Wednesday, March 7, 2012

As soon as Spring is in the air, I want it all: shorts, school vacation, and fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere!  I'm slowly (15 years and counting) learning the New England patience captured in my neighbors' regular response to my eager pronouncements of Spring's arrival: "well, we'll see."  But I've also finally learned to set myself up so that I don't have to wait for blossoms and bees and all that follows to have fresh fruit in the Spring.  The trick?  Freeze, freeze, freeze it when it's fresh and juicy.  This past year, I froze enough.  Two huge freezer bags of blueberries.  Three big freezer bags of peeled, sliced apples.  Three big freezer bags of peeled, sliced peaches.  One big freezer bag of washed, chopped rhubarb.  One big freezer bag of blackberries.  One big freezer bag of raspberries.  One big freezer bag of trimmed strawberries.  It's so much, in fact, that I'm feeling a little pressure to get through it all before Spring actually arrives for good with the next crop.  Nice pressure to have to deal with. 

Without a question, the best thing we can ever do with frozen berries are hand pies, which we do in all sorts of variations.  The most recent one is in our Somerville Journal column for this week.  But variety is good, especially when searching for it gets us to come up with my new favorite: puff pastry with peach delight.  We didn't invent the puff pastry recipe.  We used The Gourmet Cookbook.  We had no idea puff pastry could be fast (as far as actual work time goes, you do need to start 4 hours before you want to put it together) or easy.  With the Gourmet recipe, it's both. 

Quick Puff Pastry Dough Recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unstaled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 3 T butter cut into very thin slices
4-6 T ice water

Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl.  Blend half of the butter cubes into flour with two knives or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Blend in remaining butter cubes in same manner until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-sized) lumps of butter.  Drizzle 4 T ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with fork until incorporated.  Squeeze a small handful of dough: if it doesn't hold together, add more ice water 1/2 T at a time, stirring until just incorporated.  Do not overowrk dough, or pastry will be tough.  Gather dough into a ball, then flatten into a five-inch square on a sheet of wax paper.  Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll dough out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 13-by-11-inch rectangle.  Position dough with a short side nearest you and place butter slices evenly over it.  Fold dough into thirds like a letter, bottom third up and top third down.  Turn dough so a short side is nearest you and roll it out into a 13-by-11-inch rectangle again, then fold into thirds once more.  Brush off any excess flour, wrap dough in plastic wrap, and refirgerate for at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day (or frozen for up to 1 month).

While the pastry is chilling, make the filling
2 cups frozen, sliced peaches (you could use fresh as well)
1/4 cup sugar

Put peaches and sugar into a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until peaches are falling apart and mixture is like a thick syrup, 30-45 minutes.  Mash any peaches that are still intact, using a wooden spoon, so that you have the consistency of chunky salsa. 

Preheat oven to 350.

Remove the pastry from fridge and roll out, on a floured surface, to about an 11x13 rectangle.  Cut in half and then cut again into thirds.  You're cutting out the tops and bottoms of your pastries.  That means you want six nicely matched pairs, twelve pieces in total. 

Put one piece of dough onto a baking pan.  Spoon one sixth of the filling into the center of one piece of dough.  Place its matching piece of dough on top and press down all around with your fingers to make a secure pocket for the filling.  Repeat until done. 

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. 

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