Puff pastry consists of lots of very thin layers of butter within a dough, created by repeatedly rolling and folding the dough. On baking, the butter melts, making the pastry crisp and layered, and also releases steam, puffing the pastry up. The secret to making good puff is to have the dough and butter at the same low temperature before you bring them together. If the butter is too soft, it will start to ooze out as you work, and warm dough will become sticky. Chilling the pastry between each roll and fold allows the butter to harden so you can build up clean, even layers of dough and butter. I use a proportion of high-gluten bread flour in puff pastry to give it the strength it needs to hold its multi-layered structure.
Puff pastry has a reputation for being difficult but it's not at all, you just need to know what you're doing. The secret is to keep everything cold.
- 100 g strong white bread flour
- 100 g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 75 ml–100 ml cold water
- 165 g chilled good-quality unsalted butter
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time: 7 hours initial chilling of dough, plus four hours total during rolling and folding process
1. Combine the flours and salt in a bowl. Mix in enough water to form a reasonably tight but still kneadable dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5–10 minutes until smooth. Form into a rough rectangle, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 7 hours.
2, Use a rolling pin to flatten the butter into a rectangle, 20cm long and just slightly less than 12cm wide (put the butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper or two pieces of clingfilm to make this easier). Wrap the dough in cling film and return to the fridge for an hour to chill.
3, On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to a rectangle, 12 cm x 30 cm.
4. Place the chilled butter on the dough so it covers the bottom two-thirds. Make sure it’s positioned neatly and comes almost to the edges of the dough. Lift the exposed dough at the top and fold down over half of the butter. Fold the butter-covered bottom half of dough over the top. You will now have a sandwich of two layers of butter and three of dough. This is one ‘turn’. You can keep track of how many turns you have given the pastry by using a finger or knuckle to make a small indent in the dough - one for one turn, two for the second turn, etc.
5. Seal the edges by pinching together, sealing the butter inside the pastry. Place in a plastic food bag and chill in the fridge for an hour.
6. Remove the dough from the bag and place it on a lightly floured surface, with the short end towards you. Roll it into a long rectangle as before and repeat the folding process. Chill for an hour.
7. Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling twice more, for a total of four ‘turns’.
8. The dough is now ready to use. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge while you make the other parts of your recipe (for example, sausage rolls or pies).
You can use this puff pastry to make Paul Hollywood's sausage rolls.