Whenever the boyfriend and I feel like deviating from our fairly normal weekend brunch menu of scrambled/fried tofu or tofu benedict, we take out Vegan Brunch and page through it to see what appeals to us that day. I make and remake Isa's seitan sausages often, as well as the whole wheat drop biscuits, and when it's the boyfriend's turn, he makes me the pancakes and waffles.
But there is one thing we have not been able to make. Without fail, every time we open up the cookbook, the boyfriend turns longingly to the Tempeh Sausage Pastry Puffs and asks me if I can make them. "We have to get puff pastry," I always explain.
As it turns out, this is harder than it seems. We shop at a natural food coop that rarely carries puff pastry--and when they do, it has butter. We decided one day to try Whole Foods, who carried, to our initial delight, three kinds of puff pastry! ...but they all had butter in them. Vegan puff pastry is hard to find--especially if you care about what you eat. Vegan Brunch says that Pepperidge Farm's puff pastry is vegan, but guys, do you know what's in Pepperidge Farm's Puff Pastry? Copy and pasted from the nutrition information:
Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid) Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (Soybean and Cottonseed Oils Colored with Beta Carotene) 2% or Less of: Gluten, Mono and Diglycerides (from Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Soy Lecithin.
YUCK. Two kinds of hydrogenated oil. Plus soy and wheat are two things that, if you eat organic, you want to be organic, and because cotton is not a food crop, there are way fewer limitations on the types and amounts of pesticides and herbicides used in dealing with cotton plants. Cottonseed oil is nasty, guys, and if you prefer to eat organic, so is Pepperidge Farm's puff pastry.
I would have to make it myself. But traditional puff pastry requires time, energy, and skill with dough that I do not have. It calls for about 24-36 hours of preparation, most of which is chilling, but a lot of which is rolling out dough. Basically, if you can't master a pie crust (which, embarrassingly, I can't), you're doomed with traditional puff pastry recipes.
BUT THEN I found this recipe. A food processor puff pastry dough that only needs to be rolled out twice and refrigerated once? It was worth a try. I obviously veganized and otherwise changed it slightly, but full credit goes to Cooks Illustrated for it. This is a picture-heavy post because the directions are easier to illustrate than to describe.
Fast, Easy Vegan Puff Pastry
The recipe makes 24 puff pastry squares. You can halve it if you want, but the dough freezes well, so if you only want 12 (like I did), just make the whole recipe and save the rest for later. Also, though the original recipe calls for salt, it also calls for unsalted butter, so I figured earth balance was salt enough.
2 Cups all-purpose flour (plus a bit for flouring your work surface)
20 Tbsp (that's a cup and a half) vegan margarine, cut into small chunks
6 Tbsp ice water
I normally use the organic Earth Balance, but it's much easier to measure 20 Tbsp with the sticks, which are at least all natural.
1.) Put the flour and about 4 Tbsp of the margarine into a food processor; pulse 15ish times to incorporate. Add the rest of the chunks of butter, then pulse again, but only 3-5 times.
2.) Add the water. Pulse for 10-20 seconds, until it starts to form a ball of dough.
3.) Put the dough on a large sheet of parchment paper, form into a rough rectangle. Put another sheet of parchment paper on top.
4.) With a rolling pin, roll it out long and flat; 12 by 18 inches. Remove the top layer of parchment paper, turn the dough over onto a well-floured surface, then pull off the other layer.
5.) Fold the sides over the middle, so it's now about 4 inches in width.
6.) Roll it up length-wise.
7.) Squash it into a square, then wrap this tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until firm. The recipe I used says 1 hour, but the longer the dough was in the fridge, the firmer it got, so if you can leave it for a couple hours, even better. (At this point, you can freeze it [or half, like I did] for later use; just put it in a plastic bag in the freezer. Simply thaw by moving it to your fridge then night before you want to use it.)
8.) Take the dough out of the fridge. If you are using the full recipe (for 24 pastries), divide the dough in half and just follow these directions twice, keeping the half you're not using in the fridge until you're ready for it. Again, put the dough between two large sheets of parchment paper. Roll to a 10- by 15-inch rectangle, then cut into 12 pieces.
Here is where the recipe and I differ. I had doubts that these thin little strips would really puff up, so I took each piece, folded it over itself twice (you can see an example of the folded square on the right side of the picture), and rolled it out again not quite as thinly before putting them on the baking sheet.
It took maybe an extra 5 minutes total and I was really glad I did it; they puffed up well, and I know I owe some of the layers to the fact that I did that last-minute extra folding.
I loaded them up with the sausage topping, hoping that after all my work they would really actually puff, and followed Isa's recipe directions (400 degrees for 18-20 minutes)... and voila!
Homemade vegan sausage-topped puff pastries! The are very filling; we each had 3 and a salad for dinner and were stuffed.
I still have the other half of the puff pastry in the fridge. I might make something desserty with it, maybe those palmiers... Any other recommendations for use?
For the record, you could substitute some of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour, but it will puff way less, be less flaky, and take a little more water. I recommend trying it with all white flour the first time at least.