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Baking School – How to Make Classic Puff Pastry

Let’s learn how to make Classic Puff Pastry, the queen of all doughs. Though the process does take some time, if you can use a rolling pin, you can make this essential recipe.

A view of all the layers in classic puff pastry

Classic Puff Pastry is a so-called “laminated” dough. What’s a laminated dough?

Take a big block of solid butter (yum!) and wrap it with pastry dough. Then roll, fold, roll, fold the dough over and over, creating thousands of layers of dough separated by the butter. Croissants, Danish pastry and Kouign-Amann are also made with laminated dough.

When puff pastry dough goes into the oven, the butter melts, preventing the layers of dough from sticking together. What you end up with is a super-light, crisp and flaky pastry that has about 100000001 uses and exactly 2187 layers.

a slab of classic puff pastry dough

See all they layers? The dough is now ready to roll and use in any recipe that calls for puff pastry.

This is a classic recipe that has been around for hundreds of years. So how is this recipe different from all the other puff pastry recipes you can find on the internet? Well, from my research I see two small but significant differences that I believe will make your puff pastry lighter and more tender.

The first is a trick I learned from Shirley Corriher. In her wonderful book Bakewise, she explains that brushing the dough with cold water before each fold will create a higher rise as the dough bakes. The water creates steam between the layers, pushing them up higher than usual. Thanks, Shirley!

The other slight change I implemented was to add a little vinegar to the dough. Vinegar is acidic and will help tenderize the dough. I do the same thing with my Pie Dough. You don’t taste the vinegar but it does help guard against over-working the dough.

Really, the best way to learn how to make a laminated dough is to watch the process. The recipe looks like it has a lot of steps and is complicated, but it’s one of those cases where it’s easier to show than to tell.

Watch the video to see how to roll and fold the dough. Then just take your time without rushing the process and you’ll have great results.

two pieces of baked classic puff pastry

The water between the folds helps the puff bake up nice and light.

interior shot of puff pastry layers a hand holding a piece of puff pastry

Helpful tips for making Classic Puff Pastry from scratch:

  • At all times the butter must stay cold. If the butter melts it will mix into the dough and the layers will not stay distinct. Any time you feel the butter may be getting too soft put the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to cool it down.
  • You want a certain amount of gluten in the pasty dough so it has enough strength to hold it’s shape as it rises. But you don’t want to develop too much gluten or you’ll have a tough texture. Using medium protein all purpose flour keeps a good balance of strength and tenderness.
  • If you find that the dough is getting tough and it keeps springing back as you try to roll, give it a 15-20 minute rest in the refrigerator before continuing.
  • Brushing the dough with water before each fold helps create distinct layers and, conveniently, also helps the entire slab of dough stay together as you roll.
  • Once you’ve completed all 6 “turns” split the dough in half for a more manageable size for rolling. You can store the dough 2-3 days in the refrigerator or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Watch the recipe video to see how to make Classic Puff Pastry.

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A view of all the layers in classic puff pastry

Classic Puff Pastry

Yield: 24 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour
Chilling Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours

Want to learn how to make Classic Puff Pastry? Puff pastry is the queen of all doughs and, though the process does take some time, if you can roll dough you can make this essential recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz, 360ml) ice cold water, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 4 cups (20 oz, 560g) all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 4 sticks (16 oz, 464g) unsalted butter, chilled but slightly pliable

Instructions

  1. Mix together the cold water, vinegar and salt. Stir to dissolve the salt. Place the all purpose flour into a large mixing bowl. Pour the water over the flour and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to mix until most of the water is absorbed.
  2. Still working in the bowl, gently squeeze the dough until it comes together. Knead just a few times to form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  3. Draw an 8" square in the center of a 12"x16" piece of parchment paper. Flip the paper over and line the 4 sticks of butter, side by side, in the middle of the square. Fold the parchment over the butter to form a packet. Use a rolling pin or other heavy object (I use the flat side of a meat tenderizer) to flatten the butter to fill the 8"x 8" square. You can lift the paper if it sticks. Trim and rearrange the edges of the butter as needed to make a neat square. Fold the butter into the parchment and place in the refrigerator.
  4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll the dough to a 10" square. Once you have a square, roll from each of the four sides to form a 3" flap of the dough, leaving the center thicker than the flaps. You should end up with a square with four "flaps" coming out from each side.
  5. Unwrap the butter and place it in the middle of the square. Fold the flaps so they overlap and enclose the butter, tucking in the corners as necessary. You should now have an 8" square of dough with the butter enclosed.
  6. Use the rolling pin to gently press on the square to flatten it. Roll the dough to a 8" x 24" rectangle. Take your time to roll gently and evenly so the butter stays in one layer in the dough.
  7. The long side of the rectangle should be facing you. Brush off the excess flour. Brush the entire surface of the dough with cold water. Fold the right 1/3 of the dough towards the middle then fold the left 1/3 of dough over enclosing it like a letter. This is the first "turn".
  8. Spin the dough so the closed edge is on the top side and the flap edge is facing you. Roll the dough again to a 24" long rectangle. Brush off the excess flour. Brush the entire surface of the dough with cold water and again fold the dough like a letter. This is the second "turn". Use your fingers to make 2 indentations in the dough. This helps keep track of how many turns you have completed.
  9. Wrap the dough with the parchment used to enclose the butter. Set it on a sheet pan, cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 60 minutes.
  10. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and do another 2 turns exactly like the first 2. Make 4 indentations in the dough, wrap and refrigerate at least 60 minutes.
  11. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and make the final 2 turns exactly as you did the others. You've now done all 6 turns.
  12. Split the dough into 2 equal portions. Wrap the dough and refrigerate at least 1-2 hours, preferably overnight, before using. The dough is now ready to be used in any recipe. Unused dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost before using.

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