March 19, 2010 § 5 Comments
Let me tell you about my puff pastry journey. Once upon a time, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make a Beef Wellington recipe from the Martha Stewart Living magazine (and I say that reverentially), that re-imagined this classic as a tart, by-passing the more traditional method of having the pastry encase the meat. This sounded like a great idea to me.
The point is, I started by going to my local supermarket (the food cooperative didn’t carry it), and picking up a package of frozen puff pastry from the freezer section. Automatically, I flipped the package over to read the ingredient list. There were many words in that list that I didn’t understand, but the one word I did understand was not there – that word was butter. My next culinary height to conquer was now mapped out for me by the Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry ingredient list.
It was the right decision. Let me just tell you that fresh homemade puff pastry right out of the oven is like nothing you’ve had before. Its superiority to the frozen kind is unmeasurable. Its freshness is overwhelming. Its delicate richness is profoundly moving. And how fragrant it is! Definitely consider giving this a try.
By then I knew that there was such a thing as shortcut (or “rough”) puff pastry – where butter, instead of being pounded into a rectangle with a stubby french rolling pin to be wrapped and pounded into the dough, is cut directly into the flour like for pie crust. So I went online, googled “rough puff pastry,” and landed on this “Shortcut Puff Pastry” article by Molly Stevens over at the Fine Cooking website. The only thing I didn’t like about the recipe was cutting the butter in by hand with a pastry cutter. So I opted to make the dough in a food processor instead. I think it worked great.
But here’s a teeny-tiny thing you need to know about puff pastry – it’s 1 to 1 weight flour to butter ratio, which also means you have to weigh your flour. So in the picture above I have weighed 1 lb of flour to go with my 1 lb of butter, and some salt. The butter should either be cold, or frozen, or some combination of both. I’ve done it both ways and both ways worked fine.
Cut the butter into squares, to make it easier for the food processor to incorporate it. I love the cracking sound the frozen butter makes when you cut it. Crack. Crack. Crack.
Place it in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment together with the flour and 1 t of salt if using unsalted butter. Omit the salt if using salted butter.
Now have some ice water ready.
Process butter, flour, and salt together until it looks like this.
Then, with the motor still on, pour in the ice water in a thin stream through the hole in the top until the dough starts to come together.
Note: This is NOT what it should look like. This is too dry. I misjudged and didn’t use enough water in this picture.
Which became apparent when I tried to bring the loose crumbs together – the dough was too sandy, and kept falling apart.
So I just I dumped it all back in the food processor, and repeated the step where I am pouring in the ice water with the motor running. Until it got to this point.
Back onto the floured board, it was now the right consistency.
But all my futzing made the dough too sticky. I shaped it into a rough mass, wrapped it in saran, and placed it in the fridge for about 30 min to firm-up.
Fully chilled, it now emerged from the fridge for the rolling and folding part.
My assistant Josephine will be making a step-by-step demonstration of the folding-and-rolling process which will transform this dense mass into a beautiful, soft, pliable puff pastry sheet. Because of Josephine’s diminutive size, we had her work on a diminutive version. But really, the method is exactly the same. (It’s kind of hard to be rolling the pastry and taking pictures at the same time, so two pairs of hands are good).
Now roll the dough out into a rough rectangle about 1/2 to 1/3″ thick. It might look more like an oval at this point. But no matter. It will get there in the end.
Next, fold the resulting rectangle like a business letter.
See? It kinda sorta looks like a business letter.
Once more, roll this into a 1/3 to 1/2″-thick rectangle.
Note 1: It helps to turn the dough the folded-side down to make it easier to roll.
Note 2: If somewhere along the line the dough becomes too sticky or soft to work with, wrap it in saran and stick it back in the fridge for thirty minutes or until not sticky anymore.
Note 3: The recipes I’ve read told me to only roll from open end to open end, to prevent the ends from sticking together and not puffing. However, I rolled it the other way too to get it into the right shape, and it was just fine.
This folding-and-rolling process needs to be repeated three more times, after which the dough is allowed to rest and chill for 30 min, and then repeated twice more. After that, the pastry is ready to be used in your recipe, but it will be slightly improved if you refrigerate it for another half hour before using.
Folding and rolling: turn 2:
Folding and rolling: turn 3:
Folding and rolling: turn 4 – not pictured.
After the 4th turn has been completed, do the following to finish up:
Fold each side towards the center,
And now fold it like a book. Does this look like a book to you?
Now wrap it in saran and place in the fridge for 30 min to rest.
(We will now be working with the mama pastry, that is, the one I made myself, using the exact same method Josie demonstrated).
The rested dough now needs two more turns. Are you confused yet? Six turns total. Six turns total.
Now roll your pin directly over the book to get a 1/3 to 1/2″-thick rectangle. Same as before.
See how it’s recognizably rectangular now? Keep this image in your mind as you are struggling with yours in the beginning.
We will now fold it like a business letter again.
Roll it again. It’s not perfectly rectangular anymore, but don’t fret. We’re not there yet.
Business letter again (the second turn).
And the final rolling!
This is now your pastry you can work with. Either proceed to your recipe (this is an equivalent of 1 storebotten sheet I believe), or fold it again like a book and let it rest in the fridge until ready to use.
I used this sheet to make puff pastry pasties (stay tuned for the post). And… they were amazing.
Rough Puff Pastry
Adapted from “A Shortcut to Flaky Puff Pastry” article by Molly Stevens on Fine Cooking.
Makes 2 puff pastry sheets.
- 1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, either salted or unsalted, cold or frozen
- 1/2 lb weight flour
- 1/2 t salt if using unsalted butter
- enough ice water for the dough to come together
Cut butter into squares. Place the butter squares, together with flour and salt, if using, into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process until the mixture resembles very coarse crumbs. With the motor running, pour the ice water in in a thin stream through the opening in the top until the dough is starting to look like it’s coming together. Dump it out onto a floured surface. (If it still seems too dry to shape into a ball, dump it back and add more water.)
Divide in half. You will be working each “sheet’ individually.
Shape each pile of dough into a ball. Refridgerate one ball, wrapped in saran, while working with the other.
If the dough feels too soft and/or sticky, wrap it in saran and refrigerate for half an hour.
Roll the ball out into a rectangle 1/2 to 1/3” thick. It won’t hold together at first. Fold the rectangle like a business letter, and roll again to the same thickness. Repeat the folding and rolling process four times. The dough should become smooth and pliable at this point. Now fold the sides towards the center, and fold the whole thing again so it resembles a book, but don’t roll. Wrap in saran and refrigerate for half an hour. This is a good time to prepare your filling. Or roll out another sheet, if you want to use both the same day.
Remove from the fridge, remove the saran, and, without unfolding the package, roll it again into a rectangle. Repeat the business-letter folding and rolling process two more times. Your pastry is now ready to use. It may be further refrigerated for another half-hour or until ready to use.