There are very few things that say comfort food like a chicken pot pie. I go for the classic combination with chicken, peas, carrots and a parsnip for flare, in a rich creamy white sauce that is made with fresh thyme and parsley. The whole thing is draped in a crust of homemade puff pastry. It is this last detail that transforms this bastion of Americana into something utterly sublime. The mille feuilles (thousand leaves) of pastry are baked as a golden brown crown that adds the flaky contrast to the creamy stew below. Seriously folks, it got me mother of the year status in my house!
Puff pastry is the ultimate dough in any home or professional kitchen. One that is not at all difficult to make, but it requires some of your time and a bit of your patience. The store bought version may be convenient but it will leave you feeling lackluster, while the home made dough will make you weep. In order to get the flaky puff that gives this dough its name, you must diligently “laminate” layers of dough with layers of butter, about one thousand in all. It is the butter that create steam as the dough bakes, which causes all the layers to separate into a flaky crust. Once you work with and taste the pastry you will understand why it is worth every moment that goes into its preparation. I make a batch that will easily prepare pot pie for dinner, a napoleon for dessert and flaky caramelized palmier to dip into my morning coffee. Or, the dough can be frozen for a month.
I’ve made several pot pie recipes and this time I tried one from Christopher Kimball’s latest kitchen tome The Cook’s Country Cookbook. It is a very simple and fast recipe that makes a chicken pot pie worthy of my puff pastry. I baked it in these fabulous individual red Le Creuset Stoneware Heart Ramekin with Cover.
Puff Pastry by Zoë
2 ounces (1/2 stick) soft unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups (11 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup cold water
1 pound (4 sticks) soft unsalted butter – not so soft that the stick can’t old its shape when picked up.
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2. Press the dough out onto a sheet of parchment or a Silpat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. While the dough is chilling prepare the butter layer. Mix together the 1 pound of butter, 2 tablespoons of flour, and salt until very smooth. there should be no hard lumps of butter.
4. Once the dough is chilled Roll it out into a large rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick, about 12×18-inches. Spread the butter over 2/3 of the dough with an Offset Spatula. Be sure to leave about 1/2-inch border around the butter.
5. Now you need to “lock in” the butter, so that it won’t leak out of your dough while you are working with it. Fold the 1/3 of dough that has no butter over the middle 1/3.
6. Fold the last 1/3 of the dough over the middle again. Press the edges shut, to lock in the butter.
7. Place the dough back onto the tray and cover with plastic wrap. refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. You should check after 20 minutes to make sure the butter is not getting too hard.
8. Take the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out to the 12×18-inch rectangle again on a lightly floured surface. Be sure that you are careful not to squeeze the butter out of the ends of the dough. In fact, you want to avoid the edges as much as possible as you are rolling.
9. Before you begin folding the dough brush the excess flour off of the dough with a Pastry Brush.
10. You are going to fold the dough in thirds again, like a letter. Start with one end and fold it over the middle section. Brush off the excess flour. Fold over the other side.
11. Gently roll the dough out a little bit so that the layers will chill faster when you stick it back into the refrigerator. Sometimes you can roll it quite a bit and others the butter is too soft or hard or the dough is resisting. If the dough is resisting, give up and cover it with plastic.
12. Now you have completed your first “turn” of the dough and you need to mark it as such. It is traditional to make an indentation in the dough, either with your finger or the blunt backside of a knife. If you are using parchment paper you can mark the turns right on the paper.
You need to repeat steps 7-12 a total of 5 more times, you will have 6 full turns by the end. As the layers of butter get thinner and thinner the time needed between turns in the refrigerator gets shorter. By the final turn you will only need to let it rest for about 10-15 minutes. If your dough is behaving well, you may even get 2 turns in one go. Don’t rush the dough, it is best to keep the dough chilled.
Now your dough is ready to use or freeze.
To make and bake the Pot Pie:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Use the pot pie recipe of your choice.
Cut the puff pastry dough in half. Roll out one half until it is 1/8-inch thick. Wrap and refrigerate or freeze the other piece of dough. It will last in the refrigerator or about 3-5 days, frozen it will last for a month.
If you are using the heart shaped baking dishes you can measure the outside of the lid and that will give you the right size dough. For any dish without a lid you need to measure the dish and make sure the dough measures about a 1/4-inch wider than the dish on all sides. As the dough bakes it will rise quite a bit and shrink in width. BTW-you will not use the lids for baking this!
Fill the baking dish with your filling, nearly to the top, but not quite.
Top with the dough. Tuck it into the pot so that it isn’t hanging over the edges.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the pastry is a golden brown.