In a number of my TV shows I have been seen to trundle off to the shops and buy shop-bought pastry to use as a base for my desserts and pastries. I honestly still think that’s fine, but I also think it is important to have a go at making your own puff pastry – even if you only try it once. Sure, it does take a bit of time to do, but as they say … good things come to those who wait!
To make the détrempe (dough packet), put the flour, salt and butter into a bowl and rub the mixture between your thumb and first two fingers, letting the mixture drop back in the bowl. Keep doing this until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add
Bring the pastry together with your hands, until you reach a soft but not sticky or dry dough. Knead the dough for about 10 seconds and then form a basic dough ball – the détrempe. Using a sharp knife, cut a large cross in the top, which helps the mixture of stretchy proteins (gluten) in the flour to relax. Then wrap the détrempe in cling film and put it into the fridge for 1–1½ hours – this resting time makes the pastry easier to roll out later on.
To make the butter ‘packet’, gently soften the butter and then wrap it in cling film. Using the cling film to help you, shape it into a 9cm square. Put the square in the fridge for about 45 minutes to firm up a little. The butter packet needs to be pliable and at a similar consistency to the détrempe so that when you incorporate them they combine easily. If the butter is too hard it will make this difficult.
Once the détrempe has rested for 1–1½ hours, remove it from the fridge and roll it out to make a 20cm square on a lightly floured surface. Take the 9cm butter packet and put it in the centre of the détrempe square, at an angle so that a corner of the butter is facing the horizontal edge of the pastry – it should look like a kind of diamond from above. Placing it like this makes it easier to encase the butter.
Take each corner of the pastry to just past the centre so that all the corners overlap in the centre, encasing the butter. Put a little flour over the pastry and then roll it out to form a rectangle about three times as long as it is wide (about 20 x 60cm). I like to use a palette knife to make sure that the edges are straight and the corners are at right angles. Roll the dough and push it into shape with the palette knife to get it just right.
With one of the short ends facing you, fold the bottom third of the pastry over the middle third and then fold the top third of the pastry down over the middle and bottom fold, giving you a package. Keep the dough moving and the surface lightly floured so that it does not stick to the surface, and use the palette knife to make sure the package has straight edges and right angles. Then turn the dough 90° to the right and roll it out again to another 20 x 60cm rectangle, using your palette knife to make it nice and straight. Repeat the folding again – bottom third up and top third down. Now the pastry has had two rolls and folds.
Wrap the pastry in cling film and pop it into the fridge again for the gluten to relax a little and for the butter to firm up a bit, although you want it to still be pliable. If the butter does poke through when you are doing your folds and gets too soft, then put the dough back into the fridge to firm up a little.
Do this process two more times, resting the pastry in between every two rolls and folds so that at the end of the process the pastry would have had a total of six rolls and folds. This process creates the layers that will puff up in the oven.
Once the pastry has been rested for a third time, it is ready to use. However, you can keep the pastry like this in the fridge wrapped in cling film for up to a week and it can be frozen for up to 6 weeks. Use as required.
© Lorraine Pascale, 2017. Images: © Myles New, 2017.