It’s true you can always buy frozen puff pastry at any grocery store. But, in less than the time it takes for the frozen puff pastry to thaw, you can make your own from scratch. I have a simple recipe I learned at L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, that is the one I turn to time and again. I just adapted it to make a larger quantity and also to give you a bit of a more detailed description.
The key to making good puff pastry dough, or any flaky dough for that matter, is keeping everything very cold (well the flour and salt are fine at room temp!). You’ll want to cut your butter into chunks while being very cold.
Begin by simply placing your flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add your chunks of butter and pulse several times (about 10 times) until the butter chunks are reduced to pieces about the size of peas. Feel free to use your hands to feel the mixture to estimate the size of the butter pieces.
Next, slowly pour in the water, make sure it’s very cold (I even put it in the freezer for a few mintues), while pulsing the mixture until a very crumbly dough forms. Here’s a photo of what your dough will look like when it’s ready to turn out…
Turn the crumbly dough out onto a lightly floured surface and carefully gather it together with your hands. Do not knead the dough, as we are actually trying not to form gluten strands.
Puff pastry “puffs” due to a series of rolling, turning, and folding the dough. After you’ve gathered your dough into a single piece, lightly flour a rolling pin and roll it into a somewhat triangular shape.
Now fold the two bottom ends inward to meet, and fold the top end down to make the dough resemble an envelope…
Once you have your envelope, turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise. Roll it out, again; this time into a rectangular shape. And fold the top and bottom edges in lengthwise to meet in the middle…
Then, fold the whole thing in half…
Now you’ll just turn the dough another quarter turn clockwise and repeat the whole rolling and folding process one more time. Triangle, fold, rectangle, fold, fold again: and you have homemade puff pastry! Wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and it’s ready to use.
Yields about 1 1/2lb. puff pastry
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
3/4 lb. very cold butter (3 sticks), cut into chunks
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup very cold water
Place flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the chunks of butter and pulse a few times, until the butter is incorporated in large pieces (about the size of a pea).
Slowly pour in the cold water while pulsing until a very crumbly dough is formed. Turn dough out onto a clean, lightly floured workspace and gently push it together with your hands – do not knead.
Rolling and folding the dough:
1. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough into a roughly triangular shape. Use your hands to fold the two bottom tips of the triangle inward and the top down, like an envelope.
2. Turn the dough a quarter-turn clockwise and roll out, again, into a rectangle this time. Fold the two ends lengthwise into the middle to meet. Then fold the dough in half across.
Turn the dough another quarter-turn clockwise, and repeat steps 1 and 2 above one more time, turning the dough a quarter-turn clockwise each time.
Wrap the puff pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before using.