Making traditional puff pastry is easy, although it does require a lot of time to accomplish. And since most of us do not have the luxury of time, there must be another way to enjoy canapés and other baked goods that rely on a flaky light pastry. You can always buy one from the store or you can make your own rough puff pastry in about 30 minutes or so.
The Traditional Puff Pastry
The French call a puff pastry as the pâte feuilletée. Everybody else knows it as a laminated dough that consists of flour, water, and lots of butter. The classic way of making puff pastry is by performing a series of maneuvers over a course of time. It follows the sequence of rolling, folding, and turning until you get several layers of dough. This is why they call it a laminated dough because you are going to make very thin sheets of dough with each turn.
The main idea in the rolling, folding, and turning process is to distribute the butter in an even manner. This is the fundamental characteristic of a puff pastry. When you bake, the moisture in both the dough and the butter turns to steam. This lifts the layer of dough above it and so on. This is what gives it the classic “puffed” appearance. You also get thin and crispy layers of delicious and buttery pastry.
Commercially-available puff pastry requires a dough laminator to get the layers right. Puff pastry producers also use whole blocks of butter instead of slicing them into smaller pieces. All the ingredients for the pastry – flour, butter, and water – get mixed in a machine. A dough laminator rolls out the dough and folds it into several layers.
While the traditional puff pastry is so lovely to look at when baked, it requires a lot of effort on your part. You need to have powerful muscles to incorporate a block of butter into the flour and water mixture. You also need to observe lengthy rest periods in the puff pastry making process. In other words, you will need at least 4 hours to make a good puff pastry.
The Cheat’s Puff Pastry
Because the traditional puff pastry requires a lot of time to prepare, most home cooks would use store-bought puff pastry instead. There is also the issue of working with a large chunk of butter that requires more than elbow grease.
The rough puff pastry is the answer to such a dilemma. It is not as refined as the classic puff pastry but it sure can provide you with that buttery crunch in your baked goods. It also takes less time to make. On a cold day, you can make rough puff pastry in about 30 minutes or so. On warm days, that could mean 45 minutes. Still, you can have your pastry ready in under an hour.
They call it the cheat’s puff pastry because of certain “shortcuts” to the classic puff pastry. There are two ways you can “cheat” the puff pastry.
The Grated Butter Rough Puff Pastry
In this method, you will first make the pastry dough before adding grated butter into the dough. The trick here is to make sure that you do not have molten butter. The other ingredients, like water, should also be super-cold. This will help maintain the dough-butter layers. This is a lot easier to roll out and fold because the butter is not in chunks. You are also able to maintain the laminated layers of a classic puff pastry.
For this version of rough puff pastry, you will need the following:
- 2 cups and 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
- 5 ounces of frozen unsalted butter
- 75 ounces of very cold, cubed, unsalted butter
- 5 ounces of ice water
- ½ teaspoon of table salt
The first step is to make the dough. But before you do, let the frozen butter thaw for about 10 minutes at room temperature. This will make it a lot easier to grate. Pour the flour onto a clean surface. Distribute the cubed, cold butter on the flour and sprinkle the salt. Use a pinching motion to run the cubed butter into the flour. Keep on running the butter until you get a “crumbly” mixture.
Create a mound by gathering the flour-butter mixture. Create a well or crater in the middle of the mound. Pour half of the ice water into the “crater”. Bring the edges of the flour-butter mixture into the center of the well to help incorporate the water. Once you are done, you can start making the dough.
Once the dough looks dry, make a crater again and pour the remaining half of the ice water. Knead the dough until you get a nice, firm consistency. If the dough looks too dry, you can add a tablespoon of ice water at a time. Continue kneading the dough until you see very few floury patches in the pastry dough. Set this aside.
Get a box grater and grate the frozen butter using the largest holes on the grater. The butter should be soft but still firm. Put the grated butter in a mixing bowl. You can also dust it with flour to make sure that the individual pieces of butter do not stick.
Roll out the pastry dough into a rectangle, about 13 inches long and 8 inches wide. Make sure to lightly dust the work surface with flour to help prevent the dough from sticking. Imagine the rectangular dough as having three equal sections. Scatter half of the grated butter on two-thirds of the pastry dough. Give it a pat to help compress or compact the grated butter into the flour-butter mixture. Grab your rolling pin and compress the butter into the dough some more.
Hold the “unbuttered” one-third section of the dough and fold it into the middle of the buttered section. Grab the remaining buttered one-third and fold this over the two-thirds folded dough. What you will get is a small rectangle.
Rotate the dough 90 degrees. Roll out the dough again into an 8 by 13-inch rectangle. Divide the rectangular dough into three sections and pour the remaining grated butter into two of these 1/3-sections. Follow the same procedure of compressing the butter into the dough and folding the thirds on top of each other.
For the succeeding folds, keep repeating the same process. The only difference now is that you are not going to put in any more butter. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Fold it into thirds like a business letter. Roll it out again.
It is very important to do this very fast because of the tendency of butter to melt. If you see the butter warming up and take on a very soft consistency, put it back in the freezer to allow it to firm up. A few minutes should be fine.
Once you are done, you can wrap the rough puff pastry dough in cling film. Let it rest in your refrigerator for about half an hour before using.
Five folds using this technique will give you 171 buttery layers in your rough puff pastry. That is an amazing feat, considering you only need half an hour to create it.
Shortcrust Style Puff Pastry
In this cheat’s version of the puff pastry, there are very few modifications to the classic recipe. Instead of using a single block of butter, you will need smaller chunks.
For this trick, you will need to prepare the following ingredients.
- 10 ounces of all-purpose flour
- 10 ounces of cold butter, cut into small chunks
- 5 ounces ice water
- 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt
Sift the flour and sea salt and mix well. Spread the flour mixture onto a clean working surface and scatter the cubes of butter. The butter should be firm and not super soft. Rub the butter into the flour but do it in a loose manner. What you want to see is a dough that has bits of butter.
Gather the clumped dough and form a mound. Create a well in the center and pour two-thirds of the ice water. Start kneading the dough, making sure to add a bit of water if the dough becomes too dry. Cover the dough with cling film. Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
Once rested, take the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly-floured working surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle. Its length should be 3 times its width. Follow the same procedure as in the folding of a Grated Butter Rough Puff Pastry. Fold a third to the center before folding the other third over it. Rotate it some 90 degrees and roll the dough again. Keep rolling, folding, and turning the dough up to 4 more times.
Wrap in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for half an hour before using.
Making a rough puff pastry is a lot easier than making the classic version. What’s good about it is that it retains the flakiness and lightness of the original but with less hassle.