Welcome to the second installment of French Pastry Week! Today we’re talking about puff pastry. I decided it would be a fun adventure to try making it from scratch.
Why did I make puff pastry when prepared puff pastry is so readily available and easy to work with? Well, the last time I purchased the leading brand of frozen puff pastry I was dismayed to discover that it contained partially hydrogenated oils, something I try to avoid. I had heard good things about an all-butter brand of frozen puff pastry available at Whole Foods. When I checked it out, I was shocked to see how expensive it was! I could not bring myself to pay that much for what was going to be part of an ordinary week-night meal.
To make this challenge even more interesting, I chose a recipe for whole wheat puff pastry. The main reason for this is I found a great recipe in my favorite whole grain baking book (King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking – highly recommended!) that included fantastic instructions and even pictures! Besides, I’m always trying to find ways to fit more whole grains into our diet.
Making Puff Pastry
Making whole wheat puff pastry is an all-day process, but there are large breaks while the dough rests. It involves wrapping the dough around a prepared block of butter, then repeatedly rolling and folding the dough to create many layers of butter and dough. The puff happens while baking: the melting butter layers create steam, which separates the layers of dough.
Let’s get started!
The dough and butter are prepared and chilled. Before chilling, the butter is patted into an 8-inch square. After chilling, roll the dough into a rough 12-inch square and place the butter on top at a 45-degree angle.
Fold the corners of the dough over the block of butter until they meet in the middle. Pinch and seal the edges together, making a packet. You may need to lightly wet the edges of the dough to make sure you get a tight seal.
Roll the dough from the center out to a large 20 x 10 inch rectangle.
After brushing off any excess flour, fold the dough into thirds, first by folding up the bottom third, then by folding down the top third. Next turn the dough 90 degrees to the right. It should look like the picture below.
Repeat this process a total of six times. After every two folds, rest the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour (puff pastry made with non-whole wheat flour does not need to rest as long).
This recipe makes a lot of dough, so after my final roll I cut it into fourths. Each quarter ended up weighing roughly 14 ounces.
I prepared three of the pieces of dough to freeze for future use (yay!). After all that work, it is nice to have enough left over to use next time I want puff pastry.
I couldn’t spend all that time making puff pastry and not bake any of it to see if it would “puff” or not. So, I cut off a slice, rolled it out, and prepared it for baking.
It puffed! You can see the layers along the edge. The inside had nice buttery layers, just like you’d expect.
If you are interested in trying puff pastry, here are a couple of sites that might help you:
King Arthur Flour Classic Puff Pastry Recipe – this is not a whole wheat recipe
Preparing Puff Pastry – this page has lots of photos of the process and good instructions
For those feeling wild and crazy enough to try whole wheat puff pastry, here are the ingredients you should use:
- 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 3 cups unbleached bread flour
- 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
- 4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons water
- 4 sticks (1 pound total) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
I wonder what I am going to make with this puff pastry?