Puff pastry

Puff pastry

By
From
PS Desserts
Serves
kg
Makes
1.2 kg
Photographer
Mark Roper

Take the time to try making puff pastry. Don’t be afraid. It may take a few attempts to get it perfect, but when you do, it’s so satisfying. The most important thing to remember is that the pastry should always be chilled before working it, otherwise it will shrink, lose shape or melt if too warm. The resulting buttery flaky pastry can be baked into decorated rounds or squashed into crisp shards as in my Mille-feuille.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
400g butter, softened, (see note)
500g plain flour, sifted
200ml water
2 teaspoons cooking salt
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
50g butter, melted, extra
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten, (only if making decorated rounds)

Method

  1. Making the dough

    Place the butter on a work surface and form into a slab, roughly 14 cm x 14 cm. (If using 250 g blocks, the best way to do this is to halve your blocks of butter lengthways, lay them next to each other, then bash out with a rolling pin.) Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
  2. Tip the flour onto a work surface and make a well in the centre.
  3. Pour the water, salt, vinegar and melted butter into the well. Work the ingredients in the well together using the fingertips of your one hand, while with your other hand, push small quantities of flour into the well as the mixture spreads out. (Use opposite hands if you’re left-handed.)
  4. When all the flour is mixed in well, lightly knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it is completely smooth. This dough is called the détrempe and it should be a very firm dough — don’t worry, it will relax upon resting.
  5. Roll the détrempe into a ball and cut a deep cross in the top to break the elasticity. Wrap the détrempe in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 2–3 hours.
  6. Remove the détrempe from the fridge 1 hour before rolling.
  7. Remove the slab of butter from the fridge about 30 minutes before rolling.
  8. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Using the heel of your hand, push down firmly to create a flower shape. This will make rolling out the “ears” easier.
  9. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to make four “ears” around the centre cross, making sure to leave a small mound of dough in the centre.
  10. Always brush off the excess flour as you work as it will dehydrate the dough and you will have crusty layers in the final product.
  11. Put the slab of butter in the centre of the détrempe. Give the butter a few whacks with the rolling pin to get rid of any air pockets and to get the two elements associated with each other.
  12. Fold up the four “ears” so the butter is completely enclosed, brushing any excess flour off each ear as you go.
  13. Press the ears gently to seal.
  14. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. This step ensures both the détrempe and butter will be the same temperature.
  15. Turning the dough

    Remove the dough from the fridge 10–20 minutes before the next step.
  16. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Give the dough several whacks with a rolling pin to even it up and get things moving. This makes it more malleable and easier to roll out. Remember you want to keep the top and bottom layers of the détrempe the same size as the butter layer inside.
  17. Progressively roll the dough away from you to form a rectangle measuring about 70 cm x 40 cm.
  18. Mark out the dough into three equal parts. Fold the third closest to you towards the centre, then brush off the flour.
  19. Then fold the top third over the centre and brush off the flour. This is called the first “turn”.
  20. Turn the rectangle 90 degrees clockwise.
  21. Repeat rolling out the dough gently and progressively away from you, flouring the work surface as you roll, to form a rectangle measuring 70 cm x 40 cm. Fold the dough once more into three equal parts. This is the second turn.
  22. At this stage, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  23. After chilling, give the dough two more turns, then chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  24. After chilling, give the dough two more turns, making it six turns in all. Chill again before rolling out according to the recipe or make decorated rounds as described overleaf.
  25. Rolling and marking the pastry

    Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface to 2 mm thick.Cut out discs using a pastry cutter.
  26. Remove the pastry discs from the cutter, brush off the flour and place upside down on a a cold, wet, heavy-based baking tray. Always turn the discs upside down as this frees up the layers of puff to rise. (The cold, wet tray ensures that the puff doesn’t shrink or become misshapen during baking.)
  27. Brush the discs with beaten egg yolk, taking care not to let the egg dribble down the sides as the puff will not rise properly.
  28. Score the discs with the tip of a small sharp knife.
  29. To bake

    Preheat the oven to 200ºC.Bake for 10–15 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Notes on butter for pastry

  • My colleagues, family and friends can attest to my obsession with butter. Butter is made from cream, right? Cream is white not daffodil yellow. Butter is a fresh food and should look and smell as such. It should have a faint, creamy, slightly sweet smell. If it is rancid, yellow and sour, I don’t use it.

    Buying

    Always check the use-by date on the pack and only use unsalted butter for pastry and baking.

    Using

    It’s important your butter is at a workable temperature when making pastry. None of my pastry recipes uses cold butter straight from the fridge. “Room temperature” butter is a tricky definition as it depends on the room.

Notes

  • It is easier to make puff pastry when the room temperature is moderate. Too hot and the butter becomes too soft and will be squashed out of the détrempe when rolled. Too cold and it may crack and leave gaps in the layers.

    You need the butter and détrempe to be the same temperature before starting out.

Note

  • Puff pastry is great to have on hand in the freezer. It keeps well for up to 2 months. Freeze it after the fourth turn and make sure you divide into four portions before freezing. Thaw in the fridge overnight before using, then continue making the final fifth and sixth turns.
Tags:
PS
Desserts
Philippa
Phillipa
Sibley
sweet
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