Puff pastry is an ingenious dough composed of alternating layers of pastry and butter, hundreds and hundreds of ultrathin layers—it’s what’s referred to in the profession as a laminated dough. When it’s baked, the water in the butter turns to steam, forcing the dough to puff, and the pastry layers become shatteringly delicate and light, with a delicious buttery crunch.
The concept is simple: a dough is wrapped around a block of butter to encase it, then the dough is rolled out into a long, thin sheet, with a thin layer of butter sandwiched between the two layers of dough. When this sheet is folded over on itself and rolled out, the layers of butter and dough multiply exponentially.
- Yield: 1.5 kilograms/2½ pounds
- 14 ounces (400 g) European-style unsalted butter (in one piece)
- ¾ cup + 3 tbsp (225 g) Water
- 1 tbsp + 2½ tsp (25 g) White wine vinegar
- 31.5 cups +1 tbsp(500 g) All-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tbsp + 3/8 tsp (10 g) Kosher salt
- 1.7 ounces (50 g) Unsalted butter, melted but not hot
For the Butter Block
- Place a piece of parchment paper on the work surface. Center the butter on the parchment paper. Top with a second piece of parchment paper and pound the top of the butter from left to right with a rolling pin to begin to flatten it. The parchment paper will be stuck to the butter: lift off the top piece and place it butter side up on the work surface. Flip the butter onto the parchment, turning it 90 degrees. Top with the second piece of parchment paper. Continue to flatten the butter as before until you have a rectangle approximately 6½ by 8 by ½ inch thick.
- Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Cut the sides to straighten them and place the trimmings on top of the block. Return the parchment and roll the butter to a 6½-by-8-by-½-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight. Meanwhile, for the Dough
- Combine the water and vinegar in a liquid measuring cup.
- Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on the lowest setting for about 15 seconds to combine. Increase the speed to low, slowly add about half the water mixture, and mix for 30 seconds to combine. Add more of the water-vinegar mixture, reserving about 30 grams/2 tablespoons, until the flour is thoroughly moistened. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer running on low speed, mix in any dry ingredients that have settled in the bottom, then slowly pour in the butter. After about 30 seconds, the dough should begin to gather together in the center of the bowl. Stop the mixer before it comes together around the hook and feel the dough: it should feel tacky but shouldn’t stick to your fingers. If it feels at all dry, turn the mixer to low and add the reserved water in very small amounts as needed.
- Spray a medium bowl with nonstick spray, and lightly dust the work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and knead it for several minutes. The dough will not be completely smooth but will have some variance in texture, much like a bread dough. Lift the dough and tuck under the edges to form a ball, then place it seam side down in the prepared bowl.
- With a sharp paring knife, score a large ½-inch-deep X in the top of the dough to help it relax. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the dough, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight.
- Lightly flour the work surface and a heavy rolling pin. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and lightly dust the top with flour. Roll the dough outward from the center, rotating it frequently and adding just enough flour to the work surface, dough, and/or pin to prevent sticking, flipping and fluffing the dough from time to time, until you have a 12- to 13-inch circle about 3/8 inch thick. The dough should still be cold; if not, transfer it to a parchment-lined sheet pan and refrigerate until chilled.
- Lay the block of butter in the center of the dough. Stretch and fold the two opposite sides of the dough over the longer sides of the butter block to touch in the center, without overlapping. Fold over the other two sides to meet in the center, without overlapping. Pinch the edges together to seal. There should be no exposed butter. For Turn
- Using the rolling pin, press down firmly on the dough, working from one side to the other, to expand the dough. Turn the dough so a short end faces you. Roll to expand the length of the dough, flipping, fluffing, and turning the dough over and adding flour only as needed, until you have a rectangle approximately 24 by 9 inches and % inch thick.
- Fold the bottom third of the dough up as if you were folding a letter, then fold the top third down to cover the bottom third. Turn the block 90 degrees so the dough resembles a book, with the opening on the right. You will continue this pattern with each roll, and keeping the opening on the right will help you remember how to position the dough. You have completed your first turn; gently press a finger into a corner to mark it. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. For Turn 2
- Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Place the dough on the work surface with the opening on the right. Expand the dough by pressing down firmly with the rolling pin, working up the length of the dough. Then pound the dough, also working up the length of the dough. Hitting the dough will warm the butter—if it is too cold, it will shatter rather than spread as you roll the dough. Then roll out the dough as you did before to a 24-by-9-by-3/8-inch-thick rectangle. At this point, the short ends may have become rounded. If they are, trim the more rounded end to create a straight edge. Fold in the untrimmed third of dough and use the trimmings to patch and square off the rounded edges, cutting the trimmings as neccessary to fit. As you patch, be certain that all the layers of dough are running in the same direction. Fold over the top third of the dough. Turn the block 90 degrees, so the opening is on the right. You have completed the second turn; gently press two fingers into a corner to mark the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. For Turns 3 and 4
- Repeat all of the steps for turn 2, marking the dough with the corresponding number of fingerprints and refrigerating it for 2 hours after each turn. For Turn, 5 the Final Turn
- Repeat the steps and mark the dough with five fingerprints. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight. For Finish the Dough
- Line the back of a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust the work surface with flour. Place the dough on the work surface with the opening on the right. It is especially critical at this stage that the dough remain cold; refrigerate as needed. Lightly dust the top of the dough and roll it outward from the center, flipping, fluffing, and rotating it and turning it over, adding only enough flour to the work surface, dough, and/or pin as necessary to prevent sticking. Roll the dough to the size of the sheet pan, about 3/8 inch thick. If the dough becomes too difficult to roll, place it on the pan and refrigerate until cold, then return to the work surface and continue to roll it.
- Return the dough to the sheet pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or freeze for 15 minutes, to chill and relax the dough before using it.