Last weekend when I made the Nutella Marshmallow Turnovers, I mentioned that I'd made the puff pastry from scratch rather than use a store-bought version. I also promised to show you exactly how I made the pastry, and today I'm going to deliver on that promise :) All you need are a few simple ingredients, primarily butter and flour, and a bit of time and patience to transform the ingredients into something special.
This was actually my second time making my own puff pastry. Last year I tried the recipe from The Art & Soul of Baking, and had very good results. I wanted to attempt a different recipe this time though and after searching my cookbooks, came upon this "quick" version from Baking Illustrated. Both recipes produced delicious pastry that was light and flaky so I can't necessarily recommend one over the other based on that criteria. You'll just have to try them both and see what you think!
Let me warn you upfront that this post is loaded with photos - there are pictures for just about every step in the recipe (even a few that probably didn't necessitate one). In some instances I've included a collage rather than large individual photos, but the full-size photos can be found in my Flickr stream if you are interested.
Once you've made your puff pastry, the possibilities are endless. It can be utilized in sweet and savory recipes alike. Here are a few ideas:
Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Tart
Caramel Apple Turnovers
Individual Chicken Potpies (from Teenie Cakes)
Nutella Palmiers (from Handle the Heat)
Homemade "Quick" Puff Pastry
from Baking Illustrated
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Add the flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a large food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add about one quarter of the the butter cubes and process until the pieces of butter are dime-sized, about four 1-second pulses. Add the rest of the butter to the bowl of the food processor and process just to coat the butter cubes with flour, about two 1-second pulses. (shown left to right & top to bottom below)
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Combine the ice water and lemon juice in a small bowl (I reused the bowl I had the butter in). Add about half of the liquid to the dough mixture and toss just until combined. Continue to add the liquid, a little at a time, until the dough will clump together in your hand if squeezed. My kitchen is really dry in the winter so I used all of the liquid called for by the recipe as well as about an additional tablespoon beyond that.
Turn the dough onto a work surface - it will be dry and shaggy, so don't be worried. Mine still had some very large pieces of butter as well.
Now, you want to fraisage the dough. It might sound complicated but it just means that you take a small portion of the dough and, using the heel of your hand, push and drag the dough forward using a short, brisk motion. (I was home alone when I made this recipe so photos of this action were pretty much impossible, but I'm embedding a video to demonstrate the technique instead.)
After turning my dough out onto a piece of parchment, I took a little at a time to fraisage using the technique shown above. After I performed the fraisage on that portion, I found it easiest to use my bench scraper to lift the dough from my work surface. I transferred it to the end of the board I was working on, and grabbed the next section of dough from my parchment paper. You want to repeat this process with all of the dough. When you've finished, gather the dough into a ball. Repeat the fraisage process a second time.
After you fraisage a second time, shape your dough into a rectangle measuring roughly 8x4 inches. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for an hour. (My dough was definitely still rough at this point.)
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a 15x10-inch rectangle.
Fold the dough lengthwise into thirds, like a letter.
Turn the dough so a narrow end is facing you. Loosely roll up the dough starting from that narrow end and moving all the way down the length of the dough.
Press the dough into a rectangle measuring 6x5-inches. (It's finally starting to come together and look a little less ragged and rough.)
Repeat the process of rolling the dough into a 10x15-rectangle, folding it into thirds, rolling it up starting at a narrow end and forming into a 6x5-inch rectangle. If at any time the dough becomes too sticky or soft to work with, you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate briefly. (I'm including photos again only so you can see the change in consistency of the dough. I was starting to lose all light at this point so apologies for the quality of the pics.)
When you've finished the process of rolling and folding for a second time, you've successfully made puff pastry! You do want to wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour before using it. You can keep the dough in the fridge for 2 days or, pop it in the freezer for up to a month. I cut mine in half and put half in the fridge to use the next day and half in the freezer. The cool thing about cutting the dough in half was that I could see all of the layers that had been created.
I hope you'll give it a try, I think you'll be surprised by how easy it is if you just take it one step at a time. And I know you'll agree the results are worth the effort!