If you’ve been visiting me on facebook or instagram, you know I’ve been playing with puff pastry since Saturday night, and you’ve been getting hungrier and hungrier for some sort of sweet, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery treat. Did you ever make a puff pastry before? I did it once, when I only had two small children, and while it was one of the most delicious things I’d ever baked, it took all day to make the pastry. The folding, and the rolling, and the folding, and the chilling, and the rolling, and the folding, and the chilling… over and over again, until there were hundreds of infinitesimally thin layers of dough and butter that baked up into this light and flaky wondrousness. It wasn’t quite so wondrous that I cared to repeat the effort, but neither have I ever forgotten it.
A few years years later, I ran across a recipe for a quick puff pastry in the back of a tiny Irish cookbook I’d checked out from the library, so I was aware that a shortcut was available, but I didn’t save it, having four small children now, an absentee husband, a tiny kitchen, and limited enthusiasm. We moved away from that library, of course, and I have never found the book again, though I remember very well what it looked like.
And then, not long ago, I saw this post about a gorgeous appetizer made with – you guessed it! – a homemade, quick puff pastry. Unlike all those many years ago, though, we have the internet now! With the ready availability of recipes, a freezer full of butter from generous cows, and an end-of-pregnancy drive to engage in irrelevant and sometimes bizarre projects, the die was cast.
But you just want a recipe, right? After several trials and experiments with different versions and forcing my (willing) family to consume several pounds of butter over a very few days, I have decided. This is the one. I’m copying it here, with my small changes, because internet links don’t last forever!
Quick Puff Pastry
- 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, chilled
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup cold water
(Note: The recipe calls for unsalted butter. I never have unsalted butter on hand, so I used salted, and then reduced the added salt. Whether your butter is homemade or purchased, this is the right amount of salt for use with salted butter.)
Cut 1 cup (2 sticks) butter into 1/4-inch cubes. Place in an even layer on a plate and transfer to refrigerator to stay cold.
Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Cut remaining 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter into thin slices and add to food processor; pulse to combine. (This portion of the butter should be well combined with the flour.) Add 1 cup chilled butter; pulse 3 times, 1 second each pulse. Add half of the water and pulse once; add remaining water and pulse twice. Dough will not form a ball. (Make your one-second pulse a longish second, but you still want that butter to be in nice chunks.)
Scrape dough from bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour dough and, using your hands, squeeze and shape dough into a cylinder. Press down to flatten into a rectangle. (Dough may seem crumbly at first, but you should be able to work it into a cohesive clump, much like pie crust. It seems to hydrate more uniformly while resting in the fridge, too.)
Starting at the narrow end furthest away from you, use a rolling pin to press the dough firmly in parallel strokes close to one another. If there are sticky pieces of butter on the surface, cover with a large pinch of flour and press with the rolling pin to combine. Clean off the rolling pin as you go to make sure nothing sticks to the dough. Continue pressing with the rolling pin, working towards the narrow end closest to you.
Roll dough into a 10-by 20-inch rectangle. Fold the 10-inch ends over the middle (like a letter) to make three layers. Position one of the (about) 6-inch ends to face you and roll up dough like a jelly roll. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, seam-side down. Sprinkle top of dough lightly with flour and press down using your hand to form a rectangle.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days before using. (I used it in as little as one hour with fine results.)
For the turnovers pictured above, roll out the puff pastry dough and trim the edges so you have a nice, neat rectangle. You can make cookies by rolling those dough pieces in sugar, so don’t worry about wasting! Cut the dough into twelve 4″x4″ squares. Put a teaspoon of filling into the center, then fold up and pinch the edges shut. (I used Smuckers cherry preserves for this batch, but you can use any sort of homemade fruit filling, too.) Cut some steam vents into the top and bake in a 400° oven for 20-25 minutes. (Make sure you use a pan with sides, as lots of butter oozes out! It soaks back into the pastry when you remove it from the oven.) Cool a bit, then drizzle with a powdered sugar icing, a little heavier on the vanilla than usual. The children say these taste just like those very delicious Pillsbury Toaster Strudels. (They miss their junk food from time to time.)
Unlike the all-day puff pastry of over-achieving bakers, this version takes about 30 minutes to pull together, including clean up time. The dough is light and flaky and puffs beautifully, much better than the other recipes I tried. And I bet you could freeze it, too, in case you want to make an impressive breakfast or dessert for overnight guests. 🙂