Puff pastry myth busted!
There are many things I dread cooking and never venture to try. It is the fear of failure! Puff pastry is one such culinary process I feared. I was fascinated by flaky and airy, puff pastry from a very young age. Those puffs they sell in cinema theaters and bakeries used to taunt me. I have always admired puffs made online and on screen. But, I seriously thought it was not in my ability range.
One day, I woke up with the enlightenment that all fears need to be conquered. I decided to put this pastry making to test. Blogging has helped me to shed many kitchen fears and take a step to forge ahead. Of course, a challenge makes cooking exciting! I was certain, now is the time to take the bull by the horns.
I referred to many recipes and took notes. I shaped this puff pastry by adding some techniques I have understood and using some good reasoning to give it my personal touches. If I fail, I will learn a thing or two. Contrarily, it could even be a lucky break.
This is a long recipe because the process is a bit lengthy and time consuming. So please have some patients with me! Making Puff Pastry from scratch is not difficult at all but you need a Zen like calmness to execute it. Select a day when you have at least 4-5 hours time to devote when preparing this pastry.
Puff pastry is formed by placing butter inside flour dough. The dough is then repeatedly folded and rolled out to make the pastry layers. The French term for flour dough is détrempe and for the butter slab is beurrage. It is a very versatile dough used in many recipes like strudels, palmiers, sausage rolls, tarts, turnovers, puffs and cheese straws.
I want to make it as simple as possible avoiding a lot of measuring. Only four ingredients here!
- 3 ½ cup all purpose flour + some for dusting the surface
- 2 cups cold butter (a block of butter, 1 lb or 454 grams)
- 1¼ cup ice cold water
- 1 tsp salt
Take flour in a bowl and add 1/4 cup butter and with hand or pastry blender cut it and mix well with the flour. (I used a potato masher to break butter into smaller pieces and then mixed with hand.)
Pour water little at a time and gather the dough into a ball.
Knead it lightly and quickly without transferring any warmth so that the butter does not melt.
Wrap it in a plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour to chill.
In the meantime, take the remaining large chunk of butter and cut it in half and to smaller squares.
Place this on a butter paper drizzled with flour.
Arrange the squares of butter with small gaps in between. (It helps butter to expand when rolling into a block)
Dust with flour and place the butter between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound into a flat disc using a rolling pin and roll into a rectangle.
Wrap it in butter paper and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Now, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator.
Using a knife make a cross on top of the dough. (This helps to roll it into a rectangle.)
Roll each division so it stretches and form a rough rectangle.
Remove chilled butter from refrigerator.
Place the chilled butter in the center of the rolled dough.
Envelop butter in dough by bringing the sides to the center. Fold all the ends over it so that butter is completely encased in dough.
Roll it gently into a flat slab with the enclosed butter, taking care not to let the butter break through the dough.
Fold the top third down to the center, then the bottom third up and over that.
This is the first folding.
Wrap the long rectangle dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, hit the dough with the rolling pin to ease the butter and roll again into an elongated rectangle.
Next, fold into thirds. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and fold the shorter side to the middle and overlap with the other edge. This is the second folding.
Wrap the dough again and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Repeat rolling and folding three more times, rotate the dough 90 degrees every time. After each folding and rolling, rest it for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Folding and rolling 5 times gives this dough multiple layers with thin layer of butter trapped in between. On baking, water content in butter turns to steam. This pastry expands when butter melts and pushes the layers apart.
Puff pastry dough is convenient as it can be stored in the freezer for a long time and it can be thawed before use. This pastry can be flattened and cut into smaller parts according to need.
Commercially made puff pastry available in stores use butter or other substitutes. This homemade pastry tastes far better with real butter melting and crisping the layers.
The proof of the puff pastry is in its baking. Next on the docket is a puff tart, so stay tuned!