How To Make Puff Pastry

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This is not the post I planned on writing. This was supposed to be how to make croissants. There’s this appetizer my wife makes that calls for a one of those blue cans of pre-made crescent rolls from the refrigerated section at the grocery store. I thought for sure I could do better than that.

So I found a couple of recipes, mixed and matched the parts that sounded good, and … holy crap I made puff pastry! That’s supposed to be hard. For the past year I’ve been telling myself that “someday maybe I’ll be able to make puff pastry, everyone says it’s so hard.”

Maybe it’s hard to make it on purpose, but darned if I didn’t do it by accident. Here’s how.

Ingredients

1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter (first amount)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package dry yeast (2½ teaspoons)
¼ cup warm water (105° – 115°)
2½ cups flour
1 cup butter (two sticks, second amount)

Directions

Combine the milk, first measure of butter, sugar and salt in a pan.


Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and add it to the milk.


Combine the flour and the milk mixture in a mixing bowl.

Use the dough hook.

Mix on low speed until the ingredients are well incorporated. It should still be fairly sticky when it’s done.

Place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set it aside in a warm place for about an hour to rise until it’s doubled in volume.

When the dough has risen, soften one of the remaining sticks of butter in the microwave. (Yes, there is a place for microwaves in cooking.) Add the second stick and mix. You want the butter to be soft and spreadable, but not runny.


When the dough has risen to twice its original size, turn it out onto a floured surface.

Roll the dough out into a square, slightly smaller than the length of a baking sheet. Spread the butter onto the two thirds of the dough closer to you.

Fold the third farthest from you, the part with no butter, back over the middle third. Then fold the near third up over the middle.

Here’s where I took advantage of the weather. It was about 15 degrees outside while I was working on this, so my back porch was like a walk-out freezer. I would never have done this if I had to go downstairs for the freezer.

Move the dough to a baking sheet. Place another baking sheet on top and place it in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. You want the butter to firm up, but the dough should still be soft enough to roll out without cracking.

Uncover the dough and roll it out just enough to soften it up.

Fold the ends in over the middle, turn sideways and roll out to the length of the baking sheet again.

Another 15-20 minutes in the freezer and do it again.

I did three cycles outside, with the roll-fold-roll routine in between each time. After the last round outside I rolled it out square. The recipes I’d seen for croissants said to roll it into a circle. But I know the ones in the can come out in squares, and they work just fine.

Use a pizza cutter or an extremely sharp knife to cut puff pastry. If you use a dull knife you’ll press the layers together and they’ll stick together instead of separating when you bake it.

Now that I know I can do puff pastry, I’m going to go back and do the beef Wellington again.

The next two days I’ll be showing the two ways I used this batch. I usually give some silly little hint down here, but I’m just going to come out and tell you one of them is a batch of the best croissants ever.

UPDATE: Here are the home-made croissants, and here is the dill cheese appetizer.

Puff Pastry

Puff Pastry

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter (first amount)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package dry yeast (2½ teaspoons)
  • ¼ cup warm water (105° - 115°)
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 cup butter (two sticks, second amount)

Instructions

Combine milk, first measure of butter, sugar and salt in a pan. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to milk. Combine flour and milk mixture. Mix on low speed until well incorporated. Set it aside to rise until doubled in volume.

Soften remaining butter. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll out into a square. Spread the butter onto two thirds of dough. Fold dry third over the middle, then remaining third over middle. Place dough in freezer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Roll out and fold inward in thirds again. Freeze again and repeat. Each fold will make pastry flakier.

NOTE: Keep pastry cold enough that the butter spread in the middle doesn't melt and soak into pastry. The butter is what makes the flaky layers.

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