From Scratch Puff Pastry (with Ham and Cheese)

Puff pastry is known to be one of those intimidating foods, isn’t it?  I was certainly bracing myself for disaster when I tried making it today for the first time ever.  But after making it, I have to say, making puff pastry from scratch is not hard.  Yes, I am an experienced cook, but I’m telling you, it’s not difficult.  The hardest part about making puff pastry from scratch is that there aren’t any recipes that really explain what you’re doing (bad directions, and no pictures to guide you), so I’m about to fix that for you, because homemade puff pastry is just incredible. Puff pastry reminds me of bread, in the sense where people think bread is hard to make, but it’s not, it just takes several steps of letting the bread rise repeatedly.  Like bread, puff pastry isn’t difficult, it just has to be popped back into the fridge frequently so the butter doesn’t get too warm (I would say puff pastry is more time consuming than difficult).


Start by making the dough:

Let the dough relax, then roll it out into a rectangle. Place flattened out sticks of butter onto the rectangle:

Fold your dough over in half, and seal the dough all around it, so the butter is completely encased in dough.  Make sure it’s closed up well, and try not to get any air bubbles in there, so your butter is less likely to break through.

Roll your butter encased dough out into a long rectangle:

Fold one third over, like shown in the following picture.  Then take the other third, and fold that over on top of the center:

You end up with a folded up “letter” of pastry dough.  Turn the dough 90 degrees, and do the same thing again.   Roll the dough out into a long rectangle, fold 1/3 of it in, then fold the other 1/3 over, and then wrap it up and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes:

After the puff pastry has gotten a chance to chill for a bit, repeat the folding and turning process two more times.  Then refrigerate again for 30 minutes.  Then two more folds/turns, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Now, it’s ready to be rolled out and used for whatever recipe you are making.  I brushed the dough with coarse ground mustard, stuck about 1/3 pound of black forest ham in there, 1/4 pound of thinly sliced parmigiano reggiano, and grated over some pecorino romano:

I egg washed the edges, folded it in half to close it up, crimped the edges with a fork, egg washed the top, and baked at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes:

 

Puff Pastry

Ingredients:

2.5 cups bread flour (13 oz)

1.25 tsp sea salt

1 cup butter, at room temperature (65 degrees). It needs to be malleable, but not melting at all.

1 cup water


Directions:

Whisk together the flour and salt to combine, then in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, slowly pour the water into the salted flour with the mixer on low (you could also do this by hand if you don't have a stand mixer). Dump the dough onto the counter, and shape it into a ball. Cover with a damp towel.


Stick the butter between two pieces of plastic wrap, and pound/roll the butter out into a big rectangle with a rolling pin. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, so it can firm up.


Flour your countertop, and roll the dough out into a big rectangle, larger than your butter rectangle (don't roll the dough out so thinly that you risk the butter breaking through the dough...let's say no less than 1/4 inch). Put the butter rectangle into the center. Fold your dough over in half, and seal the dough all around it, so the butter is completely encased in dough. Make sure it's closed up well, and try not to get any air bubbles in there, so your butter is less likely to break through.


Now we get to the "turning" part of the process, where we work to develop those thousands of layers of flaky pastry. Basically the trick to getting those tiny little flaky layers is to repeatedly fold the dough into thirds (like a letter), turn the dough 90 degrees, and repeat the process. I know, reading about it can be confusing, so make sure to take a look at the blog post photos.


First, roll your butter encased dough out into a long rectangle. Fold one third over, then take the other third, and fold that over on top of the center. You end up with a folded up "letter" of pastry dough. Turn the dough 90 degrees, and do the same thing again. Roll the dough out into a long rectangle, fold 1/3 of it in, then fold the other 1/3 over, and then wrap it up and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.


After the puff pastry has gotten a chance to chill for a bit, repeat the folding and turning process two more times. Then refrigerate again for 30 minutes. Then two more folds/turns, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Now, it's ready to be rolled out and used for whatever recipe you are making. I brushed the dough with coarse ground mustard, stuck about 1/3 pound of black forest ham in there, 1/4 pound of thinly sliced parmigiano reggiano, and grated over some pecorino romano.


I egg washed the edges, folded it in half to close it up, crimped the edges with a fork, egg washed the top, and baked at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes.