Homemade Puff Pastry
Puff Paste, as it’s referred to in “The Art of Fine Baking,” is a lengthy but satisfying process. For those of us that do not have the time or patience to make it from scratch, the frozen puff pastry available in most supermarkets today is both simple and fairly tasty.
This recipe for puff pastry has an extra buttery taste you may not find in the frozen version. “The Art of Fine Baking” contains a somewhat extensive introduction to the recipe, in which it describes uses and the do’s and don’t’s of making it from scratch. I’m not going to copy in the entire introduction here (as I would need to re-type two pages) but it is a helpful resource when making this recipe.
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/3 cups water
2 cups unsalted butter
Set aside 3 tablespoons of flour. Place remaining flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Add salt, lemon juice, and 1 cup water. Using your hands, work flour and liquid together to make a firm, slightly sticky dough, If necessary, add additional water gradually.
Knead the sticky ball of dough on a table for 15 to 20 minutes, or until dough is very elastic and smooth. It’s almost impossible to overwork this dough. While working, dip fingers occasionally into water and dab a few drops into dough to prevent it from drying. Cover dough and let it rest for 10 minutes in refrigerator.
While dough is resting, make butter into shape of a brick approximately 3 x 5 x 1 1/2 inches. Roll brick in the 3 tablespoons of flour, coating all sides well.
Place dough on a large, well-floured cloth or surface. Sprinkle dough lightly with flour. Leaving the center a cushion about the size of the brick and 1/3 inch thick, roll out dough on 4 sides, making 4 thinner “petals,” about 1/4 inch thick.
Brush off excess flour. Center butter on cushion, Stretch petals over butter, overlapping them and sealing so butter is completely enclosed.
Flour block of dough well. Wrap in aluminum foil and chill for 20 minutes.
Roll out dough on well floured cloth or surface- roll evenly and gently into a rectangle 8 x 18 x 1/3. Be careful not to pound or squeeze dough. Use a firm consistent rolling motion. Don’t roll over ends. When rectangle is 18 inches long, lightly roll across dough (in opposite direction) to flatten ends to same thickness as rest of sheet.
Brush off excess flour. Fold each end of rectangle to meet in center (as shown here – my ends are not rectangular but instead rounded – it is better for the butter layers if ends are rectangular but it’s not necessary).
Roll lightly. Again brush off excess flour. Then fold together again as though closing the pages of a book. There will be 4 layers of dough.
Chill dough 30 minutes. Place it again on floured cloth. Be sure it is turned so the narrow ends of the rectangle are parallel with the edge of the table nearest you. Roll into a rectangle. Brush off excess flour. Fold exactly as before.
Repeat rolling and folding 3 more times, chilling dough at least half an hour between times. Make sure to have narrow ends of rectangle parallel to edge of table nearest you each time the dough is rolled. After the dough has been rolled and folded 5 times, chill at least 3 hours before using.
Yield: about 50 medium sized pastries such as palmiers, or 24 millefeuilles, or 15 patty shells.