Kristen Hall did the thing that so many office dwellers constantly day dream of, and that’s walk away from her job to pursue a creative passion. The self-taught baker behind The Essential and Bandit Patisserie in Birmingham, Ala. was working at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, with a career focused on public health, when she started devoting more time to her hobby of baking. She and her two daughters would work on treats together, filling their home with baked goods that they would then box up, put on people’s doorsteps, ring the bell and then run away. It earned them the nickname “Baking Bandits.” A friend of Hall’s convinced her to do a pop-up shop in 2013 to feature her creations and it was a hit. Soon, there was so much baking it she didn’t have time for her day job, and she left to pursue a career in hospitality. She partnered with Victor King and eventually they opened The Essential, serving refined comfort food and then Bandit Patisserie.
In this episode of Robb Report Culinary School, Hall joins culinary editor Jeremy Repanich to show how to make rough puff pastry, a method that differs from traditional puff pastry and is a little bit easier for the home cook. She offers tips on tools and ingredients required, making the dough and creating fillings, while also discussing how her businesses have had to weather Covid-19.
Odds and Ends and Additional Links
- To make this at home, the basic ratio to remember are 2:2:1, which means equal parts flour and butter by weight and then half that amount of ice-cold water. In the her demonstration, Hall uses 500 grams of butter, 500 grams of all purpose flour and 250 grams of water.
- If you’re able to find it, Hall encourages bakers to use European-style butter, which has a higher fat content than a brand like Land O’ Lakes. That means there’s water in the butter that could develop gluten in your dough.
- Hall encourages you to get three specific tools to help with the task: a bench scraper, a digital kitchen scale and a French rolling pin.
- You can follow Hall on Instagram @bakingbandits and Repanich @jrepanich.
- Head to Robb Report’s Instagram page to check out more episodes of Culinary School, including Top Chef winner Mei Lin’s congee and James Beard Award-winner Chris Shepherd’s recipe for bacon chile jam.