Hellooooo. So in January I did a poll on Instagram asking people if I should learn to make doughnuts or puff pastry and doughnuts won, which at the time I was kind of happy about because puff pastry is SCARY SERIOUS BAKING. February was over in .5 seconds and my school semester started, so I didn’t really have time to do any big baking projects. I still really don’t have time, but the world is kind of shitty right now so I’ve decided to distract myself with butter!
If you don’t know, puff pastry is LAMINATED dough, which means you mix flour with a shitton of butter and then continuously fold the pastry and roll it out and turn it then fold and roll and turn and fold and roll and turn until you get hundreds of flaky flaky layers. Think of pretty much any pastry. It’s kind of like pie dough for people who want to waste their time. Unlike pie dough though, almost every food blog and show I’ve seen has said that it’s almost always worth it to just buy frozen puff pastry in the store because making it from scratch is so time-consuming and CAN GO WRONG VERY EASILY. But also, if you do make puff pastry from scratch people will be very impressed and I am all about those compliments. So here we are.
Now, I wasn’t about to jump into making straight-up croissants, so similarly to Donut Mania I broke up my puff journey into 3 parts:
- Rough Puff Pastry
- Full Puff Pastry
- Croissants (yeasted AND laminated dough)
Rough puff and full puff are very similar, but rough puff is slightly easier and quicker in that you grate the cold butter directly into the flour before doing the folds, whereas with full puff you make a GIANT SLAB OF BUTTER and fold the dough over it. If you’re still confused as to what puff pastry even is, I found this video by Edesian very handy:
Some people say that you can only achieve peak flaky with full puff-pastry, so that’s part of what I’ll be testing as well (Assuming I do everything correctly which, spoiler alert, I already kind of haven’t).
Now once you make puff pastry dough (rough or full) you can use it to make a lot of things (pastries, pies….pastries) but I wanted to go as simple as possible in order to increase my chances of succeeding, so for my rough puff dough I decided to make some palmiers. Palmiers are kind of like a pastry and kind of like a cookie. They are -FrEnCh- which obviously means they are fancy, but they are only hard because they’re made with puff pastry.
For my palmiers I used the recipe from my Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking cookbook that I literally mention in every single post
As you might imagine, this book broke down how to make puff pastry step-by-step, which is extremely necessary for a Certifiable Dum Dum like me. I also heavily consulted this blog post from Woks of Life (the only valid food blog)
Like I said, rough puff pastry is made by first grating frozen butter into flour and then forming a dough by adding water a little bit at a time. At first I thought “hey this is just pie crust!” But quickly realized that the butter to flour ratio was WAY TOO HIGH to be pie crust. Like this sucker used 2 sticks and 2 tablespoons of flour for only 1 and 1/3 cups flour. My pie crust recipe uses half the amount of butter for the same amount of flour. I swallowed my pride and followed the book’s recipe e x a c t l y. Okay maybe not. The recipe only calls for 1/3 cup of water but I had to add a few tablespoons more because I THOUGHT it was too dry, but as per usual I am a FOOL and my dough ended up TOO WET and VERY STICKY. No I am not going to learn. When I rolled out my dough for the first time I could barely fold it into thirds because it was sticking so much to the counter, and shoving it back into the ziploc bag I was supposed to chill it in was such an ordeal that I quickly switched to wrapping it up in parchment paper. I almost gave up there, but after some not so quick thinking I decided to do each 20 minute chill (you have to chill for 20 minutes in between each round of rolling, folding, and turning the dough) in the freezer instead of the fridge, and the dusting of flour on my counter and rolling pin was so liberal I think it turned into a leftist dusting of flour. Luckily this worked and eventually the dough smoothed out and became much more workable.
Now just like EVERYONE warned, this was quite the tedious process. You do in fact have to wait around while your pastry dough chills in between turns, and you do have to do four turns (I think I accidentally did 5?). But, all of this is super super necessary, because if your butter isn’t cold you don’t get flaky layers. And really what’s the goddamn point if you don’t have flaky layers? At least I had actual homework for my actual master’s degree to do while I was waiting. You know, filler activities.
Finally FINALLY my dough was ready, so I rolled it out one final time into a big ol’ rectangle and sprinkled some plain ol’ sugar onto the pastry. The cookbook recipe was technically for cinnamon palmiers, but I like the classic ones that just have sugar, so I opted for the Wok’s of Life version instead. I also just need to say that I am noticing a very disturbing trend of recipes not yielding as many cookies as they say they will. The cookbook recipe said I would get 24 palmiers and yet I only got 16!! Obviously this is their fault and not because I’m dividing the dough differently. Obviously. After I got my cookies cut I just popped them in the oven for 25 minutes and….
I AM SO HAPPY WITH THESE COOKIES!!!!! I was worried they wouldn’t flake. I was worried the butter would seep out while they were baking and the cookies would be tough. I was worried the centers wouldn’t be crisp. But they are both BEAUTIFUL and DELICIOUS, which is a combo that feels super hard to achieve sometimes. I’m literally so proud of these. They taste super buttery and the sugar formed kind of a crackly coating on the bottom that’s just really satisfying. The only minor issue that occurred was I didn’t switch out the parchment paper between batches of cookies, so the sugar that was left on the paper from the first batch BURNED and some of the burnt got on a couple of the cookies. But Whatever!!!! What a confidence boost.
So, here’s what I learned from my first attempt at (rough) puff pastry:
- Do NOT add too much water or your counter will be a sticky nightmare
- The longer you can chill the better, and freezer is best
- Grating the butter directly into the dough is pretty easy, and I’ve even seen recipes call for grating it with a food processor which would be even easier (I just used a cheese grater)
- It is in fact way easier to just buy the damn grocery store puff pastry, but if you’re like me and crave attention and internal validation it’s a super confidence booster to make these from scratch
- Palmiers are delicious. Make them, or fuck it just buy them, I don’t care.
Next up is full puff pastry, which means I get to make a delightfully named “butter slab”. I’m thinking I’ll make bear claws next, because my mom loves them. If you have other suggestions let me know though!! Definitely willing to do sweet or savory.