It’s astounding how quickly your life can change. In the space of a week, I went from being home full time to working full time – from bread maker to bread winner you might say! My head is still spinning, but let’s just say I am adjusting.
I tried to write a long dramatic post about what is happening & how I feel, but you know what, it is what it is & I must make the best of it, for my family, for me. The thing I am assured of is that my children are safe, happy & home with Daddy for the most part, while we work out what needs to happen next for us as a family to move forward. While I did not anticipate such a big change this soon in our lives, it is here & we do what we have to for each other.
Am I happy to be back at work? I miss my babies terribly, but having them run into my arms after a long day is just the best feeling, and watching the lightness & humour come back into my partner’s eyes after a long time of stress & unhappiness makes it worth it, even if happiness about it is a bit of a stretch right now.
Suffice to say I have been a little absent from my kitchen haven, (cue sad face), the last few weeks & new recipes might be a little slower coming, but I Iove this little space of mine & will visit here as much as time & inspriation allow.
OK – enough with that stuff, here’s what I really come here for, read on & enjoy, I know I did when I ate them (wayyyyyy too many of them) …
Look at these little lovelies! I adore all things pastry, but have to admit, I rarely make my own. The convenience of being able to buy such good quality ready made sheets usually wins with me. However, given this blog is about me cooking things fresh & from scratch, I thought I should challenge myself to making all of this & I have to say, I am so glad I did! Homemade pastry is the bomb, seriously!
I was worried I couldn’t replicate the light & flaky texture of a good puff pastry, but I did, thanks in no small part to the amazing as always smitten kitchen blog of Deb Perelman. The more I make from her recipes, the more I find myself heading straight over there when I am looking for a guide. The recipes are easy to follow & for me always turn out as you want them, even when I change up a few little things. I have so much bloggy & home cook love for this woman – simply incredible!! :)
See what you can do & how easy a good pastry can come together – awesome! I didn’t alter it much from the original, except to use coconut sugar instead of white sugar. This changed the colour of the pastry, but everything else was just as I was hoping.
This recipe was very easy to bring together with a little elbow grease & mess & well worth the effort. Here’s how it goes;
- 3 & 3/4 cups plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar - (I used *coconut sugar)
- 1 teaspoon table sea salt
- 340 grams COLD unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 cup buttermilk (or, make your own **buttermilk substitute)
- Sift together flour, zest, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large bowl.
- Using a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the flour until you form a crumble mix, with butter pieces about the size of peas - (this takes me about 5 minutes or so).
- Add about 3/4 cup of the buttermilk and gently mix it through until it starts to come together - it will be kind of scrappy looking .
- With clean hands in the bowl, knead until it forms a ball - (7 or 8 good kneads should do it).
- If it doesn’t come together, add remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does, then gently knead again.
- Divide in half.
- Wrap each half in cling wrap and flatten.
- Chill in fridge for at least an hour.
- This pastry can be refrigerated for up to two days or frozen for up to 3 months.
- If frozen, transfer it to the fridge about 24 hours before you want to use it.
** – To make your own buttermilk, simply add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 cup of milk you are using. Stir & allow to stand for about 10 minutes, giving the milk time to curdle.
So … the next step was to decide what to put with the pastry. The original recipe has rhubarb & cream cheese. Delicious, but not what I was wanting to use. After a little thought & a play around, I decided to go with strawberry, apple & ricotta.
I had recently gotten my hungry hands on a big load of gorgeous Queensland fresh strawberries, perfectly ripe, lip smackingly sweet & juicy! One of the many great things about living in Australia is the variation in climate across the country means you can get most anything in season somewhere! It’s amazing how much produce you can find that is in season & affordable even when you might not otherwise expect it. Bonus for me living in cold frosty countryside where such delicate beauties as strawberries scoff at the idea of growing this time of year!
My family absolutely loves strawberries – we will all sit & eat them by the punnet as a morning or afternoon snack. Keeping them on hand means I know we’ll be eating them & getting valuable Vitamin C & antioxidants. Plus, yum! Pair them with apples, add a little creamy ricotta & encase them in golden pastry & well, can you say, scrum-diddly-umptious!!
Without question, there’s a bit of work in bringing these together. Each component is relatively easy to make, but it does take time to prepare & cut the pastry and adding the filling is a delicate operation, as you need to ensure you don’t over fill them. That said, once you get into a rhythm, they come together & are ready for eating before you know it!
The only other thing I will say here is that the ricotta mix can become quite runny if you add too much lemon juice (like I did), so it won’t ‘dollop’ – if this happens to you, just mix the ricotta & fruit together to your taste, remembering you want it to stay thick & sticky, so it doesn’t just run out the sides of the parcels.
- STRAWBERRY & APPLE PUREE
- 1 punnet of fresh strawberries, halved - (approx. 8 - 10)
- 3 small granny smith apples, peeled,cored, quartered & sliced about 1cm thick
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar + extra to sprinkle - (I used *coconut sugar)
- 1 tablespoon water
- LEMON INFUSED RICOTTA
- 100 grams ricotta
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar - (I used *coconut sugar)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 large egg yolk
- FLAKY SHORTCRUST PASTRY
- See recipe card above or use a ready made one if you prefer
- STRAWBERRY & APPLE PUREE
- Place water, strawberries, apples and sugar in a small saucepan and stir to combine.
- Cover and cook at medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium, remove the lid and cook for about 10 minutes, until strawberries & apple are well softened.
- Remove from heat & allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
- Using a stick blender or similar, blend the strawberry & apple until it forms a smooth puree.
- LEMON INFUSED RICOTTA
- Whisk ricotta, sugar, lemon zest, juice and yolk together in a small bowl until smooth.
- Keep cold until needed.
- PARCEL ASSEMBLY
- Preheat oven to 210oC (non fan forced).
- Line two or three baking sheets with baking paper.
- Beat remaining egg and 1 tablespoon water to use as egg wash.
- Flour the bench top well.
- Unwrap half of the pastry.
- Use a rolling pin begin pressing down lightly, moving it from the center out across the pastry.
- Roll it a few times in one direction, lift and rotate it a quarter-turn.
- Continue to do this until pastry is about 1/2 cm thick.
- Using a cookie cutter - round or square, mine is 78mm, to cut pastry into shape - (2 per parcel, top & bottom).
- Brush half lightly with egg wash to use as bases.
- In the other half, cut a small vent to make lids.
- In the center of each base piece, put a small dollop (a measured teaspoon) of ricotta, then strawberry & apple filling on top - (if ricotta mix is really runny (like mine!), mix it in with the fruit & it will work just fine)
- Place a vented top over the filling and base.
- Press outer edge of top and bottom all around to seal with your fingertips or fork.
- Space each parcel about 2cm apart on baking tray.
- Brush egg wash and sprinkle generously with sugar.
- Repeat with remaining pastry including second half from fridge, and fillings.
- Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden browner at edges.
- Transfer to cooling racks and cool to room temperature before serving.
- Parcels will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, or can be frozen for up to 2 months.
- To reheat cold parcels - 10 - 12 minutes at 200oC
- To reheat frozen parcels - 15 - 20 minutes at 200oC