Pastry Basics: Puff Pastry
It's finally feeling like winter, and this temperature is perfect for making puff pastry.
Even if you're not that adventurous in the kitchen, it's totally worth learning how puff pastry is made. It may be time intensive, but it's really not that hard to make, and it freezes extremely well. Also, who wants to be the dessert version of that "i don't want to know what my chicken breast comes from" guy?? Unlike bones and blood, the process of making puff pastry is possibly one of the most fascinating thing to watch!
Pâte feuilletée is the French name for puff pastry - based on the french word feuille for leaf. The metaphorical leaves are achieved by folding dough and butter layers multiple times - a classic French pâte feuilletée has 729 layers! Although the process of making puff pastry is similar to croissant dough, there is no yeast in it. Instead, it relies solely on mechanical leavening - the steam produced during baking, which is trapped in the layers of dough, causing it to expand and rise.
Terms to know:
Détrempe: the dough package
Beurrage: the butter package
Pâton: the combined dough and butter package
Makes 2 sheets of 16x18" dough. Adapted from ICC.
190g pastry flour
190g bread flour
1-½ teaspoon salt
55g beurre en pommade (wrap butter in cling film and knead until it's soft and malleable)
190-225g cold water
375g cold butter
1. Combine flours and salt with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Mix in beurre en pommade. Add enough water till a dough forms.
How? This is essentially cutting the butter into the dry mixture. Before adding the butter, wrap it with cling film and massage with your hands until it is malleable, but not melting. Paddle through the dry ingredients until the butter becomes lentil sized pieces. Add ice cold water until a soft dough forms. It should be a little scraggy without any dry bits.
Why? Making sure all your ingredients are cold inhibits gluten formation - something you don't want in a flaky puff pastry. The beurre en pomade also hinders gluten formation, and makes the lean dough more pliable and easier to roll out.
2. Form the détrempe into a ball and make a cross slit on the top. Wrap with cling film and chill for 10-15 minutes.
How? Hold the dough in your hands and create a bit of tension on the surface by tucking in the sides to the bottom. Using a bread knife, cut a cross around 1" deep on top of the dough.
Why? The détrempe will be rolled out to enclose a butter package in the next step. The cross slit creates flaps to make that easier.
3. Cut the butter into slices of the same thickness. On a sheet of parchment paper, arrange the butter slices cut side down. Roll or pound with a rolling pin to create a 6x6" rectangle.
How? Let the butter sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes, depending on your room temperature, until it is malleable but not melting. (You can do this while preparing the détrempe) Fold a sheet of parchment paper so that the center is a rectangle, it may be smaller than the final size you need, but you just want to start with a rectangle. Arrange the butter slices and try to squish them together so there are as little gaps as possible. Fold over the rest of the parchment and flatten the butter package with a rolling pin. Use a bench scraper to keep the edges squared and even. If it gets too warm, put the butter back in the fridge for a bit before you continue.
Why? The more even your beurrage is, the more uniform your pâton will be. Remember you're trying to laminate the dough and the butter, so if you want even layers in the final product, it is imperative to make sure everything is nice and squared from the beginning.
4. Enclose the beurrage butter package inside the détrempe and seal edges.
How? Place the détrempe on a lightly floured bench with the corners facing you. Open up the four pre-cut triangles and gently stretch them out into flaps. Roll out the flaps until the middle section is slightly bigger than the beurrage, and the center is slightly domed. Place the beurrage, with the edges parallel to the bench, in the center of the détrempe. Fold in the flaps and pinch the seams close.
Why? To ensure even thickness, the domed center makes up for the thinness of the flap ends. Make sure the détrempe is tightly sealed so that beurrage cannot escape during rolling. If there's any butter leakage, don't fret. Stretch out the dough around the opening to cover it up and dust your surface with more flour so the dough doesn't stick and rip.
5. Roll the pâton into a 8x24" rectangle.
How? Make sure the detrempe and beurrage is at a similar consistency before rolling. Working quickly, roll the dough starting from the center, away from yourself and towards yourself. To get straight corners, roll the corners outwards at a 45 degree angle, and use a bench scraper to nudge the edges to a right angle. As a general rule, the dough's length should be around 3 times its width.
Why? The temperature of the components are extremely important. If the beurrage is harder than the detrempe, it will crack once rolled and cause butter leakage.
6. Make a single fold, turn 90 degrees and roll out into 8x24", like previously. Make another single fold and mark the dough. Wrap with cling film and chill in the refrigerator.
How? Work on a lightly floured bench. To make a single turn, with the short end of the dough facing you, imagine two lines, the top and bottom, that divide the length of the dough into three parts. Fold the top edge towards you till it meets the bottom line. Fold the spine towards you to meet the bottom edge. Make sure the dough package is as squared as possible. To mark your dough, poke two rows of single dimples at the top left corner of your dough. Brush off excess flour away during all these steps.
Why? Flouring your bench makes sure the dough doesn't stick to it, so the top and bottom of the dough can extend at the same rate. Turning the dough ensures that gluten structure is developed evenly in both directions. The markings are there to help you remember how many turns you've made.
7. Repeat two more times until you make a total of 6 single turns, chilling the dough for 10-15 minutes every 2 turns.
How? Make your own rules when you turn the dough, fold the dough, mark your turns etc. Be consistent with the direction or location and commit to it.
Why? The more consistent you are with the turning and rolling, the more uniform your layers will be. even layers = even rise = even texture = perfect puff pastry!
8. Your puff pastry is ready now! To store, wrapped tightly in cling film and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, or in a freezer proof ziplock bag for a few months.
How? If you'll be using the dough in the next couple days, you may refrigerate your dough block. For freezing, I'd recommend rolling and trimming the dough into sheets of preferred thickness and size ahead of time. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator until it is cold but malleable.
Why? Frozen sheets are quicker to thaw and they're pretty much ready to go from there. Just make sure they're malleable enough to roll or fold without cracking.
Tips for success:
Chill and rest your dough, often, to allow the gluten to rest before you stretch it out again
Keep everything cold, but not too cold, to inhibit gluten development
Flour your bench generously when rolling out your pâon, but remember to brush off any excess flour. They leave burnt streaks and makes the pastry taste bitter when baked.