{Tips & Tricks} Using Puff Pastry Sheets

Friday, October 22, 2010

Olive and Cheese Puff Pastry Squares

Earlier this year, whenever I would hear the words "puff pastry," I would cringe. Whenever I saw the words in a recipe I would immediately flip the page or click to another recipe. I'm not going to lie. The dough, as innocent as it was, terrified me.

...and then I finally gathered up enough courage to buy a few boxes of frozen puff pastry dough while I was grocery shopping...and there they sat in my freezer. They sat...and they sat...and they sat. At times I would think of a recipe, open up the freezer, stare at the boxes and then close the freezer door without having grabbed a box. I simply could not bring myself to allow one sheet of the dough to thaw.

After about a month, I figured enough was enough. How could I let one sheet of frozen dough scare me? I took out the dough, allowed one sheet to thaw and after 30 minutes I let my creative juices flow. After 5 minutes of prep work and 10 minutes of bake time, I pulled my Mozzarella and Basil Puff Pastry Twists out of the oven. After one bite, my husband and I were hooked. We devoured one stick after another.

I turned into a puff pastry addict. I began buying box after box of frozen puff pastry dough every time I went grocery shopping because I made it a point to always have at least two boxes in my freezer at all times. I quickly discovered that this deliciously light and flaky pastry is perfect to use when preparing both sweet and savory dishes.

When it comes to the actual dough, there are four main ingredients: flour, butter, salt and water. There is no leavener in the dough...so you're probably wondering how the dough rises to become so light, flaky and airy. The way these four ingredients are combined results in this reaction. The dough starts off like a traditional pie crust. Cold butter is mixed into the flour and combined until the mixture begins to come together. The dough is then rolled around with butter all while being folded and turned in order for the butter to be dispersed throughout the dough. This whole process creates hundreds of thin layers that are separated by butter. When the dough is placed in the oven, the butter melts and boils which creates steam. This steam lifts the layers all while the heat is cooking the flour and hardening the air pockets. This ultimately creates the famous puff.

If you want to skip the hard work, simply stop by your local grocery store and pick up a box of frozen puff pastry dough. I find the frozen variety to make life in the kitchen simple and easy. The frozen puff pastry sheets are ready to bake so that you can skip all the dirty work. This dough always results in a perfectly golden and flaky pastry.

Tips for Thawing
  • Decide on the number of puff pastry sheets you will need to prepare your recipe. Remove them from the box. Wrap the unused pastry sheets in either plastic wrap or foil, place in the box and return them to the freezer.
  • Separate the pastry sheets, place on a plate and cover each one with plastic wrap. Allow the sheets to quick thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes. If you want to thaw the sheets in the refrigerator, place the sheets on a plate and then put them in the refrigerator. Allow them to thaw for approximately four hours. This method will allow the sheets to completely and evenly thaw.
Tips for Shaping
  • Work with one sheet of puff pastry dough at a time.
  • Unfold the puff pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface since it has a tendency to become sticky once it thaws. If the puff pastry sheet become too soft and sticky, feel free to place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to quickly chill it.
  • Roll the puff pastry dough to the required measurements, according to the recipe directions.
  • Cut the puff pastry dough with a very sharp utensil such as a knife, pizza wheel or pastry tool.
  • Seal filled pastries by either pinching the edges or using the tines of a fork.
  • Make an egg wash (1 egg and 1 teaspoon of water) and brush it over the dough to give the dough a deep golden color.
Tips for Baking
  • Always preheat the oven since it only takes 10-15 minutes for the dough to cook. The best temperature to bake the dough is usually 400 degrees F.
  • Place the prepared pastries on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake in the oven for the recommended time but check the pastries periodically because they have a tendency to become fully baked and browned in a short amount of time.
What is your favorite puff pastry dish?

    15 comments:

    1. What a great post! I'm sure it's going to help a lot of people!

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    2. This is one of the 'prepared' ingredients I love; I've seen someone make puff pastry dough from scratch and I don't see myself ever going there!

      I use it a lot for my favorite party appetizer. Unfold, place a round of brie in the center, top with some raspberry preservers or a combination of brown sugar, butter and pecans and wrap the dough around the cheese and topping.

      Bake til just brown and serve with additional crackers on the side. Easy, pretty and good!

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    3. I had the same fear of puff pastry as you so wittingly describe. Now, it's my go-to as well. I recently was dismayed to find out that the commercial brand found at most grocery stores doesn't have butter! I won't name names, but read the ingredients. So, I found a brand at Whole Foods that costs a whole lot more, but does have butter in it. For breakfast, I made Ina Garten's Easy Cheese Danish. Sometimes, I just fill them with my homemade jam and sprinkle with course sugar. For savory dishes, I make Duxelles and cut them into pinwheels This is a great tutorial and just in time for holiday entertaining.

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    4. I'm making some savory bites for a potluck tomorrow-thanks for the informative post!

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    5. Great information! I've made Puff Pastry from scratch which is not difficult at all but it is time consuming. But really there is little difference in taste and texture, so to me it's not worth the effort. I use the frozen puff pastry!

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    6. Great tips! I love puff pastry and became addicted to it this year as well after we had to make it for the Daring Bakers. It's wonderful stuff!!

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    7. Great tips for cooking with one of my favorite ingredients!

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    8. Great tips! Several times over the years I've gotten it into my head to make my own puff pastry from scratch, including one time when I decided to use whole wheat flour (the latter a particularly dumb idea). Frankly, though, the store-bought kind tastes just as good, rises better, and is certainly WAY easier.

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    9. I swear by puff pastry. It's seriously the best culinary invention of all time.

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    10. Thank you for your most delicious recipe. I like puff pastry. Tips for Thawing are useful, everyone should read it twice.

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    11. A favorite of ours is to wrap salmon filets topped with herb alouette cheese in the dough and bake it. Served it for a dinner party. It was a hit!

      The other great thing is you can fill it with almost anything for a great breakfast, snack or meal. Fancy & tasty!!

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    12. Howdy Cowboys, Cowgirls, and Toltecs, this is your old camp cookie Tony the Tumbleweed. I've been making puff pastry from scratch for thirty three years now. I was taught by a Natural Gas shipping line chief steward aka head chef. You wouldn't believe how great the food is for deck hands on big deep water ships. But I guess eating is the one thing pleasurable when spending sixty days at a time at sea. I make my detrempe in a pile on a cold granite counter top starting with a little well and all the water then dip write in with my fingers. Once the dough is just evenly mixed sticky and shaggy I roll it into a ball wrap it in plastic and rest over night. Some people let it rest in a moist smooth kitchen towel so it won't swet. I shape my butter into my starting rectangle between wax paper. I want my butter and detrempe to be very close in consistency. The first morning I roll out my first turn then let it chill (rest) in the frig for at least thirty minutes. My last four turns getting more and more elastic but I'm tenacious and can bully most doughs. As mentioned above and/or by Homer Simpson, "yummm, puff pastry!" It will last a few days in the frig or frozen for a while. Don't fear the flour and water. It's fun and messy. Ask any four year old. Ciao!

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    13. I made an easy cherry pie using puff pastry. The bottom crust did not bake well and tasted like unbaked dough. Should I have rolled the pastry out for a thinner crust? The top crust baked very well in fact it got pretty brown.

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