Monday, November 16, 2015


'Twas a failure, it was, my sausage-roll experiment. But it was also a learning experience, and if we think scientifically, then scientifically speaking, there are no failed experiments.

I had tried to model my sausage rolls off the ones I'd seen on a Sorted Food video on YouTube. Here's what the polished final product is supposed to look like:

Here's what mine turned out like:

And the miniature rolls that I made with the spare puff-pastry dough:

I was disappointed, to be honest. But I learned a few things:

1. When the recipe calls for fatty pork, use fatty pork. My building's grocery apparently sells only the lean kind, which ended up being rather dry after baking, just as the video warned would happen. Next time, my solution will be to incorporate bits of fatty bacon. The meat gets pureed, anyway, so the bacon ought to blend right in.

2. Puff pastry is a bitchy, high-maintenance dough. When the experts say you have to handle it only when it's cold, that's what they mean. If you let your puff pastry warm up to room temperature, and only then stick it in the oven, (1) it'll take longer to bake, and (2) it'll never be as puffy as it's supposed to be. The puffiness in puff pastry comes from the fact that the dough is essentially thousands of layers of flour and butter.* The butter, when cold, retains both its water content and its hardness. When the dough goes straight from cool to oven-hot, this creates steam inside the flour layers, which creates thousands upon thousands of tiny dough-bubbles, which is what gives puff pastry its puffiness. Let the dough warm up, and that effect is no longer as pronounced. In my case, I had to bake the dough for nearly twice as long to get the desired result. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. I've had better luck with dough-from-a-can when making flaky biscuits, probably because I just pop the biscuits out, place them on a cookie sheet, then stick them right in the oven—all within a minute or so, which doesn't give the dough time to warm up. Perfect results every time.

Next time, I need to find better puff pastry, or I need to learn how to make it myself, despite all the work that goes into it (I've watched the videos, including the vids for the shortcut version of the pastry, i.e., "rough puff"). The puff pastry that I got from Itaewon's High Street Market was initially rock-solid because it had been frozen, but it began thawing during the taxi ride back to my place, and kept right on thawing when I arrived and began prepping. I thought, at first, that the dough was one single rectangular block, but once I cut into it (thinking I'd be rolling it flat), I saw, in the cross-section, that it was actually four sheets. Unfortunately, by the time I realized this, the dough had gotten so soft that the edges had fused all around, making it nearly impossible to peel the layers apart. Next time, I might just cut off the edges to make peeling easier, but what I'd really rather do is buy puff pastry that's been packaged in the form of individually wrapped sheets, like what you see in the Sorted Food video. Much, much easier to handle by far.

3. I forgot to add the salt and pepper to the meat. This made everything bland. So problem (1), above, was dryness; this problem—lack of umami—compounded the mediocrity. As I was chewing on one sausage roll, I was thinking about possible dipping sauces to liven things up. Best I could come up with was some sort of spicy tomato sauce or a chimichurri.

4. Line the baking tray with paper. Make cleanup easier on yourself.

5. Eyeball the baking. Don't trust your oven's timer. With all that oil oozing out from the chorizo, the oven can easily become a smoky, fire-alarm-y mess, and I've already told you about how terrified I am of that alarm's ever going off.

So! Lessons learned. If I do this again—and it's a rather expensive undertaking, so I don't know when I might next try this—I'll be sure to race home, put the puff pastry in the freezer, cut off the pastry's edges if necessary, remember to add salt and pepper to the meat mixture, line the baking tray with paper, add fat to the lean pork, and be better about eyeballing the baking process. As Jim Kirk said in "Star Trek II: The wrath of Khan": "We learn by doing."

*In case you think I'm exaggerating about "thousands," watch this video and read this site, which notes that the dough can have up to nearly 2200 layers.


Charles said...

Thanks for the report!

I've never worked with puff pastry, so this was interesting. I don't think I'd ever try to make it myself, though--that's a lot of work.

Kevin Kim said...

This was a big first for me, and I'm a little shell-shocked and gun-shy from the experience. I've still got some puff pastry left; I stuck it in the freezer and will whip it out once I get together some garlic butter, parsley, and golbaengi.