I do love pastry. Pretty much a lot. Give me a pie over a cake any day. Anything Wellington? Yes please! I’m even really into making my own. Any sort of short pastry I will just whip up. But puff? Is the effort really worth it? Almost every chef says they use pre-made puff. In fact, when I first moved to London, my partner gave me a gift to a masterclass at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay where we made Beef Wellington, and they whipped out the pre-made puff faster than you could even think about making your own. Everyone mentions the horror stories about how difficult it is, and how much of a pain it is, and how it’s just easier to not bother. (And well, it’s certainly faster!)
So being the masochist I am, I decided one evening when I was home alone that I would attempt to make my own puff. Because that’s clearly a perfectly normal thing to do on a Thursday evening, right? The BBC Good Food version seemed simple, so I just went for it.
So the concept is simple. Mix the flour and water into a food processor and blend until doughy then refrigerate. Easy. (Well it was then, now I seem to have some broken parts, and I nearly went into food processor meltdown over the weekend when I needed to make parsnip puree.) Then when you’re ready, you bash your very cold butter out between parchment paper until it becomes pliable. Then you wrap it up like it’s a letter and your cold dough is the envelope. So far, so easy!
Next comes the rolling and folding. Roll the dough into a longish rectangle. Fold the dough. Repeat two times. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Then repeat this two more times as well. This gives you a total of nine folds and three refrigerates before your dough is ready to be used. There are different techniques for folding. Some people do the tri-fold. This is basically when you take 1/3 the dough and fold it over the center then take the other 1/3 and fold it over the top. Some people do the book fold. This involves taking 1/4 of the dough and folding it over. Then fold 1/4 of the dough on the other side. Then fold that in half so it almost looks like a book. This is the method I chose. So once I was done, I had to figure out what to do with it. I chose something simple and easy because after spending several hours making the dough, it seemed to make sense.
The easiest thing seemed to be to make palmiers. I mean the best thing is the simplest only require two ingredients: Puff pastry and sugar. I went for demerara sugar because the crystals are nice and big, and the brown is a lovely color. Making the palmiers is incredibly simple:
Chuck a bunch of the sugar on your surface. Roll the pastry out on top of the sugar. Add some more sugar to the inside. Roll a bit more to get the sugar into the pastry. Fold. Freeze for about twenty minutes to firm up. Slice into approximately 1 cm slices. Bake at a high temperature until the are done (mine took about 15 minutes). (And hey, you can do this with pre-made pastry and save yourself about 2-3 hours of faffing around making it.)
I also added a bit of ground cardamom to the inside, because I love the flavor, and it gives it a little something else. You may also want to flip them halfway through baking. I didn’t. They got a nice sugary caramelization from the melting sugar. But only on one side. So I imagine you could get a brown caramel color on both sides if you flipped them. I was just a bit lazy. So how did my puff turn out? You be the judge:
The lesson I learned about all this? Puff pastry is incredibly simple, it just takes ages. Most of the time was just sitting around waiting while the dough was chilling. This meant extra Xbox time or binging Netflix. I mean this was my first go, and I think the puff rose very well. And was the effort worth it? Definitely. The effort was minimal, it was just time. If I can make it in advance, that’s even better. And everyone who tried them raved, which not only fed their bellies, but fed my ego! After I fix my food processor, I expect more puff pastry experiments to happen in the near future. Tarte Tatin anyone?
Check out more recipes and tips on our recipes page!