Puff pastry has a reputation of being difficult and a lot of work to make from scratch. I had never attempted it before, but now that I have I thought it wasn’t so hard at all. The main point is temperature control, which is easier right now because it is winter and thus not warm in the house. Puff pastry puffs up because it has a lot of layers of flour and butter. In this recipe, there will be 256 layers! Temperature control is so important because the butter should be soft enough to be able to handle the dough, but not melted to keep the layers intact. This means that a cool room temperature of 18ºC/65ºF is ideal in your kitchen when you make this.
There are several reasons for making your own puff pastry rather than running to the store:
- Your own puff pastry will only contain flour, butter, water, and salt. Nothing else.
- You will have bragging rights.
- It will probably taste better (depending on the quality of the store-bought pastry).
- It is cheaper than store-bought.
Running to the store is faster (depending on where the store is), as making your own puff pastry does take about 4 hours. However, most of that time is inactive time with the dough resting in the fridge.
The keys to successful puff pastry are:
- Use pastry flour (cake flour) with a low amount of gluten so the dough won’t be very elastic. This will make it easier to roll out the dough. Allowing the dough to rest also helps for this;
- Wrap the dough well when you chill it in the refrigerator so it won’t dry out;
- Don’t chill it too long between folds as that will make it difficult to roll out the dough.
250 grams (2 1/4 stick) unsalted butter
250 ml (1 cup) cold water
8 grams (1 1/2 tsp) salt
Dust your hands and a piece of parchment paper with flour. Put the dough on the paper and shape it into a rectangle of about 1 cm (1/3 inch) thick with your hands. Wrap the dough in the parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.
Roll out the dough into a rectangular shape of 50 cm (20 inches) long and 30 cm(12 inches) wide. Use the rolling pin also in a diagonal direction towards the corners to avoid ending up with a circle rather than a rectangle.
The puff pastry can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, or in the freezer for months.
To use it, cut off what you need and roll it out until it is about 2 mm (1/12 inch) thick. Remember that it will become difficult to work with when it warms up above 16ºC/60ºF.