Sunday, August 30, 2009


The Puff Digest.

This really is a Digest as it contains a compilation of all I know, have learned and researched in cookbooks, on television and the Internet about Puffs.
I've found enough shortcuts with this to ensure original taste without the labor, time and energy originally involved in the recipe.
Puffs are also called turnovers in some countries, samosas in whatever name you know it, a puff still is really amazing. In our house it's a meal in one and I wanted to share all the shortcuts I know with you. The history of my experience with puff making is recorded for those who love reading 'the real version'.

Before I married HD, I had only made puff pastry taught in my high school cooking class by Sister Rita Mary.
This was the American/English version with cold butter, flour, water and `cool' hands.
Again, in those days this was a very long version and done only under compulsion in class.

When I got married, to my surprise I found, HD's family made the best puffs with a labor intense version of home made puff pastry, and their own unique filling.
They made a dough out of maida (all purpose flour), water, salt and a little ghee. After letting the dough rest for a couple of hours, they rolled it out to a big circle, then spread a mixture called `saatta', made of equal quantities of ghee and maida. This was spread on the circle, the circle rolled up into a cylinder, starting with a 3/4 inch fold. This large roll was then cut into 1 inch pieces, then each piece rolled out in one direction only, keeping the cut pieces at the ends. This small circle was filled, sealed with a mix of flour and water and then deep fried. The layers were amazing, the taste incredible and the work mind boggling.
The whole process from start to finish took quite a few hours and more than one pair of hands. which in a large family there was no shortage of.

Here abroad, where there is only one person to make your favorite soon found a shortcut that was pleasing to the palate without compromising taste.
I have made these puffs many times over the years, keeping the original filling but using my healthier shorter version.
Originally, Pepperidge Farm sheets provided the puff pastry. I cut each sheet into three rectangles along the creases lengthwise, and then each rectangle into three squares. I rolled out each square further then cut into two lengthwise, stuffed each portion, sealed it with a mix of flour and water.
So here's the Math: from each rectangle I got six puffs and from each sheet eighteen puffs in total.
Even with the rolling out, there were enough layers in the final puff to impress everyone.
I baked the puffs following package instructions, switching the baking tray from top to bottom rack half through to ensure even baking.
If you don't roll out the dough squares a bit, you'll end up with a cover that's too thick.

Older and wiser now, I have switched to the five by five inch squares (or four by four, depending which brand you pick) of Puff Pastry sold in packets at my local Lebanese store. I roll out the squares and make two large puffs out of each...four would be better and smaller, but I'm not that patient.
I bake them in a 425 degree oven, in the middle rack. They come out great.

On a search for other covers, I came across mention of all these wrappers on different websites and television shows: wonton wrappers, phyllo dough sheets, phyllo dough cups, egg roll wrappers, empanada wrappers, pie crust sheets, puff pastry.

Recently, much to my delight, after reading a recipe for baked empanadas, I discovered frozen empanada wraps in the Mexican Supermarket.
I fill each circle, put water on half the semi-circle, fold over, and press the edge with the tines of a fork.
I was a little disappointed with how dry the baked empanadas were, so I broke my rule of very little fried foods and fried one just to see the difference.
The results overwhelmed me. Though the crust was a little bubbly for some reason, it was a perfect samosa crust....all one could ask for, dream of and enjoy tremendously.

Then I came across a recipe for samosas stuffed with chole (garbanzo beans/chick peas cooked with spices...recipe below). I've looked for the site repeatedly to give them credit here, but I cannot find it. This idea of chole in a samosa, caught my attention and tantalized my tastebuds. Which clever person had thought the recipe up and why was I never that clever person?
For a picnic, I made them with the empanada wrappers. It was just like eating puris and chole in a neat I made them again for a friend to take on a long flight, and stuffed two of them with shrimp from my shrimp curry and four with chole. She loved them and I loved her enjoyment of them.
I use the whole circle of dough, which is each empanada wrapper and make them as crescent samosas. (picture one, top right.)
My daughter came over to help me make the samosas last year, to take on a picnic with her friends and all their tiny tots. She cut the empanada crescents in half and made little triangular samosas so we could differentiate between the non-spicy and the spicy. So if you want triangular ones, there's your method. (picture three top left).

A few days later after we made the samosas for the picnic, I saw Robin Miller making empanadas rolling out a ready made circle of pie crust dough (they come two big sheets in a pack). After rolling it a little, she cut out circles using a round cookie cutter, stuffed and baked them. That's a good baked empanada cover as it comes out flaky and delicious.
Her recipe is on The Food Network.

As for phyllo dough, it's a challenge to work with in small quantities because of the way it dries out, but I do love the Greek spanakopitas (spinach puffs), when someone else makes them.

I tried egg roll wrappers as covers and they do crisp up nicely when deep fried, but really the winners are the puffs made from the puff pastry squares (baked), and empanada covers for the fried ones.

I have done this over and over so I know the best covers when I eat them!

Now on to the fillings.

Filling 1.

HD's family filling. (This is a unique mix of ingredients that makes strange reading but once made and eaten is addictive).

Boil 2 Tablespoons channa dal...mash half of it.
Boil 2 potatoes...mash them.
Combine potatoes and channa dal.
Cook the following together, if all veggies are fresh. If some are frozen, add when the fresh veggies are two thirds done.
1/2 cup peas.
1/2 medium finely chopped nukol (kohlrabi).
1 bunch dill, washed and finely chopped.
1/2 cup carrots. (I use grated carrots ).
1/2 cup beans, finely chopped.
When done add 1 large finely chopped onion.

Masala: Grind 1 bunch coriander, washed and cleaned. 1/4 coconut, 1/2 inch piece ginger, 2 cloves garlic, green chillies to taste, 1 tablespoon khus khus (Indian poppy seed), 2 cloves (the spice).

Assemble all veggies in a pot, add masala and salt to taste and let it cook for a few minutes more till mix is dry. Cool before filling.

Filling 2.

The usual mix of potatoes, peas and spices. You'll find this recipe on a number of websites/cookbooks.

Filling 3. (Middle picture, 2nd row).

Keema (Mince): I use lean turkey minced/ground meat for this.
Fry chopped onions brown, add garam masala (ground cloves, cinnamon and cardamom), chilli powder, salt, chopped coriander and washed & drained ground turkey.
Cook till dry.

Filling 4.

Chicken: Cook chicken well and chop fine.
Fry a lot of onions, add finely chopped coriander, ground ginger and garlic, 1 tsp garam masala, chilli powder and salt to taste.
Add to chicken. Fry till dry.

Filling 5.

Shrimp/Fish: I use leftover shrimp and fish for this from a curry or a fry.
Remember the filling has to be dry as possible, so drain well if using from a curry.
Spicy Salmon makes a really good filling.

Filling 6

Chole/Garbanzo Beans/Chick Peas: Fry 1 finely chopped onion. When brown add 2 tomatoes, finely chopped coriander, 2 cloves grated garlic, channa masala, chilli powder,1/2 tsp amchur powder or 1/4 tsp tamarind paste, and drained chole from one can. Cook till thick.

Any leftover tasty vegetable makes a good filling the next day.

Filling 7 (First picture, 2nd row).

And then for dessert there is the sweet filling given with the Rawa Puffs recipe in this blog.

lan of Cheenachatti, thanks for getting my batteries re-started.

1 comment:

lan said...

that is an amazing collection. thanks for putting it up. one of these days when regular cooking does not get in the way, i will get to them....