My most stressful class in culinary school was Classical Pastries. Chef Jan Bandula was the instructor and he was also a Certified Master Pastry Chef. And he was European. Failure was not an option in any of his courses. But Chef Bandula also wanted us to win. He never made us feel like idiots if our bread didn’t rise or our chocolate didn’t set up. Because of him, I veered off of the culinary course I began culinary school on and navigated straight to the pastry shop. One of the recipes I learned in Chef Bandula’s class, which I still hold dear to my heart, is Puff Pastry. I’m going to show you just how easy it is to make Puff Pastry, as well as how versatile a dough it is.
What do you need to make Puff Pastry from scratch?
Surprisingly enough, you only need 5 ingredients! Two types of flour: cake and bread, unsalted butter, salt, and water. Seriously! That’s all.
I use two different types of flour because I want to develop gluten strands in the dough, but not so much that we end up with a tough- breadlike- chew. Some bakers- especially commercial bakers- use a puff pastry shortening, which is more forgiving in high humidity environments. I stick with butter because I’m not making this dough in large batches, and because I actually want something that tastes good.
Think Pie Dough!
Puff pastry starts out exactly like pie dough would. Combine the two flours and the salt together with your hands in a large mixing bowl.
Use a cheese grater to break down the butter into shreds and add it to the flours. I do this because- for me- it’s easier than whipping out the stand mixer and mixing together in there. If you have a food processor, you can also use that instead of your hands. I’m a hands-on type of chick, though, so I live for getting my hands dirty.
After you’ve grated in the butter, knead the mixture together just until it looks coarse and sandy.
Pour in the ice-cold water and use your hand to fold the flour into the water.
Knead everything together just until the mixture forms a soft dough. Don’t overmix the dough because we don’t want it to develop too much gluten. Excess gluten will cause the finished dough to shrink back while we try to work with it.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. This gives the dough ample time to relax.
Blend the Butter-Flour Mixture
Opinions differ on whether or not puff pastry is a hard dough to make. As someone who’s literally cried when making paper-thin phyllo dough, I have to say this dough is a breeze to make. The only reason people say it’s difficult is because it requires effort in the form of creating layers of butter and dough. One THOUSAND layers to be exact. Creating those layers begins by creaming together even more unsalted butter and flour. The flour helps absorb some of the water that the butter is going to release, but not so much that it prevents the puff pastry dough’s layer from rising as a result of the steam being released during baking.
That’s where the magic is- in the steam. Because there’s no leavening agent in this dough, the only way we’re going to get a rise out of it is through the steam created by the butter in between those layers of dough.
The mixture should resemble a thick cream cheese and when you pull the rested dough out of the fridge, both the dough and the butter-flour mix should be the same consistency. If the butter is too hard it will tear the thinly rolled dough. Butter that’s too soft will ooze out of the folds when you’re trying to create the layers.
Enclose the Butter
Just a heads up that puff pastry will require four rounds of folding to achieve maximum height when baked. This step that I’m about to show you is not included in that four count.
Use a heavy rolling pin to roll your dough out into a rectangle. Measurements are never exact, just roll it out to 1/2″ thickness and make it three times as long as it is wide. Try to make or keep the corners as square as possible.
Spread the butter-flour mixture over two-thirds of the dough. Leave a one inch margin around the butter or it will ooze out of the sides later while you’re folding it in.
Do this with an offset spatula or do what I do and use your God-given tools- your hands! If you have any chunks of butter in your spread just smoosh them flat between your fingers.
To enclose the butter, fold the unbuttered third over a third of the buttered section- like you’d fold a letter. Again, pull a little at the corners to make sure they’re squared.
Fold the exposed buttered third over the first fold and you should have the butter fully enclosed in the dough.
The First through Fourth Folds or “Laminating the Dough”
“Laminating the dough” wasn’t a popular term when I was in culinary school. We were told to “fold in butter” and that was that. The terms are used interchangeably, though, let’s go old-school wit’ it.
Turn the dough 90 degrees so the length becomes the width. After every fold you’re going to turn your dough this way. It ensures your butter layers are consistent and rolled in every direction.
Roll the dough out lengthwise into a rectangle. Keep those corners as square as you can. Don’t press down when rolling, instead roll evenly and smoothly. This prevents the layers of dough from sticking together and/or tearing.
Fold a 1/4 flap of dough from the right edge to the center.
Do the same with the left 1/4 of the dough. Remember to keep those edges as square as possible.
Now take the right side of the dough and fold it in half.
Congratulations! You’ve just completed your first of four four-folds! Take a bow!
Cover and Chill
After you’ve completed your turns (or folds) make a mark somewhere in the dough with your fingertip. This will help you keep track of which turn you’re on. One dimple= the first four-fold, two dimples= the second, and so on and so on.
Place your bundle of love onto a half sheet pan and cover it with plastic wrap.
Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. It can rest longer if you have things to do, but be mindful of the fact that the butter will harden the longer it’s refrigerated. You’ll need to remove the puff pastry dough from the fridge and let it warm up for a little while before attempting to roll it out again. Twenty minutes is the sweet spot. It gives the strands of gluten time to relax, but doesn’t firm the butter up a crazy amount.
Complete the next three four-folds the same as the first. Be sure to cover, refrigerate, and rest the dough between each fold.
Your Puff Pastry Ready to Use as You See Fit
This recipe will make almost 5 pounds of puff pastry dough, which is typically enough for 5 separate recipes. Use it to top chicken pot pies instead of regular pie dough. You can also wrap it around cored apples, filled with sugar, to make apple dumplings. The amount of recipes you can include this puff pastry in is endless.
I’m working on getting some puff pastry-based on the site, so stay tuned. In the meantime, crank out your batch so you’re ready to roll! No pun intended.
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Puff Pastry Dough from Scratch Recipe
- rolling pin
- half sheet pan
- 1 1/2 pounds (681g) bread flour (about 4 cups), plus more for dusting the work surface
- 1/2 pound (226g) cake flour (1 3/4 cups)
- 1/2 ounce (14g) kosher salt (1 tablespoon)
- 4 ounces (113g) cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 18 ounces (510g) very cold water (2 1/4 cups)
Butter Mixture (for folding in)
- 2 pounds (908g) unsalted butter (8 sticks) slightly softened
- 4 ounces (56g) bread flour (2/3 cup)
Prepare the Puff Pastry Dough Base
- Pour the ice-cold water into the center of the flour mixture and use your hands to fold the flour into the water.Knead the dough together just until the mixture forms a soft dough. Be careful not to overmix the dough.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 20 minutes to allow the dough to relax.
Blend the Butter-Flour Mixture
- Use an electric hand mixer or your stand mixer to mix the last quantity of butter and flour together- just until the mixture is smooth.It should resemble a thick cream cheese and when you pull the rested dough out of the fridge, both the dough and the butter-flour mix should be the same consistency*.
Enclose the Butter (does not count as a "Fold")
- Use a heavy rolling pin to roll your dough out into a rectangle a 1/2 inch thick and three times as long as it is wide. Try to keep the corners of the dough as square as possible.
- Spread the butter-flour mixture over two-thirds of the dough using an offset spatula or your hands. If you have any chunks of butter in your spread just smoosh them flat between your fingers. Leave a one inch margin of dough around the butter or it will ooze out of the sides later while you're folding it in.
- To enclose the butter, fold the unbuttered third over the center third- much like you'd fold a letter. Fold the remaining third on top. Again, make sure the corners are squared and even.
Give the Dough Four Four-Fold Turns /Laminate the Dough
- Turn the dough 90° so the length becomes the width. You'll do this prior to beginning every four-fold. It ensures your butter layers are consistent and rolled in every direction.Roll the dough out lengthwise into a rectangle. Keep those corners as square as you can. Don't press down when rolling, instead roll evenly and smoothly. This prevents the layers of dough from sticking together and/or tearing.
- Brush any excess flour from the dough and fold the ends into the center. Fold the dough in half (like a book). Remember to keep those edges as square as possible.You've just completed the first of four four-folds**.
- Place the puff pastry dough onto a half sheet pan and cover it with plastic wrap.Cover and refrigerate (rest) the dough for 20 minutes. The butter will become too hard if the dough is refrigerated for longer than 20 minutes. If it does become too hard it will tear the dough when you try to roll it out. Allow the dough to sit out at room temperature for a few minutes if you've gone over the 20 minute rest period.
- Complete the next three four-folds the same as the first. Be sure to cover, refrigerate, and rest the dough between each fold.
- Once the folds have been completed, divide the dough into fourths. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag in the freezer until ready to use.Puff Pastry dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator when ready to use as directed in your recipes.