You all must know by now how much I love butter. Particularly in its puff pastry form. I’ve written about quick puff pastry before but as often as I make this recipe I thought it deserved another spot on the blog – a more in depth tutorial-like spot.
Making classic puff pastry should be on your list of things to do at least once before you die. It’s incredibly satisfying. I get weak in the knees upon seeing thousands of layers of alternating dough and butter. Once the puff goes into the oven I immediately turn on the oven light and sit myself down in front of the window and watch in amazement as my dough starts to grow and create perfect layers that will soon shatter in my mouth causing an explosion of butter flavor.
Really you must try it. But on the days when you want those buttery layers but don’t have the time to make the classic version of puff pastry then you turn to quick puff.
Classic and quick puff differ in the mixing process. In making classic puff pastry you start with a detrempe. Which is simply a dough of flour, salt, water and butter. A block of butter is then folded into the dough using a process called turning. The butter and dough layers fold over on themselves but are never incorporated into one another, creating perfectly even flaky layers.
Quick puff pastry starts off looking a lot like making a pie dough. Cold butter – a lot of it – is added to flour salt and “cut-in” using a pastry cutter or my favorite tool – a bench scraper. The butter is left in very large chunks. Since the butter is being worked into the dough more so than in the classic version you won’t get perfectly even layers but you will get some tenderness along with incredible flaky layers.
Cold water is then added and the cutting in of the butter continues.
At this point you are thinking I’ve led you horribly astray. This mass of flour, salt, butter and water resembles nothing of a dough. But still we continue on and trust the process.
The next step is very similar to classic puff. Turning.
Gather the “dough” and form into a rough rectangle.
Lift 1/3 of the dough from the left side and fold over the middle. Imagine you are folding a business letter.
The right side of the dough then folds over it all. Rotate the dough 90*. This is one turn. Repeat that process. Again you form the dough into a rectangle (I find my hands are the best tool for this job), then fold the left third over the middle third and the right side folds over that. Repeat one more time for a total of three turns.
Completely cover the dough in plastic wrap and chill for one hour. If at any point during the mixing and turning process the butter starts to get soft, simply pop the dough into the fridge to chill until the butter is once again cold.
Once completely chilled remove the dough and continue by doing three more turns for a total of six turns. After the refrigeration you should notice that the once dry and blob-like mass is now a more coherent dough. I like to use a rolling pin for the final three turns. I start the dough off by banging it several times with the rolling pin. Cold dough is hard to roll and this eases that process. As an added bonus I find it to be a great stress reliever.
After the six turns are complete I cut my dough in half and marvel at all those beautiful buttery layers. It’s okay to talk to the dough and tell her how pretty she is. Once you are done cover each half and place in the fridge to chill.
The dough is now ready to use. If you don’t plan to use the dough now, cover in aluminum and throw it in the freezer. Although I do like to roll mine out in sheets first and then freeze the sheets. They can easily be frozen for 2 months. Which makes this perfect for the holidays. Make the dough now, freeze the sheets then pull out of the freezer the day of your party to make a simple and delicious dessert or appetizer.
Cut the dough into whatever shape you want. Individual servings, one large tart or little bites for a holiday cocktail party.
Cover the dough with thinly sliced Granny Smith apples (no need to peel) and then generously sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 400* oven until puffed and golden. The time will vary depending on the size you choose you make your tart.
Serve this with lightly sweetened cinnamon whipped cream (1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 2 tbl powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon).
The trick with baking puff is to use a well pre-heated, very hot oven and to bake your dough when it is good and cold. When the cold butter hits a hot oven it quickly start to boil which creates steam. It is the steam that causes the flaky layers as it pushes up the surrounding dough. That, and a little bit of magic.
I do hope you try this recipe. I can not tell you how often I make and use it. So often, in fact, I should be sponsored by a butter company.
Quick Puff Pastry
adapted from epicurious.com
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 1/2 sticks (3 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, chilled
1 cup cold water
I’ve included the food processor method. I prefer using my hands (this may have something to do with the fact that I don’t have a food processor) but the results are also very good.
1. Sift together the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
2. Add chilled, diced butter and pulse three to five times, until the butter pieces are about the size of lima beans. Add water to the mixture and pulse again about three times. Invert the crumbly mass onto a lightly floured work surface.
3. Using a rolling pin and bench scraper, shape the mass into a long rectangle. Use the bench scraper and carefully flip one third of the rectangle toward the center. Then, flip the other end to the center, like folding a business letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees.
4. Reshape and roll the dough into a rectangle. Repeat the folding and rotating process three more times for a total of four turns. If the dough becomes soft or sticky during this process, immediately refrigerate until firm.
5. After four turns, wrap the dough in plastic wrap. With your finger, make four indentations in the dough — one for each time the dough has been turned. This is a reference point for how many times the dough has been turned. Refrigerate the dough at least 45 minutes or until firm.
6. After the dough has been refrigerated for 45 minutes, unwrap it and discard the plastic. Keep your work surface and rolling pin well floured. Press down on each of the four sides of dough to seal its shape.
7. Start with the rolling pin at the center. Roll away from you. Return to the center and roll toward you. Repeat the folding and rotating process of the dough two more times for a total a total of six times.
8. After the sixth turn, wrap the finished dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate to make sure it is well-chilled before baking. The dough can be refrigerated up to three days or frozen for several months.