I planted camellias in my front garden (a humble but mighty two food wide, eight foot long patch in front of my house) last year. Last year, as it turns out, just AFTER camellias were in full bloom. I’m not much of a gardener, obviously. I buy something beautiful, or with the great potential for beauty, and hope I can convince it to live long enough to share its beauty with me.
I planted my camellia bush last year with the great hope that I could keep it alive for a year and that when camellia season graced us yet again, my little plant would have a flower for me.
It’s slow. Some parts of this life feel so so slow. I watched as my camellia bush developed tight and tiny maybe blooms, still unconvinced. We had a rough patch through Fall when I fell away from my plants and into other things. I thought the rain water would do, but other plants in my garden struggled, letting me know that HEY! WE NEED FOOD AND WATER TOO.
Patience, and a plant’s unwavering commitment to photosynthesis and reproduction, a little bit of my care and attention – and beauty prevails, as documented above. Plants are generous. New Orleans is generous. Both are beautiful.
Moving to New Orleans has taught me a number of things: patience and grace, the fact that beauty emerges, and the wonder that there is so much joy to experience and new joys to learn.
This recipe is born of some new joys I’ve experienced in New Orleans and inspired by one of my very favorite bakers in the city: Christina of Levee Baking Co. She’s an incredible baker and deeply generous. I took her Queen Cake class a few weeks back and walked away with this RuffPuff know-how.
The tokens you see atop these baby Galette de Rois are the feve – traditionally a dry bean hidden in the cakes that represent luck and prosperity. These day with American King Cakes we use a little plastic baby. In New Orleans, because the city is incredibly creative, @jackiebrownceramics is making clay feves – little tokens I’ve placed atop the cookies to represent luck and prosperity and the Queens in all of us.
We’re making two fine things today:
• Rough-Puff Pastry (that I lovingly call RuffPuff because I like a good f-run.) RuffPuff is a high-fat pastry dough that comes together like pie crust (working cold butter into flour) but is folded and rolled several times (in a process called lamination) and becomes flaky and puffs beautifully in the oven. It’s a fast way to puff pastry, and it’s not even a cheat – it’s just as delicious but more accessible for us home bakers.
If you’ve never made Rough-Puff and have felt a bit intimidated I would encourage you, especially in these cooler months, to give this a try! It’s such a secret weapon to have in your baking skill arsenal. You’ll want to puff everything!
• We’re also making ground Pistachio Rose Filling with eggs and butter and so much sweet and salty flavor! It comes together in a food processor and is completely decadent.
We’ll start by adding both salt and sugar to a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat flour.
The whole wheat flour adds a rustic nuttiness to the dough. Some depth, ya know? I use King Arthur Flour in my kitchen, I think they make a quite consistent and very good all-purpose and whole wheat flour.
Whisk all of the dry ingredients together.
Next we’ll add a pile of butter. A pile of cold, cubed butter.
Because butter is such an essential part of this recipe I find it important to use the good stuff – the high-fat European butter like Plugra or Kerry Gold. Unsalted, kept cold, cut into cubes.
We wan’t to retain a cold butter as we work this dough together. Keeping the butter cold every step of the way will ensure that when the cold butter (wrapped in the pastry dough) hits the hot oven to bake, the water inside the butter will turn to steam and evaporate in the oven, helping create lift and flakes in the pastry.
Everything is everything.
Work the cold butter into the flour mixture. We can do this by hand, I recommend it because your hands afford you the luxury of really seeing what’s going on with the mixture.
Start by quickly fluffing the flour cubes inside the flour, lightly coating the butter. Use your thumbs and fingers to press the cold butter into rough sheets in the flour mixture. Breaking down the butter into the flour, creating butter bits and sheets as you go.
The mixture will look shaggy, like this! See all those big but flattened sheets of butter? That’s right!
If we’ve worked the butter into the flour quickly enough (and we hope we have), if the room is cool-ish (aka it’s not summer), if the stars have aligned just so (amen) – then the butter bits should still be chill to the touch.
Now it’s time to add our liquid to bring the pastry together: cold water + a good splash of apple cider vinegar.
Adding vinegar is a bit of insurance against overworking the gluten in the dough, the light and bright tang is a nice flavor addition, and vinegar keeps the dough from oxidizing in the refrigerator, giving it a longer life if you’d like to keep it on hand for the future.
I chose apple cider vinegar because I always have it on hand, I like the flavor, and listen… it’s a great and all-purpose vinegar!
We’ll add 3/4 of the liquid to a well we’ve created in the center of the shaggy butter + flour mixture.
Use a spatula to gently toss the flour into the liquid. Try to moisten as much of the flour as you can before adding more liquid.
When the dough has reached a moist but still shaggy stage it’s time to get it on the counter and ask it what it needs.
Maybe it needs more liquid. Maybe it needs a good kneading. Maybe it needs more flour (just a bit).
We’ll start by kneading the dough, suggesting that it come together into a thick disk.
In this stage we’re not really squeezing the dough in our hands. It’s more of a press together, discovering any dry pockets and encouraging the wet pockets to integrate into the dough further.
I added a bit more liquid to the dough as I was bringing it together on the counter (meaning I added the full 1 cup + vinegar). The dough will be moist but not sticky wet. If you find that your dough is terribly sticky, clean your hands of dough (it’s an uphill battle if your hands are covered and sticky), add a few tablespoon of flour and continue to press the dough together.
Once you’ve helped the dough find its way to a thick rectangle, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Two hours is good, too. Give it some good time to chill.
Once chilled the dough will come out of the cold and we’ll start the lamination process. Lamination is much easier with chilled dough. If the dough gets warm it will start to feel like a fight so don’t cheat the chilling process – the dough will let you know if you do.
Laminating is a series of rolling and folding. It maybe sounds more intimidating that it is.
Roll the disk into a rectangle about 6-inches wide and 16 to 18-inches long. The dough will be about 1/2-inch thick.
Position the dough so that the short side is facing you and the long end extends away from you.
Fold the bottom of the dough 1/3 of the way up. Fold the top of the dough 1/3 of the way down creating a letter fold.
Rotate the dough letter a quarter turn so the folded rough edges are facing you and extending away from you.
Again roll the dough into a 6-inch wide and 16 to 18-inch long rectangle. Fold in thirds again. Rotate and roll and fold again.
Pass through 4 laminations. You may find that you need stop and refrigerate the dough to rechill the butter before completing all of the laminations.
After 4 or 5 laminations, cut the dough in half, wrap each disk of dough and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight to chill the butter and relax the gluten.
Setting the pastry to rest in the fridge is a good time to make the pistachio filling.
The hardest part will be shelling the roasted and salted pistachios without eating them all.
Place the pistachios in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and add sugar and salt.
Grind the almost smooth and add lemon zest.
Add a whole egg, along with an egg white (we’ll reserve the yolk for egg wash) and pulse the mixture together.
We’ll add softened butter a bit at a time. I like to warm the butter between my fingers before adding it to the food processor. Add a bit of butter, and with the food processor on low, add a bit more until all of the butter is added and the pistachio mixture is emulsified.
Add a splash of rose water and whirl to blend.
Spoon the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate alongside the pastry. A few hours is great for a chill as is overnight.
We’re ready to assemble the cookies!
Set yourself up with: 1 disk of RuffPuff + the pistachio filling + the egg yolk reserved from the filling with one whole egg whisked into it for egg wash.
Bring one of the pastry disks out of the refrigerator, leaving the second in there to chill.
Roll to a 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured board.
Lightly brush half of the pastry rounds with egg wash. Dollop one tablespoon of pistachio filling into each round that you’ve egg washed. Top each pistachioed round with a plain round of pastry, pressing the edges together.
Transfer each round to a parchment lined baking sheet and use a fork to crimp the edges, sealing it well. Brush the top lightly with egg wash.
Use a small knife to create a vent hole in each of the pies and lightly draw a design with the knife across the top.
Refrigerate for 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
Bake to golden and puffed in a very hot oven. It’s a wonder, really!
I hope this inspires a New Orleans baking adventure in your kitchen. It’s Mardi Gras and we’re up to our ears in glitter, beads, cake, and camellias. It’s all such a joy and a wonder and these cookies are no exception.
- For the Pastry:
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 12 ounces (3 sticks) high-fat unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- For the Pistachio Rose Filling:
- 1 1/4 cup shelled roasted and salted pistachios
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg white, yolk reserved
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon rose water
- 1 large egg (to combine with the reserved yolk for egg wash)
- To make the pastry, in a large bowl whisk together the two flours, salt, and sugar. Add the cold butter all at once to the flour mixture and use your fingers to fluff and combine, coating all the butter.
- Use your fingers to break the butter down into the flour. Press the butter chunks between your thumb and index fingers into rough sheets of butter.
- Break all of the butter pieces down, creating pea size chunks of butter along with flattened sheets of butter. This usually takes me about 5 to 7 minutes. Work quickly as to not heat the butter with your hands too much.
- Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Stir together cold water and vinegar. Add 3/4 of the liquid to the the flour. Mix the flour mixture towards the center, tossing together the wet and dry ingredients. Add more of the water mixture as necessary to create a moist but still fairly dry dough. Dump the dough out onto the counter and start to gently knead together into a thick rectangle. Add more water as necessary and you'll know you have enough liquid when there are no dry patches remaining.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
- Once the dough is well chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and place on a well floured counter. Roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle roughly 6x16-inches wide and along.
- Position the rectangle long way from where you stand extending out long in front of you. Fold the bottom third of the dough up towards the center. Fold the top third of the dough down over the first fold. This is a letter fold we'll repeat.
- Rotate the dough a quarter turn clockside so the ends of the folds are facing towards you and away from you. Roll the dough out long into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle again so that it extends long out in front of you. Fold into the letter fold once again. Rotate and roll and fold once again.
- Complete 4 roll and fold laminations. You may need to return the dough to the refrigerator to rechill the butter in the middle of working. Cold butter is best.
- After the 4th fold, divide the dough in two. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- While the pastry rests, make the pistachio filling.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment pulse the shelled pistachios, sugar, flour, salt, zest, and splash of rose water. Blend until the the nuts are relatively fine but not completely smooth. Add the egg and white and pulse to combine. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- With the mixer running on low, add the softened butter, a tablespoon at a time. The butter will emulsify as it's added to the nut mixture, thicken and become really luscious. Scrape the filling into a container and store in the refrigerator overnight or until ready to fill the cookies.
- When ready to assemble the cookies, remove one half of the dough from the fridge, keeping the other chilled. Roll the other half into a 1/4-inch thickness on a well floured surface.
- Use a 2-inch round biscuit cutter to cut as many circles as possible from this half of dough. Brush half of the circles lightly with egg wash. Place one tablespoonful of pistachio filling into the center of each egg washed circle.
- Top each filled circle with another pastry round. Use a fork to crimp the edges, sealing.
- Repeat with the other half of dough. Rolling, cutting out circles, filling, and topping. Place each pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2-inches apart.
- (It is possible to reroll the pastry scraps, so hold on to them and make as many cookies as you'd like!)
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Before baking, lightly brush each round with egg wash and use a small shark knife to create one vent hole (reaching down to the filling layer) and a few decorative slashes across the top to help the pastry grow in the oven.
- Chill for 20 minutes before baking. Bake for 16-18 minutes until deeply golden brown and puffed. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the rack for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
- Cakes are best wrapped at room temperature for up to 4 days. Reheat lightly in the oven before serving to freshen the pastry.