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Shortcut Puff Pastry (Rough Puff Pastry)

Servings: Makes about 2 pounds of dough
A Shortcut to Flaky Puff Pastry
by Molly Stevens

Classic puff pastry takes half a day to make, but this shortcut version is ready to use in an hour or less.

When I was learning to cook, I thought of mastering puff pastry as a rite of passage from the merely eager to the expert. Making this delicate, flaky pastry usually takes at least half a day, but the result, hundreds of puffed, crisp, and buttery layers, was, in my mind, the ultimate kitchen achievement.

Then I discovered that most chefs use a shortcut method known as rough puff pastry, also called blitz and half pastry, that takes only a fraction of the time. Though the results are not quite as spectacular in terms of height, rough puff pastry is just as irresistibly flaky, buttery, and tender as traditional puff pastry.

Different Means to Similar Ends:
Classic puff pastry begins with a basic dough called a détrempe (pronounced day-trahmp) that is rolled out and wrapped around a slab of butter. The dough is then repeatedly rolled, folded, and turned. The goal is to distribute the butter evenly in sheets throughout the dough. When the pastry bakes, the moisture in the butter creates steam, causing the dough to puff and separate into many layers.

Making classic puff pastry takes a lot of time because the dough needs lengthy rests after the initial détrempe stage and between its many "turns" (each series of rolling, folding, and turning).

There are a few ways to abbreviate the process of making puff pastry, all with the goal of distributing bits of butter throughout the dough. The method I find most streamlined is a cross between classic puff pastry and basic pie crust. You cut the butter into the flour as if making pie crust, but instead of simply rolling out the crust, you give the dough a quick series of turns and folds as you would for puff pastry.

When teaching how to make rough puff pastry, I've found that the only tricky part is getting my students to believe that the crumbly pile of butter, flour, and scant water will actually become a smooth, workable dough. The temptation is to add more water to bind the dough, but excess water would only make the dough tough.

I use the same weight of butter as of flour, and about half that weight of water (see recipe below). So for 12 ounces each of flour and butter (about 2-1/2 cups flour and 24 tablespoons butter, the volume by weight of flour and butter are not equal), use 6 ounces of water (3/4 cup--the weight and volume of water are the same). Add the water a little at a time since you may need less.

Coax the first few folds with a pastry scraper. The first few times you try to fold the dough, it will crumble. Don't worry: around the fourth turn, the dough will become smooth and solid. Once this happens, I give the dough one more turn and then fold it into a book fold to give it even more layers. The dough then needs to rest, but for only half an hour, enough time to work on the filling. The dough then gets two more turns. At this point you can go ahead and use it, but another rest will make it even easier to roll and shape. You can refrigerate the dough for up to two days or freeze it for up to a month.

Quick puff pastry is ideal for crisp, buttery pastries and crusts. Begin with a hot oven (450°F) to get the puff and then lower the temperature to finish baking.

Molly Stevens, a freelance food editor and writer, is a contributing editor to Fine Cooking.

Use rough puff pastry to make turnovers, mille-feuilles, cheese straws, and cream horns, or use it as a crust for tarts, quiches, and pot pies.

12 oz. (2-1/2 cups) cold flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/3 oz./340g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 oz. (3/4 cup) very cold water

Sift the flour and salt onto the cold cubes of butter. Using a pastry scraper or a large chef's knife, cut the butter into the flour. Work until you have a crumbly mixture. Flatten any large chunks of butter with just your fingertips. Add the ice-cold water a little at a time to loosely bind the dough. Mix the dough with the pastry scraper until it just hangs together. Shape the messy, shaggy dough into a rough rectangle and roll it out until it's 1/2 inch thick. Resist the temptation to overwater or overwork the dough; it will eventually hold together.

Use the pastry scraper to fold the dough in thirds like a business letter. Don't worry if it folds in pieces. Turn the package of dough 90 degrees so the folds run vertically. Square off the edges of the dough as you work. Roll the dough into a rectangle that's 1/2 inch thick, always rolling from open end to open end. Continue rolling, folding, and turning until the dough looks smooth. By four or five "turns," the dough should hang together well.

For even more layers, fold the smooth dough up like a book. To do this, fold the two shorter sides into the center and then fold the dough like a book. Brush off excess flour as you fold. Wrap the dough and chill it for half an hour before giving it two final turns. At this point, you can then use the dough, though another short rest will make rolling and shaping easier.

Makes about 2 pounds of dough.

Source: Fine Cooking Magazine, Issue # 23, Pages 20, 22
Date: Recipes revised on Auguat 15, 2006