One of the last post I read was on making puff pastry from Stefan’s Gourmet Blog then, while in Arusha, Tanzania, I met a French Pastry Chef new to Tanzania telling me that she was unable to procure a flour good enough to make French croissants. Yes, obviously, French croissants are made of puff pastry. By the way, she made a gâteau of mille feuilles for me, again made with puff pastry, a real pleasure.
Well, not all wheat flours are the same and sometimes outside France it is difficult or impossible to locate the type T55 or T45 or even others to meet the requirements of some recipes. The T45 flour is more refined and much used in French pastry making. The higher the T number, the higher the flour’s mineral content. Flours with high mineral content are normally for bread making.
Anyway, my problem was different while in Arusha. I made a classic butter puff pastry. The temperature in the kitchen was 30 Celsius and when I placed the block of butter on the dough it started to soften within one minute. My emotions have since recovered, I am fine now.
I normally make large portions, meaning house style large portions, of puff pastry or with no less of 500 gr of flour. I portion and refrigerate or freeze the excess. I add vinegar to the initial pastry dough to provide strength and a nice rise to the finish product. I still do not know which chemical change the vinegar brings but it works.
Puff pastry is extremely versatile for savory and sweet dishes. Also, making it in small quantities require only your hands. The finish product is of extreme high quality and cheaper than store-bought products. There are many ways of making puff pastry. I make the classic butter puff pastry for its rising quality and finesse.
- 500 gr of flour
- 50 gr of melted butter
- 2 tsps. of vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- 200 ml of very cold water
- 400 gr square block of cold butter
- Sift the flour on a work surface and make a well
- Mix the cold water, the melted butter, the vinegar and the salt
- In the center of the well carefully add the wet ingredients
- Fairly fast, work the flour into the wet ingredients. I use a fork to do that
- When the dough is wet work it, four to six times, with the palm of your hands until homogeneous. Never overwork the dough
- Form a ball with the dough and with a knife cut a cross, 2 cm deep, on top of it. The cut will break the elasticity of the dough while it rests
- Wrap it in cling film and let it rest for one hour
- Feel the pastry dough
- Work out the butter into a square with a rolling-pin until it reaches the same constancy and feel as the dough. I wrapped the butter in greaseproof paper before gently, yes gently, working it out with the rolling pin. The ideal thickness of the butter square should be 1 centimeter
- Flour the work surface
- Roll out the pastry making four large branches, like a cross, with the center patch thicker than the branches.
- Place the butter on the center patch and fully cover it with the branches without making a strong overlap.
- You have now a large square of dough with butter in the center. It always reminds me of a raw knish
- Roll out the dough to make a rectangle, keeping the same width, three-time s longer than the square. Ensure an even thickness when rolling out the dough. The thickness should be 1/2 cm and all sides of the rectangle must be even. At least try from the onset but it gets better along the way with the other turns
- Fold the top side of the dough onto 2/3 of the length and fold the bottom part on top
- Make a quarter turn to the right and put 2 marks, usually finger marks, on the right hand side of the dough
- You have now made two turns. Place the folded dough in cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for one hour.
- After the resting time, never changing pattern, with the branches fold openings on your right. Stretch the dough with a rolling-pin, as per the previous procedure, three times its length and fold as before and let it rest for another hour. This is the 3rd turn and repeat again three times to make a total of 6 turns.
- You can use shorter and even longer resting time for the dough. I suggest not less than 20 minutes and not more than two hours and be consistent in the resting time
- Do not roll out puff pastry to less than 1 centimeter thick
- Puff pastry can be refrigerated for one week with no problem
- To freeze puff pastry – make only four turns and freeze. It will stay in the freezer for one month or more. When ready to use defrost to room temperature and make the other two turns.
- Keep the off cuts of puff pastry. Do not ball them up, keep them straights and roll them out until they become one again and make one or two turns before re-using them
- Put egg wash only on top of puff pastry before cooking. Never on the sides as it reduces the rising process