Author Notes: Recipe excerpted from Baking With Less Sugar (Chronicle Books, 2015). —Joanne Chang
Makes: about 1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) dough
grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
teaspoon kosher salt
grams (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or an electric hand mixer), combine the flour and salt. Toss in the cubes of butter and pulse the mixer on and off on the lowest speed for 45 seconds to 1 minute, or until the butter is broken down into pieces the size of small marbles. Pour in the ice water and mix for 10 to 15 seconds, or just until everything comes together in a shaggy and rough-looking dough. It will start out looking like crumbs and floury butter and turn into more of a rough and shaggy dough as you beat it.
- Dump out the dough onto a generously floured work surface and pat it into a rough 8-inches (20-centimeter) square. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough from left to right as well as you can into a rectangle about 18 by 8 inches (46 by 20 centimeter) and 1/2-inch (1-centimeter) thick. Flour the dough as needed to prevent the rolling pin from sticking. Don’t worry if it seems really messy and not at all smooth. Just do your best to roll the square shape into a rectangle.
- Lightly score the rectangle into thirds with a bench scraper or knife. Each third should be roughly 6 inches (13 centimeters) wide and still 8 inches (20 centimeter) from top to bottom. Brush off any loose flour from the dough. Take the right third of the dough and, as best you can, flip it over onto the middle third. Then take the left third of the dough and, again as best you can, flip that third on top of the middle and right third. You should now have a messy pile of dough about 6 by 8 inches (13 by 20 centimeter) and about 2 inches (5 centimeters) thick. Turn the entire dough pile as best as you can 90 degrees clockwise so that now it is 8 inches (20 centimeters) side to side and 6 inches (13 centimeters) up and down. (This process—folding the dough in thirds and then rotating it 90 degrees—is called turning the dough.) The dough should still be rough looking and you’ll see bits of butter throughout.
- When rolling out laminated dough like puff pastry, your goal is to keep the layers directly on top of one another and even, to preserve the layering. In between turns you have three layers of dough, one on top of another. Rather than immediately rolling these out with a back-and-forth motion, first flatten the dough with your rolling pin by firmly pressing down on the dough and then moving your rolling pin up and down and pounding along the length of the dough—use your rolling pin to create ridges as it compacts the dough. Once the dough is pressed down all over, then use the pin to roll back and forth, smoothing out the ridges while flattening and rolling the dough into the shape you want. By pressing down first before rolling, you preserve the layers. If you were to start rolling immediately after folding the dough, the very top layer would take all the pressure from the rolling pin and stretch out way over the very bottom layer. Using this technique to compress the dough first helps to keep the layers even, making for a flakier end product.
- Again, give the dough a turn by dividing it into thirds, flipping the right third into the middle, and then the left third on top of that (it’s like folding a business letter), and then turning the entire piece of dough 90 degrees. Dust off any loose flour in between folds.
- Once again, roll this out into a rectangle about 18 by 8 inches (46 by 20 centimeters). This time the dough should be a little more cohesive, and you should find it a little easier to roll it out. Make sure your work surface and dough are well floured. Do your best to roll the dough into as even a rectangle as you can with sharp corners.
- Repeat this process twice more, for a total of four turns. By the time you get to the fourth turn, the dough should be completely cohesive and almost smooth. There may be small chunks of butter in it, but it should no longer be shaggy and difficult to work with.
- Place the dough on a baking sheet and cover it completely with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under the dough as if you’re tucking it into bed. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a work surface with the long side of the rectangle close to you. Turn the dough as described (roll it out into a long rectangle, fold it in thirds, then rotate it 90 degrees) twice more. Flip the dough over occasionally during the rolling process to make sure the top and bottom layers are getting equal attention from the rolling pin. When you are finished, the dough will have gone through six turns total—four initially and then two more after resting in the refrigerator.
- The puff pastry dough is now finished but needs to rest before you can use it. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Or store in the freezer, well wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 1 month. Pull the dough out the night before you plan to use it and thaw in the refrigerator.