Puff pastry

Puff pastry

By
From
Leiths How to Cook
Makes
500 g
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

The lightest and flakiest pastry, puff is also considered to be the trickiest to make. However, it is far superior to bought puff pastry, so well worth the effort. If you do need to resort to the bought version, buy a good quality, all-butter puff pastry.

Only a very small amount of butter is added to the détrempe when making puff pastry, with the remaining butter all added in one block in the first roll and fold, which creates the most defined, complete layers of all the layered types of pastry. Puff also has 6 roll and folds, which equates to 729 layers, and rises to at least 3 times the depth rolled.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
250g plain flour
1/2 scant teaspoon salt
180-200g unsalted butter, cold but pliable, (see note)
90-120ml water, chilled, (6–8 tablespoons)

Method

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Cut a 30 g piece from the butter, then cut this into small cubes and add to the flour and salt. Rub into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 90 ml chilled water and, using a cutlery knife, mix everything together quickly and efficiently for about 15–20 seconds, turning the bowl as you stir.
  2. The crumb and water will form large flakes. Drag the large flakes to the side of the bowl and add more water, ½ tablespoon at a time, to the dry crumb in the bottom of the bowl. Stir again quickly to create large flakes and add a little more water if necessary. You should ideally not add more than about 8 tablespoons water, or the pastry may start to toughen.
  3. Feel the large flakes, and if there seems to be a good amount of moisture within them and the water is evenly distributed, pull the large flakes together in your hands and work the pastry a little to bring the détrempe together into a homogeneous pastry that is fairly smooth and a uniform colour. Shape into a block about 12 x 17 cm and 2–3 cm thick, wrap closely in cling film and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Unwrap the pastry and place on a floured surface, with a short end facing you. Ridge gently, patting up and down on the pastry, keeping the rolling pin parallel to you. Try to keep the sides straight and the corners of the pastry square, using a palette knife or your hands, but keep hand contact to a minimum to prevent the pastry from warming up. Keep ridging as much as possible before you roll, then roll with quick, short, sharp rolls, gently encouraging the pastry to lengthen rather than applying too much pressure and stretching it. When the pastry is about twice as long as it is wide, re-check the sides are straight and corners square.
  5. Place the remaining butter between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper. Bash with a rolling pin to flatten, then shape into a rectangle half the size of the rolled détrempe. If the butter gets too big, fold it. At this stage it should still be cold and, if it folds without breaking, it is pliable enough. Neaten it quickly to a rectangle and check it for size.
  6. Place the butter on the bottom half of the détrempe, press the border lightly to flatten it, then bring the edges of the détrempe up the sides of the butter and press them over the edge of the butter. Bring the top half down over the exposed butter. Press the edges down against the sides of the butter, ensuring a good seal; the butter must not be able to escape.
  7. With the folded side away from you, ridge and then roll the pastry to 3 times as long as it is wide, keeping the sides straight and the corners square. Avoid creating thick ends at the top and bottom; roll back a little if necessary and avoid rolling over the top and bottom edge as you will stretch the top layer and create uneven layers, which will result in uneven rising.
  8. Fold the bottom third of the pastry over the middle third, then the top third down over the bottom and middle third.
  9. Now turn the pastry 90° so the fold is at your left. This is the first roll and fold.
  10. Now repeat the roll and fold, making sure the pastry is always cold to the touch and the butter is not breaking through the détrempe and becoming greasy. If it is, then scatter some flour over the butter, dust it off with a pastry brush and continue. When making puff, all the roll and folds are ‘blind’, as all the butter has already been incorporated. Wrap closely, making a note of how many roll and folds you have done, and place in the fridge again to relax and keep the butter cool and firm, for about 20 minutes. The butter must be cool but pliable, so don’t let it firm up too much in the fridge.
  11. Repeat the 2 roll and folds again twice, covering the pastry closely and chilling for about 20 minutes after each 2 roll and folds, and making a note of how many roll and folds you have done. Once the pastry has had 6 roll and folds, it can be kept in the fridge until needed. If very streaky, you may need to do one more roll and fold.

A note on butter content...

  • This recipe gives a range of butter quantity. If making puff for the first time, use the smaller amount. When you are confident with the method and the pastry works for you, increase the amount of butter for a richer flavour.

Making puff pastry in advance…

  • If making puff pastry either the day before use or for freezing, don’t complete the last roll and fold. Wrap the pastry closely in cling film, mark the number of roll and folds on the cling film and chill or freeze. Defrost frozen pastry in the fridge over 24 hours; it must be kept chilled when defrosting or the butter within the layers may melt.

    If you have chilled the pastry for more than 2–3 hours, leave it at room temperature for 5 minutes before rolling out, to let it soften very slightly. When ready to use, perform the last roll and fold which will help to ‘refresh’ the pastry and release the layers.
Tags:
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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