilled

150g chilled water

10g white vinegar

340g plain flour

10g fine salt

For laminating:

250g block unsalted butter, at room temperature

Wholemeal variation:

70g unsalted butter, chilled

180g chilled water

10g white vinegar

170g wholemeal flour

170g plain flour

10g fine salt

Whole rye variation:

70g unsalted butter, chilled

180g chilled water

10g white vinegar

135g rye flour or wholegrain rye flour

205g plain flour

10g fine salt

Method

DAY 1

1. Take the 70g butter out of the fridge, cut it into 1cm cubes and leave to soften slightly for 10 minutes before you start - you want it to be cold but pliable.

2. Combine the water and vinegar in a jug. Put the flour, salt and butter cubes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to break the butter into the flour until you have shards of butter the size of rolled oats still visible. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the vinegar mixture and mix until the dough just comes together. You don't want any dry pieces, but you need to be careful not to overwork the dough.

3. Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Wrap the dough and rest it in the fridge for two hours, or overnight.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the butter for laminating. Place the butter block between two sheets of baking paper and use a rolling pin to roll it into a rectangle roughly measuring 18 x 20cm. Put the butter in the fridge, between the sheets of baking paper, and refrigerate for two hours, or overnight.

DAY 2

1. Remove the dough and rolled-out butter from the fridge about 30 minutes before you laminate the pastry. You want the butter to be malleable but not too soft.

2. Lightly dust your kitchen bench with flour. Lay the dough rectangle on the bench with one short side parallel with the edge of the bench. Roll the dough away from you to form a rectangle measuring 20 x 40cm, still with the short side closest to you.

3. Place the butter block in the middle of the dough, with the 20cm side of the butter parallel with the bench. Fold both free short sides of the dough over the top of the butter so they meet in the middle, encasing the butter. Lightly pinch the ends together to seal (the seam should run parallel with the bench).

4. Rotate the dough block 90 degrees so the seam is now perpendicular to the bench. Using your rolling pin, gently press or stamp along the length of the dough to make it more malleable (you can do this at any stage in the process to make the dough easier to work with). Next, roll the dough away from you to form a 20 x 40cm rectangle, again with one short side parallel with the bench. Starting from the side closest to you, fold the bottom third of the dough into the middle, then the top third over the top of that, as if folding a letter. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

5. Put your dough on the bench with the open seam on your right-hand side and perpendicular to the edge of the bench. Roll the dough away from you to form a 20 x 40cm rectangle. Fold the bottom third of the dough into the middle, then the top third over the top of that, as if folding a letter. Repeat this step until you have completed four single (or letter) folds in total. Refrigerate your pastry for one hour after every two folds to keep the butter from getting too soft (refrigerate for 30 minutes after every fold if it's a warm day). If you have kept the pastry in the fridge for more than one hour, allow to stand for 10-15 minutes before continuing (reduce this time in hot weather).

6. Once all four folds are done, wrap your pastry and rest it in the fridge for at least six hours, or preferably overnight, before you use it. Chilling the pastry before using it prevents it from shrinking. Roll it out to whatever thickness you need. The pastry will keep for three to four days in the fridge, or up to one month in the freezer.

Makes 830g.

Pork, sage and onion sausage rolls

Pork, sage and onion sausage rolls. Picture: Lisa Cohen

Pork, sage and onion sausage rolls. Picture: Lisa Cohen

This is my favourite sausage roll. Onion and sage are classic pairings with pork and this is a great rendition - I could eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I use really good mince from the shoulder and flavour it generously with herbs. If you have a choice, opt for coarsely ground mince. It's great for a sausage roll because you get a nice distribution of fat all the way through. This stops the mince from drying out and gives the sausage roll more flavour.

Ingredients

60g olive oil

4 medium onions, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped sage

1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary

1 tbsp finely chopped thyme

1 1/2 tsp fine salt

1kg minced pork

100g coarse dry breadcrumbs

1 quantity puff pastry

egg wash

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

Method

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook with the lid on, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until lightly caramelised. Stir in the sage, rosemary, thyme and salt, then transfer to a large bowl to cool.

2. Add the pork and breadcrumbs to the onion mixture. Use clean hands or a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly until all the elements are evenly distributed through the mince. Transfer the mixture into a large piping bag with a 3cm diameter hole. (A piping bag will make it easier to distribute the filling, but you can always spoon it onto the pastry if you don't have one.) Refrigerate while you prepare the pastry.

3. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Put the pastry on a lightly floured kitchen bench and roll it out into a rectangle measuring 30 x 60cm and 4mm thick. Lay the pastry so that one long side is parallel with the edge of the bench. Cut the pastry in half lengthways so you have two sheets, 15 x 60cm.

4. Pipe half the filling in a horizontal line one-third of the way up each pastry sheet. Brush the pastry above each line of filling with egg wash. Lift up the pastry along the edge closest to you and fold it up and over the filling. Seal the pastry along the egg-washed edge, so the seam sits underneath the filling. The pastry should hold the filling evenly and not be too tight.

5. Brush the tops and sides of both rolls with egg wash, lightly pierce along the top with a fork, then sprinkle with mustard seeds. Cut each roll into 15cm logs (or cut them into 5cm lengths to make party snacks; it should make about 24). Lay your sausage rolls on the lined tray and rest them in the fridge for 30 minutes. At this stage, you can freeze them until required.

6. To bake the sausage rolls, preheat the oven to 190C. Bake from cold for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 180C. Bake for a further 25-30 minutes (reduce by 10 minutes for mini rolls), turning the tray halfway through, until the pastry is golden, puffed and flaky. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before eating.

Makes 8.

Ratatouille and bocconcini pie

Ratatouille and bocconcini pie. Picture: Lisa Cohen

Ratatouille and bocconcini pie. Picture: Lisa Cohen

This is my take on ratatouille, the classic French Provencal vegetable dish originally from Nice. It features a wonderful variety of vegetables, plus I've added bocconcini to marry it all together and bring out the best of summer. The great thing about this pie is its versatility: use mozzarella instead of bocconcini, take out or add any vegetable you prefer, stick with just one colour of capsicum or mix up the colours and eat the rainbow! You just need to ensure that your total vegetable weight is similar to the recipe.

Ingredients

500g eggplant

400g zucchini

800g capsicums

2 large onions

6 garlic cloves

100-150g olive oil

20g unsalted butter

1 x 400g tin whole tomatoes or 6 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

20g balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 tsp fine salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

grated zest of 1 lemon

40g basil, leaves picked and torn

1 tbsp chopped thyme pastry of choice

8 bocconcini, cut in half

pepitas, for sprinkling

Method

1. Start by prepping all your vegetables so that the cooking process flows nicely. Trim and chop the eggplant, zucchini and capsicums into 2-3cm pieces, discarding the membranes and seeds from the capsicums. Peel and slice the onions. Peel and thinly slice the garlic.

2. Heat 20g of the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the eggplant, zucchini and capsicum for 4-5 minutes, adding more oil as required. Stop cooking before the vegetables get soft; you just want a bit of colour at this stage. Transfer each batch of vegetables into a large bowl.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter with 20g olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic, stirring, for 10-12 minutes until starting to soften and caramelise. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, then stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Add all the fried vegetables, then reduce the heat to low and cook just under a simmer for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and everything comes together. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest, basil and thyme. Once it's cooled a little, check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

4. To assemble your family pie, roll the pastry 3mm thick and cut a large circle 3cm wider in diameter than your pie dish (or roll into your desired shape based on the dimensions of your pie dish). Avoid rolling the pastry too thin - you want the crust to have some body and plenty of flaky layers.

5. Place your cooled braise into the pie dish. If making one pie, scatter the bocconcini halves over the ratatouille filling before adding the pastry lid. If making individual pies, use two bocconcini halves for each pie. Grease the rim with butter or oil. Lay the pastry over the top, then use your fingers to pinch or crimp around the edge, or use a fork to press it down.

6. Brush the entire surface with egg was and poke a hole in the middle to allow steam to release during baking. I like to sprinkle pepitas over the pastry top before baking. Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to set the pastry while you preheat the oven for the bake.

7. Serve with a leafy summer salad.

Serves 8.

Beetroot and shallot tarte tatin

Beetroot and shallot tarte tatin. Picture: Lisa Cohen

Beetroot and shallot tarte tatin. Picture: Lisa Cohen

This is a slightly fancy way to serve simple roasted root vegetables, and once you have the vegetables roasted and the pastry made, it's a quick dish to assemble. I recommend prepping everything the day before.

Back in my restaurant days, we used to do a little tarte tatin of banana shallots. I love the idea of something that's traditionally sweet as a savoury dish. It's very simple to make, so satisfying to eat and can look spectacular on the dining table as a showpiece.

Line your tatin pan with a circle of baking paper the same diameter as the base; this makes it easier to turn the tarte out and keep the form of the vegetables. I've used puff here but flaky shortcrust pastry will also work well. I have made this with all sorts of root veg, such as carrots, celeriac and fennel, so you have plenty of options and can experiment to your taste.

Ingredients

1/2 quantity puff pastry

6 garlic cloves, whole and peeled

6 medium shallots, peeled with roots left intact

80g olive oil

1 tbsp nigella seeds

1 tsp celery seeds

700g small beetroot

60g soft brown sugar

60g pomegranate molasses (see note)

30g balsamic vinegar

30g water

3-4 thyme sprigs, plus

1 tsp chopped thyme

1 tsp chopped rosemary

egg wash

flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Note: If you do not have access to pomegranate molasses, substitute with balsamic vinegar.

Method

1. Put the pastry on a lightly floured kitchen bench and roll it out into a disc 4mm thick, then cut a circle 1cm wider than your pan. I use a 25cm round tarte tatin pan. Lay the pastry between two sheets of baking paper and refrigerate until you're ready to assemble.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C. Loosely wrap the peeled garlic cloves in aluminium foil. Put the shallots in a roasting tin, drizzle with 20g of the olive oil and toss to coat, then sprinkle with the nigella and celery seeds. Add the foil bag with the garlic to the tin and roast for 20 minutes, or until the shallots have a bit of colour and are softened slightly. Set aside to cool.

3. Increase the oven to 190C. Peel the beetroot and cut the larger ones into halves or quarters and leave the baby ones whole. Put in a separate roasting tin, drizzle with the remaining 60g olive oil and cover the tin with foil. Roast for 30-40 minutes until tender. Set aside to cool.

4. To assemble the tarte, cut a disc of baking paper the same size as the base of your tatin pan and line the pan.

5. Combine the sugar, pomegranate molasses, vinegar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil for a few minutes until the mixture becomes quite syrupy - just before it starts to caramelise. Remove the pan from the heat when you see lots of medium-sized bubble on top.

Serves 4.

This story Baking basics: Making puff pastry is easier than you think first appeared on The Canberra Times.