Puff Pastry. It’s one of those products you always find yourself buying at the store because it looks way too daunting to try yourself at home. Well I’m here to tell you that, thanks to King Arthur Flour (KAF), processed puff pastry can take a kick to the curb. There’s a new, simpler gal in town. The best part is that this method works magic in pie crust as well, yielding flaky yet fabulous crust (sounds like a few Hollywood celebrities I know).
The secret is in the butter; big glorious hunks of butter. Traditional puff pastry involves rolling out butter, layering it with dough and folding, folding and folding some more. In quickie puff pastry, there is no butter rolling involved and you only need to fold and roll twice. You merely leave flattened morsels of the creamy goodness in tact which, when melted, leave air pockets of utter delightfulness. A.k.a flaky puff pastry.
The first step in successfully making puff pastry is to measure flour correctly. I can tell you that after spending a few days with the master bakers of the north, I was absolutely not measuring my flour correctly. The best and most accurate method for measuring a cup of flour is to weigh it (KAF considers 4.25 oz. to be one cup). However, I know that most of us here in the states don’t weigh our ingredients on a regular basis, myself included. So here’s what we were taught as the next best technique to use.
Begin by fluffing up your flour. I used a spoon to kind of “lighten” it up and get it a little less packed in the container.
Next up, you’ll take a spoonful of the flour and begin shaking it into your measuring cup. As tempting as it is, do not shake the measuring cup to settle the flour. We want that air incorporated in the cup for a more accurate measurement.
Once it’s filled to the top, level it off and you’ve got yourself a pretty darn good cup of flour. When we were at the baking school, they showed us the different methods for measuring and you’d seriously be surprised how much a cup can differ when you add it different ways. Accuracy is important in baking so the closer you can get to spot on, the better.
Moving forward with the recipe…. you’ve measured your flour into a bowl and now you’ll add in a little baking powder and salt to the mix. Time for the magic. Grab up two sticks of chilled butter and cut them into big chunks.
Drop said butter into said bowl and cover with the flour. With clean hands (use cold water when washing to help keep the butter cold) dive into the bowl and start flattening out the squares of chilled cream. They should be fairly big when they go back in the bowl and that’s exactly what we want. The bakers at KAF call it visible butter or VB for short. You’ve got that in your dough and you know you’re doing it right.
Once you’ve flattened out all the butter pieces you’ll make one last addition of sour cream. Don’t skimp on the fat with this. I know it’s tempting to cut the calories but the dough needs full fat sour cream to work properly.
Incorporate the sour cream into the butter mixture until it’s thoroughly combined. Don’t panic at this stage. Your dough will be dry and not put together yet. If that’s where you’re at then you’re right on track. Now dump it out onto a lightly floured counter.
Using your hands, gently bring the dough together and give it a couple quick kneads to bring it into a formed ball. My ball picture left something to be desired, but you can see here how Susan’s is beginning to form into a cohesive ball after just a few gentle works with the hands.
Clean off the scraps of dough and add a touch more flour to your surface. Now you’ll roll it out. You want it to be about 8×10″ and about 1/4″ or so thick. I like to use a ruler not only to track how big mine is, but also to straighten out the sides and help it form more of a rectangular shape.
Once you have the desired size and thickness, go ahead and fold it into thirds like you would a business letter. Again, my photo was blurry for some reason (it could have been the
elephants children running circles around me while I was trying to photograph but I can’t be sure) so I’ve defaulted to our fabulous teacher, Susan.
Notice how she has the top third folded down. She’s brushing off the excess flour (straight up flour just doesn’t taste that good) and then she’ll fold that bottom lip over the top of the first fold. Turn the pastry letter over to the other side, rotate it 90 degrees and repeat the rolling process one more time. Fold it up like a letter once more and just like that you’re done.
If you want to use it right away, you’ll chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling to your desired shape. If you’re saving it for later, wrap up in plastic wrap, place in a freezer safe bag or container, and store in the freezer for up to two months. When you’re ready to use, simply pull out and let thaw in the fridge.
So what do you think? Is that recipe worth a go? Let me know if you try it out and what you thought. I’ll cook mine up this weekend and share all the tasty results next post.
Quickie Delectable Puff Pastry
Yield: 1 8x12" Puff Pastry Sheet
Total Time: 1 hour
Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 Cup Cold Unsalted Butter (2 Sticks)
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
To a large bowl, add in the flour, salt and baking powder.
Cut the chilled butter into large chunks and add it into the bowl, tossing with the flour to coat.
Using your hands, squish each butter square into flat disks and return to bowl.
Add in the sour cream and mix until combined making sure to leave the chunks of butter intact.
Dump out onto a lightly floured surface; making note that it will look dry and be unincorporated at this point.
Bring the dough together and give it a few quick kneads to create a dough ball.
Roll the dough out to about 1/4" thick 8x12" rectangle. You should be able to see your butter hunks inside the dough.
Fold the dough into thirds, similar to a letter. Flip the dough over and turn it 90 degrees.
Repeat rolling to the same dimensions, fold into thirds again and let chill for at least one half hour before using.
Dough can also be stored in the freezer for up to two months. Toss in fridge overnight to thaw and then proceed with recipe.