Puff Pastry or Pâte feuilletée fine
Yep, here’s my invention of the week: a 1032-layered puff pastry made in 20 minutes. Feel free to use the methods here, but if you do reproduce this on any media, please quote this source. As an academic for more than a decade, and plagiarism and IPR feature high on my list. 🙂
Last week, I thought about the puff pastry for two nights. Yep, on how I can shorten the whole production process. One would think this is futile, since even the most renowned chefs would just recommend ready-made puff pastry of a reliable brand. However, the metallic/bland taste and aroma (or the lack of it) I get from those just irk me no end, and I just cannot imagine what else they put in there to make it last and last in the freezer.
I often avoid making puff pastries not because they are difficult, but because it takes too much time. The last time I made them must be at least 20 years ago, when the refrigerators were not as efficient as they are today.
I remember my dough did not cool down properly for hours and I had butter squishing out everywhere! Of course, I was only a teenager and I did not have the patience nor the maturity to think of an alternative. And even today, with great refrigeration technology, it often takes five hours to get Pâte feuilletée fine done.
What is Puff Pastry?
Puff pastry, also known as pâte feuilletée, is a flaky pastry with a dough made mainly with water and plain flour, with the flakes created by laminating fat (butter, lard or vegetable oil) between the layers of dough. When the dough cooks and the fat layer evaporates, it pushes the dough and forms pockets of air and hence the layers.
How fine a puff pastry is often measured or described by the number of layers within the pastry. Chef Julia Child recommends 73 layers for regular pâte feuilletée and 729 layers for pâte feuilletée fine (in Volume II of her Mastering the Art of French Cooking textbook).
The examples of puff pastries include Palmiers, pate de nata (Portugese egg tarts), Beef Wellington, and turnovers. Some of the recipes are available here.
Principles behind the 20-minute puff pastry
- To ensure dough is pliable, I minimized the chance of gluten formation. Once gluten is allowed to form, the dough becomes stronger and will ‘fight’ the rolling. Hence, the choice of low gluten or cake flour, rubbing in the fats into the flour to stop the gluten molecules from stretching, and then avoiding the kneading.
- The laminating butter must be of the right consistency to ‘harmonize’ with the dough. If it is too soft, it flops here and there and you will need freezing in between. If it is too hard, it is like shards, piercing through the dough. The best to make sure the laminating butter is of almost the same consistency as the dough, and yet the coldest you can get it at that consistency. To get that, you hit it with a rolling pin and soften it.
- Always ensure the working surface is well-floured for folding any pastry. Very important.
- Remove all traces of flour with folding, if you don’t then there will be pockets trapped in between. Always keep a pastry brush handy.
- Don’t roll too hard or the butter will be squished into the dough. Treat the dough with tender, loving, care. 🙂
- If you find the dough hard to roll out (or fighting you) or the butter start oozing out all over, then don’t be afraid to leave it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before rolling again.
- Having said all that, I think it is good to refrigerate the dough every two folds, and I think making 256 layers is good enough if you want to impress, 64 layers is considered very good commercial grade (many puff pastry companies boast about having 64 layers). Making a thousand layer for home consumption is just crazy. Don’t be as crazy as me. Won’t do that again. 😉
1/2 tsp Sugar
125g Cake flour
65g Water, cold
65g Butter (made pliable by knocking and rolled into 0.5cm thin)
- Put the butter, flour, salt and sugar into a blender and blitz till it looks like breadcrumbs (less than 30 seconds)
- Add the cold water, and once it is incorporated, turn it onto a floured rolling board. Do not wait till it comes to a dough.
- Gather the dough and form a ball roughly.
- Wrap the slab of butter within the dough and seal.
- Roll the dough into a rectangle. (I follow the size of my rolling board). Make it as perfect a rectangle as possible.
- Do a book fold into 4, remember to brush off extra flour.
- Repeat the rolling and folding for a total of 3 times to get a puff pastry (with 64 layers) or pate feuiletee (with 1032 layers). I did not have to freeze between folding layers.
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Place the pastry in the middle rack of the oven, bake for 5 minutes.
- Turn the temperature to 180C or 160C (must experiment!)
- Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until light to golden brown, and the layers in between all dried up.
Here’s the video of me doing this rolling thingy.