This is the lightest and flakiest of all the layered pastries and well worth mastering, as good homemade puff pastry is far superior to even the best bought puff pastries. Some butter is added to the détrempe, or base dough, but most of it is incorporated by rolling a block of cool but flexible butter into the dough with 6 roll and folds. Puff pastry should rise to 3 times its height when baked.
1. Mixing the ingredients together quickly, using a cutlery knife.
2. Feeling the flakes to see if any more water is needed.
3. Pulling the large flakes together in your hands to start to bring the dough together.
4. Gently ridging the rested détrempe with the rolling pin.
5. Flattening the butter between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper.
6. Bringing the edges for the détrempe up the sides of the butter.
7. Rolling the butter-enclosed détrempe out until it is 3 times as long as it is wide.
8. Folding the bottom third of the pastry up over the middle third, before folding the top down.
9. After folding the top third down, the pastry is turned 90° so the fold is at the left.
Makes about 500g
250g plain flour, plus extra to dust
1/2 teaspoon salt
180-200g cold but pliable unsalted butter
100-120ml chilled water
- Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Cut a 30g piece from the butter, then cut this into small cubes and add to the flour and salt. Rub into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 100ml chilled water and, using a cutlery knife, mix everything together quickly and efficiently for about 15–20 seconds, turning the bowl as you stir.
- The crumb and water will form large flakes. Drag the large flakes to the side of the bowl and add more water, ½ tbsp at a time, to the dry crumb in the bottom of the bowl. Stir again quickly to create large flakes and add a little more water if necessary. You should ideally not add more than about 8 tbsp water, or the pastry may start to toughen.
- Feel the large flakes, and if there seems to be a good amount of moisture within them and the water is evenly distributed, pull the large flakes together in your hands and work the pastry a little to bring the détrempe together into a homogeneous pastry that is fairly smooth and a uniform colour. Shape into a block about 12 x 17cm and 2–3cm thick, wrap closely in cling film and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Unwrap the puff pastry and place on a floured surface, with a short end facing you. Ridge gently, patting up and down on the pastry, keeping the rolling pin parallel to you. Try to keep the sides straight and the corners of the pastry square, using a palette knife or your hands, but keep hand contact to a minimum to prevent the pastry from warming up. Keep ridging as much as possible before you roll, then roll with quick, short, sharp rolls, gently encouraging the pastry to lengthen rather than applying too much pressure and stretching it. When the pastry is about twice as long as it is wide, re-check the sides are straight and corners square.
- Place the remaining butter between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper. Bash with a rolling pin to flatten, then shape into a rectangle half the size of the rolled détrempe. If the butter gets too big, fold it. At this stage it should still be cold and, if it folds without breaking, it is pliable enough. Neaten it quickly to a rectangle and check it for size.
- Place the butter on the bottom half of the détrempe, press the border lightly to flatten it, then bring the edges of the détrempe up the sides of the butter and press them over the edge of the butter. Bring the top half down over the exposed butter. Press the edges down against the sides of the butter, ensuring a good seal; the butter must not be able to escape.
- With the folded side away from you, ridge and then roll the pastry to 3 times as long as it is wide, keeping the sides straight and the corners square. Avoid creating thick ends at the top and bottom; roll back a little if necessary and avoid rolling over the top and bottom edge as you will stretch the top layer and create uneven layers, which will result in uneven rising.
- Fold the bottom third of the pastry over the middle third, then the top third down over the bottom and middle third.
- Now turn the pastry 90° so the fold is at your left. This completes the first roll and fold.
- Now repeat the roll and fold, making sure the pastry is always cold to the touch and the butter is not breaking through the détrempe and becoming greasy. If it is, then scatter some flour over the butter, dust it off with a pastry brush and continue. When making puff, all the roll and folds are ‘blind’, as all the butter has already been incorporated. Wrap closely, making a note of how many roll and folds you have done, and place in the fridge again to relax and keep the butter cool and firm, for about 20 minutes. The butter must be cool but pliable, so don’t let it firm up too much in the fridge.
- Repeat the 2 roll and folds again twice, covering the pastry closely and chilling for about 20 minutes after each 2 roll and folds, and making a note of how many roll and folds you have done. Once the pastry has had 6 roll and folds, it can be kept in the fridge until needed. If very streaky, you may need to do one more roll and fold.
A note on butter content…
This recipe gives a range of butter quantity. If making puff for the first time, use the smaller amount. When you are confident with the method and the pastry works for you, increase the amount of butter for a richer flavour.
Making puff pastry in advance…
If making puff pastry either the day before use or for freezing, don’t complete the last roll and fold. Wrap the pastry closely in cling film, mark the number of roll and folds on the cling film and chill or freeze. Defrost frozen pastry in the fridge over 24 hours; it must be kept chilled when defrosting or the butter within the layers may melt.
If you have chilled the pastry for more than 2–3 hours, leave it at room temperature for 5 minutes before rolling out, to allow it to soften very slightly. When ready to use, perform the last roll and fold which will help to ‘refresh’ the pastry and release the layers.
A note on using ready made puff pastry…
Bought puff pastry will generally rise higher and more evenly than homemade puff pastry so if you choose to use it, for some recipes it may need to be rolled out a little thinner.