Ever had a turnover filled with juicy apples, an appetizer filled with bacon and cheese, or a palmier? All these delicious treats start with this dough. While you can buy puff pastry in the store, this post is in celebration of homemade puff pastry. Homemade puff pastry tastes better, allows you to be more creative with your recipes, and is easier to work with than store-bought puff pastry.
What is Puff Pastry
So for the official explanation. Puff pastry, also known as pâte feuilletée, is a flaky light pastry made from a laminated dough composed of dough (détrempe) and butter (beurrage). The butter is put inside the dough (or vice versa), making a paton which is repeatedly folded and rolled out before baking.
Butter is layered with the dough creating hundreds of layers - this process is called lamination. Puff pastry is meant to be tender, buttery and flaky.
The ingredient list for puff pastry is short, but it does take time, attendance to detail, and practice. It takes time because you're chilling and rolling the dough multiple times. It takes practice because the butter may be too soft (and squeeze out the ends) or too hard and crack while you're rolling it out, but eventually you figure out how to make it work. In this recipe, I share with you the things that I have learned in making puff pastry. And take note: any issue with the butter can be fixed, so don't give up, and definitely don't throw it away. nothing is wasted.
Puff Pastry Ingredients
From three main ingredients - flour, water, and butter - comes this incredibly flaky buttery dough with hundreds of layers. This Puff Pastry has the following ingredients:
- All-Purpose Flour. Regular all-purpose flour is used in this recipe. The amount of gluten in this flour is just right to build the structure without making it too rubbery and hard to roll out.
- Unsalted Butter. This recipe uses European butter which has a higher fat content than most brands and will help the dough rise without collapsing.
- White Vinegar. The vinegar relaxes the gluten, making it easier to roll out and the acid prolongs the shelf life of the dough and keeps it from turning gray after 2 days in the refrigerator.
- Kosher Salt. Salt adds flavor.
What Makes Puff Pastry Puff
Puff pastry is made of hundreds of thin layers of butter sandwiched between hundreds of thin layers of dough. When the puff pastry is baked in the oven, the water in the butter and dough turns to steam causing the individual layers to puff upward. The butter melts into the dough turning it golden and crispy.
The formula for calculating the number of layers is L = (F+1)^N, where
- L = the number of layers
- F = the number of folds
- N = the number of times the dough is turned
For this recipe L = (2+1)^6 = 729. The recipe uses a trifold method, which means F = 2 because there are two folds. The dough is rolled out and folded 6 times, therefore N=6.
Making the Dough
The recipe starts with making the dough, which consists of flour, water, vinegar, salt, and a small amount of butter. This recipe uses a stand mixer for the dough so you need to be careful not to overmix the dough. The dough is just mixed until all the flour is mixed in the dough because you don't want too much gluten development.
After the dough is finished mixing an X is cut into the top of the dough to relax the dough and cut the gluten strands. Refrigerate the dough for one hour.
Making the Butter Block
The butter starts out at 60-65 degrees F and is shaped into a 5-inch square. Other recipes will call for starting with butter that is colder, i.e. 40 degrees F using a rolling pin to shape and roll the dough. The reason I start with the higher temperature is that most butter in the US is sold in quarter sticks and it is easier to shape the butter into a square if you first mix it all together in a bowl and then use a spatula and a bench scraper to shape it into a square. If you are buying butter that comes in a 1-pound block, then you can cut a 340-gram block and roll it out.
Freeze and then refrigerate the dough to reduce the temperature.
How to Make the Puff Pastry
Now we're ready to start rolling. The dough and the butter should be at the same temperature. The original recipe calls for it to be at 40 degrees F, but I find it easier to roll if they are both between 50-55 degrees F. When the butter is around 40 degrees it cracks and breaks apart on me as I am rolling it out the first time.
After the butter is encased in the dough, lightly tap it with a rolling pin to help the butter adhere to the dough. You are now ready to do your first rolling and folding. Roll the dough out to an 18 x 8-inch rectangle. When you roll start at one end and do a continuous roll to the end. Have a ruler on hand to measure the dough as you get closer to the full length. I use my Dough-EZ rolling mat because the dough doesn't stick as much and I use less flour. A large Silpat also works.
The rolling and folding are repeated six times, and the dough is chilled each time from 30 minutes to overnight. Once the dough is complete it is ready to be used for your favorite dessert. Store the refrigerator tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
Pro Tips for Making Puff Pastry
- If possible, make the pastry on a cool day. Especially the first few times you make this dough. With practice, you will become faster with each step and your dough won't sit out as long.
- If you see the butter cracking and breaking into pieces under the dough, it is too cold. Allow the pastry to sit at room temperate for 5-10 minutes allowing the butter to warm up and then continue to roll out.
- If the butter starts squeezing out from the sides, it is too warm. Fold the dough into thirds or in half (depending on size) and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill the pastry.
- If the dough keeps springing back on you and resists being rolled out, there has been too much gluten formation. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes and then try rerolling.
How to Store Puff Pastry
The freshly made puff pastry can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Before freezing, wrap the dough in another layer of plastic wrap and store it in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Freeze the dough on a board or baking tray.
When you're ready to use the dough place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before you're ready to use it.
I hope you try your hand at making homemade puff pastry. You'll enjoy the final results and the delicious desserts you'll be able to make with it.
- 3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
- 6 1/2 ounces (180 grams) cold water
- 1 3/4 teaspoons (12 grams) kosher salt
- 3 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (400 grams) all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons (60 grams) unsalted butter room temperature 65-70 degrees F
- 24 tablespoons (340 grams) unsalted butter 60-65 degrees F
- Add the water, white vinegar, and kosher salt to a 1 cup measuring cup and whisk until the salt dissolves.
- Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer, add half the water mixture and 60 grams of the butter. With the paddle attachment begin mixing on low speed and while it is mixing slowly pour the other half of the water mixture. Continue to mix on low speed just until the dough comes together.
- It should look a little shaggy or rough, but all the flour should be mixed in. Turn off the mixer and touch the dough with your fingertips. If there are no lumps the dough is sufficiently mixed. If you feel any lumps mix the dough for a few more seconds to ensure all the flour is mixed in.
- Remove the dough from the mixer and shape it into a ball. Use a pair of sharp kitchen shears and cut a 3/4-inch deep gash across the top of the ball of dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Make the Butter Block
- Before you start the butter should be between 60-65°F. At this temperature the butter will be easier to shape into a block.
- While the dough is chilling, use a pencil and draw a 5 x 5-inch square on wax paper. If using sticks of butter place 340 grams of butter in a bowl and use a dough scraper or stiff spatula to mix the butter together. Place the butter on the sheet of wax paper, place another sheet on top and roll and shape the butter into the 5 x 5-inch square. The butter will be somewhat soft at this point. With the wax paper still in place wrap the butter in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes and then move it to the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.
Make the Puff Pastry
- Before you begin make sure the dough and the butter are about the same temperature - 50 degrees F. I recommend rolling the dough on Silpat. It’s easier to roll the dough and it won’t stick as much as it would with a table or wood board.
- Roll the dough out to an 8-inch square. Unwrap the butter and place it on top of the dough at an angle so it looks a diamond in the middle of a square. Use the rolling pin to gently roll out the corners of the dough or use your hands to gently to stretch out the corners. Fold these flaps over the dough until all four corners meet in the center of the butter block. Pinch these four corners and the seams together until the butter is completely enclosed in the dough. Tap the dough gently with your rolling pin for 30 seconds. Turn it over and gently tap again to bound the butter and dough together.
- Dust the Silpat or the work surface with flour. Roll the dough into an 18 x 8-inch rectangle. When rolling the dough roll in one direction in long continuous strokes and make sure to roll over the ends. If the butter starts to ooze out of the sides or ends of the dough stop rolling and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. If the butter starts to crack and break apart the butter is too cold. If that happens stop rolling and let the dough sit for 5 minutes.
- Once the dough is 18x8-inches and 1/4-inch thick, brush off the excess flour. With the long side facing you fold the dough like a business letter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third and the left third over the center. This is the first turn. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Flour your work surface. Place the dough on top with one of the open ends facing you and the folded sides to your right and left. Roll the dough out to an 18 x 8-inch rectangle, 1/4-inch thick. Turn it 90 degrees, so the long side is facing you and fold it like a business letter. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This is your second turn.
- After the rest repeat the book folds two more times, with a rest of 30 minutes between each turn. You now have 4 turns. Refrigerate the dough overnight. The next day repeat the book folds 2 more times, with a 30 minute rest between the folds. Let the dough rest for 1 hour. The dough is now ready to use. At this point you can refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days (72 hours) or freeze it for up to 2 months.
- To freeze the dough cut the dough into 2 equal pieces and roll each piece until 1/2 inch thick. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic and then place the plastic-wrapped dough in a gallon freezer bag. Place the dough on a sheet tray and freeze until stiff.
- When you're ready to use the dough, place it in the refrigerator 24 hours before you're ready to use and allow it to thaw.