A Story of Butter

Baking something from Duff Bakes sits at number nine on my ‘Summer Want To‘ list. And while I plan on eventually giving you a detailed follow up post on how much I accomplished from the list, this story must be shared now.

Having only made one treat from the book* this far in, I knew this was an item on my list that was lacking.

*Blueberry Cheesecake Bars–yum!!

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A few months ago, I made these Flaky Chicken Taco Pockets* from my Picky Palate cookbook. Despite having used shredded rotisserie chicken meat instead of shredded breast meat, both Hubby and I** enjoyed this quick and simple meal.

*Think: chicken tacos in puff pastry

**I’m lying. Though I loved the flavors created, I absolutely hated the fact that there was dark meat, something I usually love, in this clearly meant to be all white meat dish.

Wanting to make them again, the right way, and also knowing that Duff had a recipe for Quick Puff Pastry, I decided to add the recipe into this month’s dinner menu.

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Things were going great when I started with the puff pastry. Since the recipe is titled, “QUICK” Puff Pastry, I figured it had to be a simple enough thing to do that would obviously yield a delicious result.

Oh you naive woman, you.

Duff distinctly says in the recipe to leave the butter cubes ‘nice and whole’ while ‘the dough forms…but doesn’t smash them’.

To me, that meant the fact I could still see pieces of butter in my dough was a win. I felt like I had been super successful in following his directions and was somewhat surprised that it had resulted in a sturdy lump of dough.

Perhaps naive is the wrong word. Perhaps the correct word is cocky. I thought I had this in the bag. There was no way it could fail.

I even went ahead and took pictures comparing my slab of puff pastry to the store bought kind:

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There was no question in my mind that this puff pastry I had constructed out of four simple ingredients would achieve flavors and textures far beyond what the frozen dough ever could.

If pride goes before the fall, then I was tumbling head first down the steepest mountainside with no way to stop myself and no soft landing in sight.

The first issue I reached was when I placed my warm taco mixture onto my fresh dough. Unlike the tough frozen stuff, my dough immediately went to mush beneath the warm chicken mixture. Regardless, I pressed on despite this feeling punching my gut that said, “This is just the first part of a bigger disaster. Are you ready?”.

I decided, for God only know why, to use my flat baking sheets rather than my rimmed ones. My rimmed ones have more recently been dedicated to making croissants and I felt making these taco pockets on them would damage their integrity.

After the pockets had been in the oven for about three minutes, I checked on my pathetic, mushy, homemade puffs only to discover that:

  1. Compared to the frozen puff pastry, they were flattening instead of puffing
  2. The chunks of butter in them were melting and creating a pool of melted butter on the pan which was dripping off the edge of my very flat baking sheet and onto the bottom of my very hot oven.

Friends, do you know what burnt butter smells like? Burnt butter paired with whatever burnt bits may have already been at the bottom of my oven? The best way I can put it is, it was better smelling than the burnt plastic that once  graced my oven, but worse smelling than day old garbage. It also came with enough smoke to fill my entire downstairs and set my smoke detector off.

In the baking world, using browned butter creates a nuttier flavor, completely separate from ordinary butter. Somewhere just past the point of this separation of milk solids and butterfat that creates brown butter, we reach black butter.

I am fairly certain no bakers use black butter in their recipes.

In solution to my problem, I quickly drained the melted butter off the flat baking sheet, and tossed the sheet into a rimmed baking sheet and put it back into the smoking oven to continue to bake.*

*Yes, I am that insane. Despite all this, I was going to see those babies through to the end.

While they weren’t horrible, Hubby and I both ate one, the frozen puff pastry was the clear winner.

One day, far from now, I’ll attempt to make this puff pastry again and I’m sure it will be brilliantly flaky and delicious. Perhaps then I will follow the note I missed at the very bottom of the recipe: ‘The trick is to shape the dough, then chill it before baking so the butter doesn’t leak out in the oven.’

That, my friends, is why you always, always read a recipe in its entirety before ever attempting it.

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