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Welcome to Hill Reeves, a blog where I write about the things I cook and bake in NYC.

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Making Puff Pastry

Any food-lover who reads cooking blogs, flips through food magazines, or watches cooking shows every evening has heard a chef say, "don't bother making your own puff pastry." It seems that most chefs (who tend to have an aversion to baking in the first place) feel that this intricate pastry dough isn't worth the time or effort. Buying the frozen version is just as good-- or in some cases, better, they say. Having worked before in a kitchen lab at a national publication, I've learned the merits of buying expertly crafted food products. The best way for us to test 100 skillets was to prepare the same exact Bisquick pancake in each. Sure, it's ideal to have fresh ingredients whenever possible and making things from scratch can be the most rewarding process. But if you're looking for a balance of quick and delicious, scoop-and-bake Nestle Toll House is a damn good cookie. Why? These recipes are built to remain as consistent as possible, considering infinite variables.

So while I'm sure that, as a chef, it makes way more sense to purchase puff pastry dough when making 1,000 tiny hor d'oeuvre tarts. As a home cook, I like to know what I'm missing, so I spent my Saturday baking a tarte tatin from scratch, including the puff pastry.

Tarte Tatin
Tarte Tatin

Here's what I learned: It's not difficult to bake a puff pastry. It just takes preparation. Reserve half a day so that you can roll out the dough every hour or two in order to achieve those flaky layers, and read through a few recipes ahead of time. You'll want to get your butter chilled, but not frozen, for example. Otherwise, this is definitely something I'd do again. Not only was the final product delicious, it was also impressive!

The Perfect Pantry