This recipe for puff pastry may not be the easiest thing in the world to make, but if we only did things the easiest way, we wouldn't do any baking at all — we'd just go to the bakery and buy something.
So if it's true that there's beauty in doing, then making your own puff pastry is a beautiful thing indeed, because there's definitely a lot of doing involved.
Puff pastry has hundreds of layers of butter and dough that puff apart when it bakes as the moisture in the dough is released in the form of steam.
Your job is to fold in those hundreds of layers. Fortunately, it isn't terribly complicated. It's just a matter of rolling and folding the dough over and over again, which is kind of tedious, and it also takes a long time because the dough needs to chill for 20 minutes in between each fold so that the glutens can relax. Believe it or not, the procedure below is actually a shortcut method. But when you're done, you will have folded 256 layers into the puff pastry. Not bad for a day's work.
(Actually, much less than a day. The total time is around two hours, but most of that time is spent waiting for the dough to chill in between folds. Active prep time is more like 25 minutes.)
Tip: Be sure to weigh out the flour using a digital scale set to grams. Volume measurements like cups are too imprecise to ensure the puff pastry comes out right.
- 225 grams flour (all-purpose, a little less than 2 cups)
- 2 sticks/225 grams butter (unsalted, room temperature)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water (cold)
In a large mixing bowl, cut the butter roughly into the flour using a pastry blender. You want lumps of butter about the size of your thumb.
Dissolve the salt into the water, then drizzle the water into the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
Cover the bowl with plastic and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Dust your work surface with flour and roll the dough out into a rectangle, oriented vertically in front of you. It should be about a quarter of an inch thick. Try to keep the edges straight, which is easier said than done. Gently brush away any excess flour on the surface of the dough.
Now fold the top edge down to the center, and do the same with the bottom edge.
Then fold the whole thing in half, top edge down to the bottom edge, as if you were closing a book. This is called a book fold.
Now wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 three more times. You will make a total of four book folds, resting the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes in between each fold.
Once you are done, wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight. It will then be ready to roll out and use.