Puff Pastry – A True Delight

Puff pastry – what does it mean to me? Layers of buttery and pastry goodness is the answer to that question.

This delightful pastry’s lightness means that it can be paired with a rich sauce, if you’re using it as a component of a savoury dish. If using puff pastry as part of a dessert, it can be paired with a thick cream which it will carry beautifully.

This stunning pastry presents endless possibilities. I had been wondering about its origins – of course I would have considered it to be French. When I think of puff pastry, I think of splendid Parisian patisseries. All puff pastry induced thoughts lead to France and classical French cookery. I decided to delve into its history and I discovered an exciting tale.

According to Atelier Monnier, Puff pastry indeed originates from France, where it is referred to as pâte feuilletée. It was invented in 1645 by Claudius Gele, a pastry apprentice. He wanted to develop an improved bread for his father who was sick and on a diet of just flour, butter and water. Claudius made a bread dough to which he inserted butter into, kneaded the dough, folded it several times and then made it into a loaf. The resultant baked good was an incredibly pleasant surprise!

Claudius next found himself in Paris where he worked at the Rosabau Patisserie. It was at this patisserie where he refined and perfected his invention which contributed to the great success of the pastry shop. Claudius then found himself in Florence where he worked for the brothers Mosca, who were thought to have invented puff pastry. However, Claudius always kept his recipe a secret and prepared his pastries in a locked room (how enthralling!). I love this story and it is exactly the history I hoped this iconic pastry would have.

Puff pastry is an essential constituent for many classic French pastries but also in modern cooking. Regular puff pastry requires a little more effort in comparison to rough puff. The recipe listed below is for rough puff – to make life a little easier. While making puff pastry might be slightly time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort. Think of it as a labour of love.

Recipe:

  • 200g flour (plain or strong flour will do)
  • salt
  • 150g butter/margarine/relatively firm vegan butter
  • 125ml water, ice-cold
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

Note: In terms of turning the pastry (mentioned below), I’m sharing this Good Housekeeping UK video which is useful for anyone who hasn’t made puff pastry before and is unfamiliar with the turning process.

  • In a bowl, sieve the flour and salt.
  • Cut the chosen fat into cubes (approx. 10g pieces) and lightly mix into the flour without rubbing in. (It will be difficult to resist the urge to rub the butter in but you must be strong!)
  • Make a well in the center of the mixture.
  • Add the liquids and mix to a stiff dough.
  • Turn onto a floured work surface and roll into an oblong strip, approx. 30 cm x 10 cm, trying your best to keep the sides square.
  • Give one double turn as for puff pastry.
  • Allow to rest in the fridge for around 30 mins, either covered with a cloth or wrapped in baking parchment.
  • Give three more double turns, resting in the fridge between each turn. Allow to rest for an hour or so before using.

Puff pastry is versatile and can be used to make mille-feuilles, vol-au-vents, croissants, tarts, pies – the list goes on.

I decided to make little cream and jam layered pastries with the rough puff pastry I made today. I rolled the pastry to around 2mm thick, pricked it with a fork, cut it into rectangles as uniform as possible and baked them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment at 220C for 15-20 mins.

The buttery, flaky layers of puff pastry are such a delight that there’s no need to make a fuss of it by adding frivolous frostings. Let the pastry do the talking by simply adding cream and jam and dusting with icing sugar.

Layers of buttery, flaky pastry will comfort and sooth you.