Suggestions to prepare an excellent puff pastry!
I’m talking about one of the basic pastries of both cooking and baking: its majesty the “puff pastry”.
This extremely versatile pastry is used both in sweet and savoury preparations; most people prefer buying round or rectangular ready-made puff pastry rolls at the store because making it requires a long and elaborate process.
The problem with these ready-made pastries is their taste: they’re usually made with poor-quality vegetable fats that add an unpleasant ‘acid’ smell during the baking phase: this happens because some acids are added to the dough to stabilize the flour gluten.
Margarines (hydrogenated vegetable fats/link) have characteristics specifically designed for puff pastry preparation but from a sensory viewpoint results are clearly poorer than when pastry is made with butter.
Butter, on the other hand, is trickier to use but it also tastes definetely better and is more refined than margarine.
Right… lots of words but no practical work so far… and you want to know how to make puff pastry, don’t you?!
Puff pastry is made of two doughs:
a very simple dough made of flour, water and salt
made of butter/link and flour
As you might have read in previous articles, the quality of ingredients is at the base of it all:
Using flour with the right percentage of gluten will make the difference between a mediocre pastry and an excellent one! When preparing puff pastry it is advisable to use a medium-strong flour with a protein content of about 12% (see my article about flours).
This allows you to make an elastic and resistant dough and to better manage the quantity of liquid you’ll add later (the stronger the flour the larger the amount of water it can absorb).
We must use good quality butter: malleable but not too soft. If good butter is used you just have to remove it from the refrigerator, cut it into pieces and work it right away with the flour.
This process is easier if you have got a kneader because our hands release heat, which makes the butter fat too soft.
The required amount of water varies according to the absorption power of the flour; it must be recalculated every time you change flour. The water to flour ratio is usually 55%.
To make puff pastry you need 15 – 20 g of salt per kg of flour.
Once you’ve realised how important are raw materials you can start making the dough.
Let’s look at a standard recipe.
Détrempe (simple dough)
- Strong flour 375g
- Water 220g
- Salt 8g
- Butter 500g
- Strong flour 125g
Prepare the détempre with flour, salt and water. Knead vigorously until the dough is smooth. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Prepare the butter block with the butter cut into pieces, add the flour and knead until the mixture is smooth; shape the block into a brick and chill it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Roll the dough out in the shape of a rectangle with a rolling pin, place the butter block at its centre and fold it in completely. Seal it up taking the corners toward the centre.
A) First round:
Roll the dough out in the shape of a rectangle and perform a 3 fold (also known as ‘single book fold’).
Let it rest for 30 minutes.
B) Second round:
Roll the dough out in the shape of a rectangle and perform a 4 fold (also known as ‘double book fold’).
Let it rest for 30 minutes.
Repeat the folds of steps A) and B), chilling the dough for 30 minutes after each fold.
Watch this short video for further support:
After going through the recipe remember that several factors can impact its final outcome:
- Kneading the détrempe – The longer I work my dough the stronger and more resistant it is, and the leavening is less intense but uneven; conversely, if I work the dough shortly my détrempe rises more, but less regularly.
- Carefully creating the folds – The folds must be done very accurately, and the corners of the dough must be lined up otherwise the pastry will puff irregularly;
- Number of folds – A higher number of folds makes the dough rise evenly but not abundantly; conversely, few folds make the dough rise a lot but rather unevenly.
- Oven temperature – Set the oven at approx. 200°C to get mamixum puff.
Here’s some homework for you!
Apply all the suggestions contained in this article and make an excellent puff pastry!
Have a nice dessert!!