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Top-ranked recipe named "Puff Pastry (Pate Feuilletee)"
Makes about 2 pounds In the bowl of a food processor or using the flat paddle of an electric mixer, mix 1/2 cup flour with the butter until very smooth. Shape the mixture into a flat square 1 inch thick, wrap well in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes. Combine the salt with the remaining flour in a large mixing bowl and add the cream. Mix the dough well by hand or with an electric mixer; the dough will not be completely smooth but it should not be sticky. Shape it into a flat square 1 1/2 inches thick, wrap in plastic, and chill, at least 30 minutes. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a rectangle twice as long as the butter dough. Place the butter dough in the center, fold up the ends to completely encase the butter dough, and seal the edges by pinching them together. Wrap well in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes, so that the dough achieves the same temperature throughout. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured board, roll it out into a large rectangle approximately 1/2 inch thick. Fold the dough into thirds, aligning the edges carefully and brushing off any excess flour. The object is to ensure that the butter is distributed evenly throughout so that the pastry will puff evenly when baked. Wrap the dough and chill it for at least 30 minutes. This completes one turn. Repeat this process five more times; classic puff pastry gets six turns, creating hundreds of layers of butter between layers of the flour dough (729 to be exact). Use as little flour as possible when rolling out the dough, and always brush off any excess. (I use a 4-inch brush for this.) Remember to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator between turns, or 15 minutes in the freezer. This chilling makes the rolling out much easier and it keeps the layers of butter of equal thickness. By the sixth and final turn, the dough should be very smooth, with no lumps of butter visible. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 2 days), or freeze for future use. I usually divide the dough into 1-pound pieces and freeze it that way. RECTANGULAR TART SHELLS: Roll out the pastry into a rectangle at least 20 inches long and about 1/8 inch thick. Using a ruler as your guide, cut the edges with a sharp knife so that the pastry measures the desired size (I generally make these 4 X 18 inches). From the remaining pastry, cut three strips 1/2 inch wide and as long as the tart. Place the rectangle on a parchment-lined or water-sprayed baking sheet. Build up the edges by pasting two strips on the long edges with water. Cut the third strip into two strips that will fit the shorter edges and attach with a bit of cold water, overlapping the ends. Prick the entire inside bottom of the pastry shell with the tines of a fork (this prevents uneven puffing). Carefully line only the bottom with aluminum foil, and weight with beans, rice, or aluminum or ceramic weights. (Be careful not to weight the edges.) Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and brush the uncovered edges with a glaze of 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tsp cream or water. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges have puffed and begun to brown. Remove the weights and foil, and continue to bake until the entire shell is light golden brown. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Martha Stewarts Pies and Tarts From the collection of Jim Vorheis
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