Tuesday, April 24, 2007

puff pastry magic

Tonight I had to make quick puff pastry, since I promised a french friend a mille feuille. Ugh, puff pastry. Of course I have not made it since culinary school, but the 6 turns, the rolling out the dough...my arms ached at the memory. However, a french meal and all I have to provide are pastry cream and puff...so not a bad bargain.

I find Cheffy's quick puff pastry recipe, head to the store, dawdle, realize I have to FREEZE the butter in chunks, do so. By the time I start it's 7:30 and my head's off in the clouds because of the GQ article on the Ferry Building. Which is funny, and over the top. Not only does the FB "enlighten," "enthrall," "nourish" san franciscans, it also "[is] a testing ground for a radically different way of dining." Read your May GQ and see, I kid you not. More on the FB later. So, head in the clouds, I throw my ingredients in the kitchen aid and go back to check the recipe because I feel like it's weird there's no sugar in the puff. Dash back to the other room when I hear the sounds of the paddle thwacking the dough around.

I'm glad I've become attuned to those sounds. Milk about to boil. Dough coming together. The sort of sounds that are not sounds at all to those who don't cook and I mean professionally.

Rescue the dough, begin to roll it out with huge holes of butter since that's what the recipe says and I know it will work. After two or three turns the butter's been worked in.

I love the feel of dough. It's so sexy. How it goes from being cold and riddled with butter holes to how the butter gets mixed in, the dough calls out for flour, more flour, the dough tells you what it needs if you know how to listen to it, if your hands know how to read it right.


Six turns. No wait, Five. But I've turned the oven on to 400 for the puff, only I'm supposed to drop it down to 350, and I don't know what the purpose is, what the heat does, and Cheffy's recipe tells me I don't need to rest the dough before using but David Lebovitz's (which I'm checking for the baking time) does say to rest it and I'm breathing out through my nose in short little bursts, heaving my body onto the silky dough, trying to roll it thinner, wider, better, wielding the edges of my french rolling pin to get it rectangular, working the edges out, making it nice. Losing my mind with the heat.

Five turns, and before the last fold I cut a large swatch to save for palmiers.

Sixth turn, bake off, freeze a good quantity of the puff.

Roll out the palmier dough one last time in sugar. Cut palmiers, dainty Maura-sized ones. Freeze some and bake six, so that there will be a breakfast surprise for the roommates.

Food is desire. Food is love. Food is exhausting yourself for others. When you haven't eaten or slept properly. When you yourself live on scraps of staff meal, dumpstered vegetables, cheese quesadillas with a splash of lime because you've exhausted the salsa, the zaatar, the avocado.

In insatiable, Gael Greene expresses wonder that anyone could term a food item better than sex. But the night of profiteroles, eating Claudia Fleming's salted caramel ice cream straight from the machine, before freezing, we both said sex was irrelevant.

Two hours start to finish and I have palmiers to eat nad bake off later, puff to bake later and puff for my napoleon, and flour all over my pants and righteous body exhaustion.

But the FB, the Ferry Building. I knew from the Chow discussion it was coming, but I didn't expect to see my boss in the teaser when I opened it up. Or the pastries I bake off at five am. I really wouldn't have thought Frog Hollow would be such a feature of the article--maybe because it's next to Boulette's Larder and everyone loved Boulette's. Miette is reduced to a tiny picture and a mention of its macarons. Probably the only thing worth getting except for the graham crackers which I liked. I wonder what Meg and Caitlin are thinking of their poor placement. Recchiuti and Scharffen Berger aren't mentioned at all, really.

I had lunch at Out the Door today. Five Spice chicken with vermicelli. It was good, fresh. The vegetables tasted fresh. The meat was moist, spiced but not too spicy. It was good. Clean. Though my favorite Vietnamese food still is from Poughkeepsie, which is bizarre, who would have thought that my first exposure to red chicken, lemongrass chicken, vietnamese curry tofu and so on, would be so irreplacable.

The FB, do you think it's a temple of food, as Richman claims? I do. I love the Ferry Building. I love coming at it from all angles of the city, how it calls you down Market. I love how people come together, tourists or local, how the FB makes the happy. I love using the second floor restrooms and spying on people. I love my job. I love watching the red-haired chef open up Boulette's in the morning, that I'm not the only one working at dawn. I love the Bay Bridge view. Sunrises.

My life changed in one day and that day began at the Ferry Building, in fact with breakfast from Frog Hollow, and when I was so sick of Sonsie , in my deepest longings all I wanted to do was come here, work with organic bakers, hang out in the FB, and figure out my relationship to food. And here I am. I'm just not used to sharing my temple.

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