Puff pastry consists of hundreds of flaky layers, although the eye may only be able to pick out a fraction of that number. What creates these amazing layers? The secret is in the way fat is worked into the dough. Before it is shaped, the dough undergoes a series of rollings, foldings, and turns that results in alternating paper-thin sheets of dough and fat (in this case, butter). In the oven, the fat melts, creating empty spaces that are filled by air and steam. The air expands as it heats up, and the raw dough responds by rising as much as ten times its original height when fully baked.
If you have never made puff pastry, donít be intimidated by its demanding reputation. The process is not difficult at all, especially with this quick puff pastry recipe which uses a shortcut to incorporating butter and cuts down on the total number of turns.
Keep a few things in mind to head off any potential problems: To create flaky layers, use ice water and very cold butter, and chill the dough before shaping. Also, remember to give the dough a quarter turn between rolling and folding to work it in all directions. Our recipe makes a double portion of dough; when a single portion is called for in a recipe, cut off half and freeze it for future use. It is always worthwhile to make enough pastry for two recipes.
Mixing in the Butter
Combine the flour and salt. Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch-thick slices and stir into the flour mixture. Toss until the butter slices are well coated with flour and separate from one another.
Kneading the Dough
Add the ice water and mix. The dough will look shaggy and the butter will still be in chunks. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 10 times by pressing and pushing until the mixture forms a rough-textured ball.
Rolling the Dough
With lightly floured hands, shape the dough into a rough rectangle, flatten it slightly, and square off the corners. Roll the dough into an 18x15-inch rectangle.
Folding into Thirds
Make a letter fold: Working crosswise, fold one third of the dough to the center, then another third over it to form a 15x6-inch rectangle. Give the dough a quarter turn.