Gallery: Sweet Technique: Puff Pastry

Flaky layers
Flaky layers

Puff pastry is a flaky, buttery dough made by folding layers of dough and butter repeatedly to form many layers. When baked, the moisture in the butter creates steam that separates the dough layers and puffs up to create pastry that is light and shatters when you bite into it. Click through to learn how to make puff pastry at home.

Mix the detrempe
Mix the detrempe

The first of two parts of puff pastry is the dough or detrempe. This part is made by mixing the dry ingredients with very soft butter with the paddle attachment until the mixture looks sandy, then adding ice cold water to hold the dough together.

Chill and rest the detrempe
Chill and rest the detrempe

Once you've mixed the dough, form it into a tight square and double wrap it securely in plastic wrap. Allow it to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This will allow the dough to chill to working temperature and help the gluten to relax and make the dough easier to roll.

Prepare the butter
Prepare the butter

Once the dough has finished resting, cut the cold butter into small pieces and place them in a pile on a piece of plastic wrap. Cover the pile loosely with another piece. You want to plan for the butter to spread out on the counter.

Prepare the butter
Prepare the butter

Using the end of the rolling pin, pound the butter out into a thin layer.

Prepare the butter
Prepare the butter

Gather the butter back up again, then pound it out a second time. This will create butter that is very soft and pliable, but still cold. The butter will need to be flexible for all the folds that you will put into the puff pastry, but cold to prevent the butter from melting into the layers of dough.

Prepare the butter
Prepare the butter

Once the butter is soft, form it into a compact square approximately 4 inches by 4 inches wide.

Prepare the detrempe for lock in
Prepare the detrempe for lock in

Remove the detrempe from the fridge. Roll each of the corners out from the square of dough, so that there is a 4x4 inch square in the middle about 1 inch thick, and then four flaps of dough, each about 1/4 inch thick.

Bring two parts together
Bring two parts together

Place the square of butter on top of the square of dough.

Lock in the butter
Lock in the butter

Stretch each of the flaps over the butter square, tight enough to feel some stretch, but not so tight that the dough tears. Tuck in the corners at the base as you work. The goal is to completely and securely envelope the butter in dough and eliminate holes where the butter could squeeze out.

Flatten the butter package
Flatten the butter package

Once the butter is locked in, flip the package over onto a floured surface and press down to flatten it a bit. This will make it easier to roll. Also, make sure that the room and counter where you are working are cool and dry, to prevent the butter from melting into the dough.

Roll out the dough
Roll out the dough

Slowly and using even pressure, begin rolling the dough out into a long rectangle. Stop every so often to square off the edges with the sides of your hands; the goal is for the dough piece to have even edges. Avoid applying too much pressure, which will cause the butter to squirt out the sides.

Fold into thirds
Fold into thirds

Once the dough is approximately 18x6 inches, begin folding the dough into thirds by folding the bottom up two-thirds of the way, and then folding the top third down over it.

Turn the dough 90 degrees
Turn the dough 90 degrees

Once you've completed one fold, turn the dough 90 degrees and begin carefully rolling it out again. The turns between the folds and rolling sessions are important because they keep the gluten in the dough from getting too stressed out in one direction, preventing tears, butter squirting out, and create more even layers.

Rest, repeat, rest, repeat, rest
Rest, repeat, rest, repeat, rest

Once you've completed the first two cycles of rolling, folding, turning, rolling, and folding (turning will be delayed), wrap the dough securely and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the dough to chill and the gluten to relax. Repeat this cycle two more times, for a total of six rolls, folds, and turns, and three 30 minute rests in the fridge.

Roll out the final dough for use
Roll out the final dough for use

Once the dough has chilled a final time, it is ready to be rolled out on a floured work surface. Instructions will vary based on the recipe that you've selected, but generally, you'll want to roll the dough somewhere around 1/8 inch thick. Remember, only work in a cold space, and chill the dough once it's been cut to allow the gluten to relax and prevent shrinkage in the oven.

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20110915-170895-puff-pastry-21.jpg