So yeah, I prefer to make my own puff pastry. I know, I know…this seems nutty. But you already know about this side of me, so it can’t come as that much of a surprise. I considered adding this tutorial to my Making the Basics series, but it seems kind of contradictory to call puff pastry basic. Certainly, it isn’t a basic ingredient in the sense that canned tomatoes, frozen spinach, or beans are, but it is an item that is typically purchased pre-made and frozen. If you’re anything like me, your first bite of the homemade stuff will be all you need to kiss the store-bought variety goodbye. The glorious buttery, flaky delicate layers of dough are exactly what the packaged version should be but never seems to actually be, at least in my experience. Puff pastry is definitely an indulgent treat to be enjoyed only sporadically, so when the time comes we should do it justice. And I know I say it all the time but I promise, this is really much easier than you might imagine.
Here we go. Puff pastry starts with butter…plenty of butter. (See the recipe at the bottom of the post for all ingredient measurements.) The butter should be cold…you’ll see why in a moment.
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade; pulse to combine. Add in about a quarter of the butter cubes and process until the butter is in dime-sized pieces, about four 1-second pulses. Add the remaining butter and process to coat the cubes with flour, about two 1-second pulses.
Transfer the mixture to a medium size mixing bowl. Combine the ice water and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add half of the liquid to the flour and butter mixture, and toss just until combined. Keep adding the liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough will clump together with your hand.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface. The dough will be dry and shaggy at this point. Now we’re going to fraisage the dough. I don’t know the literal definition of this word, so my mind has defined it as French massage…ha. No really, the point is creating a marbled buttery dough that will be beautifully flaky once it is baked. To fraisage the dough, brace the heel of one hand against the work surface and drag small portions of the dough forward in short, brisk strokes. You may contract hand-becomes-claw disease during this process but don’t worry, it’s only temporary.
Gather the dough together into a rough mound, using a bench scraper if necessary. Repeat the fraisage a second time. (OMG! The claw is getting worse!) Press the dough into an 8- by 4-inch rectangle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Place the dough onto a lightly floured large piece of parchment paper and roll into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle. Fold the dough lengthwise into thirds. Starting from the narrow end, loosely roll up the dough into a coil. Press it to form a 6- by 5-inch rectangle.
Repeat the whole rolling and folding process once more. As you can see, the point of all this is folding the dough over and over into many layers, which will create those nice flaky layers in the finished product. Roll the dough out into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle. (If at any point in the rolling and folding process the dough becomes too sticky or difficult to work with, transfer it to a baking sheet or cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until it becomes workable.)
Once you have that final rectangle, cut it in half. See all those buttery layers?! Each half will weigh approximately one pound, and will be nearly equal to the quantity in a pre-made package of puff pastry. Wrap the blocks individually in plastic wrap and freeze for a later use. I thaw mine in the fridge for a day before I plan to use it. Then just roll out into whatever shape/thickness is specified in whatever recipe you are using.
Woohoo! You just made puff pastry. As if that weren’t enough all on its own, here are three of my very favorite things to do with it.
Flaky apple turnovers. Make them immediately, thank me later.
Caramelized onion tart. I have no words.
Baked brie with apple compote. One of my favorite fall appetizers!