rough puff pastry

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Sorry in advance about the quality and quantity of the photos (or lack thereof) in this post and blog in general. In my defense, I was trying to do this in the middle of the night and am trying to save up for a decent camera.

Right then, the rough puff. It’s the less famous and glamorous brother to proper puff pastry that’s actually quite close to the real thing. There are less layers (243 instead of 729) and they come out less defined, but for the amount of time it saves, it puffs up beautifully and is great for almost everything you could use puff pastry for. It’s probably just the odd Mille-Feuille and a few others where you’d want maximum flakiness that it’s worth going through the time-consuming process. But if you haven’t got 3 hours, rough puff is every bit as buttery and versatile as its ‘official’ counterpart.

(Okay, it still takes a long time, but it eliminates the fear of butter poking through the pastry and it being too soft etc. If at any point the dough feels soft, not cold, or shrinking back I can just throw it in the fridge.)

It’s different to a laminated dough of a ‘real’ puff pastry in that instead of folding a block of butter (beurrage) into the dough proper (détrempe), you mix the butter straight into the flour and proceed with the folding. In other words, instead of thinning a single sheet of butter and folding it over itself time after time, you’re taking chunks of butter and thinning them while folding.

It starts with 4 simple ingredients: flour, butter, salt and water.


Rough puff pastry
(makes enough for 4 tarts)

250g pastry flour (or plain/all-purpose, some even use bread flour to develop gluten)
250g cold but malleable unsalted butter
1/2 tsp fine salt
~100g ice cold water

With a pastry blender, fork or the tips of your fingers, rub in small chunks of the butter into the flour until starting to incorporate. You don’t want to go all the way to sandy breadcrumb-like texture, you want visible chunks of butter remaining.

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Add in about half of the water and add a little more at a time until the the dough can be gathered up into a ball that sticks together but isn’t too wet. If too wet, add a little flour but avoid doing this too much as the ratio will be affected. If it still feels moist, it can be rectified later after it’s been chilled and dusted with flour.

Wrap in cling film and chill until solid, at least 20 minutes.

Now we can do the first turn (fold). Dust the work surface with flour, as well as the rolling pin, put the pastry down and dust the top of the pastry. Start rolling out the pastry, turning it 90 degrees every once in a while to stop it sticking. If it sticks, just dust the underside with more flour. Try to keep it in a rough rectangle shape and aim to roll it twice as long as it is wide (10x20cm). If it’s not quite rectangular, you can try squishing the sides with a bench scraper or some other tool to straighten the edges.

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When you’re happy that it’s roughly rectangular, take one short edge and fold it over 2/3 of the length (see below picture). In other words, you’ll end up with a single-layer half and a double-layer half. Then, take the other end and fold it on top of the double layers so you end up with 3 layers in total.

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That’s the first turn done! You can indent the top with a finger to feel like a proper pastry chef. Wrap it up and let chill again for 20 minutes.

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For the subsequent turns, it’s the exact same process. Take the rectangle of pastry and roll it out so the short edge is still the short edge, and the longer is still longer, to a 1:2 width:length ratio. Do the second turn, wrap, chill 20 mins.

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Then do the 3rd and 4th turns together if the dough is cold and not retracting. If it is, just put it back in the fridge. After the 4th turn, chill it for 45 minutes so it has a chance to relax properly. For an extra flaky pastry, do an optional 5th turn.

If using immediately, make sure it’s had a chance to chill before you try roll it out. If not, store in fridge for a couple of days or alternatively, roll out 3mm thick sheets and store in freezer. Defrost before use.

When you’re ready to bake, roll it to 3mm thick if the recipe doesn’t specify. If the recipe calls for an egg wash, brush it on carefully and tidily just before baking, and try avoid dripping over the neatly cut edges or sealing up the sides. Bake at a high initial temperature for best results, about 205C/400F until it’s puffed up then turn the temperature down to 190C/375 to cook all the way through.

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