Puff pastry or pâte feuilletée is a fine, light and rich type of pastry that is regarded as the most superior and professional of pastries in French cooking.
All of us will have sampled and enjoyed the delights of this multi-layered, flaky and buttery pastry on many occasions, as it is used to make many of our favourite dishes.
Puff pastry can be used in a variety of sweet and savoury recipes including steak and kidney pie, beef Wellington, sausage rolls, apple turnovers, strudel, vol-au-vents, mille feuilles and palmiers.
Making puff pastry at home is a long and tedious process, as it requires you to roll out, fold and rest the pastry six times before being able to continue with the rest of the recipe and therefore takes several hours to prepare.
It is advised to make a large quantity of puff pastry and subsequently store batches of the uncooked pastry in the freezer until required. Puff pastry will keep for several months in the freezer and for 2 - 3 days in the refrigerator before it needs to be cooked.
Many people choose to buy pre-prepared quantities of puff pastry from the supermarket, especially if only a small amount is called for in the recipe. You will find puff pastry in the fresh, frozen or chilled section of your local supermarket. It is more common to buy frozen puff pastry, but remember that it must be fully thawed out in the refrigerator before using.
Puff pastry basically consists of equal quantities of flour and butter (unsalted if possible), plus water, lemon juice and salt. You can also use butter with a small amount of lard to make the pastry, as lard improves the texture. Puff pastry does not contain any raising agents such as yeast, yet it rises to approximately times its height.
A dough is made from the flour, part of the butter, the lemon juice and the water. This dough is then rolled out and folded around a rectangle made from the remaining butter. This process is then repeated six times and the butter is folded into the dough, creating a thin layer of fat between numerous layers of pastry. On cooking, the butter melts, boils and creates steam, which causes the surrounding pastry to rise - genius!
The dough must be worked quickly during its preparation and kept at a constant temperature of 16°C (60°F) when out of the refrigerator, so that the butter does not melt. It is best to work on a cold surface when making the pastry.
Puff pastry is generally cooked at a temperature of 230°C (450°F) and is always glazed with a beaten egg or milk before placing in the centre of a preheated oven.
Below is a recipe for puff pastry that you can follow at home: