As discussed, puff pastry is a rich, light, and delicious pastry dough that is the base for a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes in the classic French culinary repertoire. Although time-consuming to prepare, contrary to its reputation, puff pastry is not particularly difficult to make. It is used for pies, tarts, allumettes (puff pastry strips), and vols-au-vent (puff pastry shells), as well as many other dishes.
According to the culinarian’s bible, Larousse Gastronomique, puff pastry was known and made as far back as ancient Greece. In French culinary lore, a mention of puff pastry is found in a fourteenth-century charter drawn up by the Bishop of Amiens. However, it seems that the techniques for its perfection were formalized by two seventeenth-century cooks — a chef named Feuillet, who served as pastry cook to an aristocratic family, and a renowned French landscape painter, Claude Lorrain, who also happened to have served a pastry apprenticeship in his youth. Some historians credit Feuillet as the inventor, some credit Lorrain, but whichever one it was, by the eighteenth-century pâte feuilletée was firmly entrenched in the classic French pastry kitchen.