I have a dirty secret. I really love brownies from a mix. There. I said it. Don’t judge me too harshly. You know I really do like to bake things from scratch. I generally prefer homemade pie crusts and cookie doughs. But when the stand mixer is unplugged at home you'll find me in the baking aisle of the supermarket with my arms wrapped tightly around a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix. Maybe two. Especially when I’ve got a good friend to laugh with (I miss you, Jenny) and a couple of feel-good-foreign movies to watch. I would chose mix brownies over homemade any day. I know it’s a bit shameful for a baker but it’s the truth about me. Now you know.
You see I’m all for a convenience product when it’s, well, convenient. (Or delicious, chewy, warm, artificial-flavored brownie goodness.) So I hope you’ll trust me when I tell you that instead of buying it, I think you should make puff pastry at home. Yep. Not nuts. Doable. And so so worth it.
The traditional way to make puff pastry is to wrap a big block of butter with a big piece of dough and then roll and fold the thing, over and over again, until the butter is dispersed in hundreds of super thin layers. When the butter melts in the oven, the steam lifts the layers of dough into a beautiful puff. It’s gorgeous. It’s a bit of a pain. But there’s a simpler way to make this dough from scratch. Enter rough puff pastry. Hello, friend!
This easy, magical pastry starts with a bunch of butter cut into cubes and then tossed with flour and salt. You then add a bit of ice water until it comes together and makes a dough. (You’ve got this. It’s just like a good old piecrust.) Then comes the fun. You do a little rolling and folding. Not much. Promise. And it’s super easy because the butter is cut into cubes instead of in a giant block. Genius! Plus you don’t have to let it rest more than once in between folds (if you asked me) and it feels crazy good in your hands. I’m telling you. It feels gooood. There is something about this dough. It starts off all shaggy and lumpy. A little scary. But with every roll and fold it comes together a bit more. Eventually it transforms into something so soft and silky. Every swipe of the rolling pin is a real pleasure. I found it hard to resist the urge to rest my cheek on the finished dough. Pillow soft. Trust me. You’ll be proud of yourself when you’re done. And then you can just chill it and use it as you see fit. Sweet or savory. Today or a month from now. It can just hang out in your freezer waiting for its day to shine.
The pastry that this shorthand method produces is so unbelievably good and butter flaky fantastic that you could lose your mind. Seriously. You might find yourself with a baking sheet of freshly puffed pastries, hiding in the closet, wondering if anyone saw you take it in there, and whether or not you can hide the empty sheet under your shirt when you emerge. Dangerous good.
I decided to use my dough to make a homemade version of toaster strudels. (I have to atone for the brownie mix.) Do you remember those? I don’t think my mom ever actually bought them but I have such vivid memories of the old commercials. That seductive glaze packet! Kids love a glaze packet. My homemade version starts with a jammy peach raspberry filling and ends with a cream cheese glaze. Cream cheese glaze. (It’s worth repeating.) And then there's that dough. Dough of dreams. After one bite I kept wondering if I had shards of pastry in my hair. And all over my face. And covering my shirt. Maybe we should reconsider that solo closet scenario.
Peach Berry Toaster Pastries
You can wrap and freeze the baked, cooled pastries for up to a month. Warm them up in the toaster oven and glaze just before eating.
For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose four
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups raspberries
1 small peach, diced
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners
4 tablespoons cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk (plus more if necessary)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Make the pastry: In a large bowl combine flour, salt, and butter pieces. Add 6 tablespoons water and mix with a fork just until the dough comes together. Add a little more water if necessary. Turn the mixture out onto a work surface and shape into a 12 x 6-inch rectangle with a short side nearest you. Fold dough into thirds like a letter. (Fold the bottom third up and then the top third down over the bottom third.) Rotate the dough so that rounded edge is to the left. Repeat the process two more times, lightly flouring the surface as necessary. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Repeat the same entire process 1 more time, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Roll dough into a 15 x 16- inch rectangle. Cut dough into 24 4x21/2inch rectangles. Refrigerate dough until ready to use.
2. Make the filling: In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Stir in raspberries and peaches and cook over medium until the fruit has broken down and the mixture has thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool completely.
4. Preheat oven to 400°. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk with 2 teaspoons water. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, lay out 6 dough rectangles. Dollop about 1 heaping tablespoon filling in the center of each rectangle. Brush the edges with some of the egg mixture and top with another dough rectangle, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. Brush the tops with egg mixture. Repeat with remaining dough and filling on another lined baking sheet. With a paring knife, make a little slit in each pie to vent steam. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 24 minutes. Transfer pies to a rack to cool slightly.
5. Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla. Drizzle over warm pies and enjoy!