Flakiest Pastry With Apple Purée & Vanilla Custard

February 12, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Mandy Lee
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 5 minutes
  • makes 1 pastry slab
Author Notes

Crispier than store-bought puff pastry, this "fail-proof" flaky pastry dough shatters into flakes almost like a chip. It’s fast and simple to put together, not to mention endlessly versatile when it comes to fillings. A rustic pie of sorts, this one is stuffed with a fragrant apple purée and a silky vanilla custard—it’s proved to be a crowd-pleaser. You can also use this dough recipe to make individual hand pies, or even skip the filling and use the buttery pastry as a fancy topping for soups.

Depending on your texture preference, you can use a range of 5 to 7 tablespoons of butter in the dough: the more butter, the more delicate, lace-like flakes appear in the finished pastry. I highly recommend using a large block of butter instead of smaller sticks, as it’s easier to cut a few pieces from the large block with a bench scraper (or knife).

When serving, this super-flaky finished pastry will be much easier to slice into portions with a kitchen scissors than with a knife. —Mandy @ Lady and pups

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Flakiest Pastry With Apple Purée & Vanilla Custard
  • Apple Purée & Vanilla Custard Fillings:
  • 3 (about 1 pound) medium Fuji apples, or another firm and sweet apple, like Gala or Pink Lady
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon fragrant honey, like clover, buckwheat or orange blossom
  • Sea salt
  • 1 cup (240 grams) whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (25 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) unsalted butter
  • Pastry
  • 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup , plus 2 tablespoons (115 grams) water
  • 5 to 7 tablespoons (70 to 91 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/16-inch pieces and chilled (see headnote)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  1. Apple Purée & Vanilla Custard Fillings:
  2. For the apple purée: Peel, core, and chop the apples into 1/2-inch pieces.
  3. In a small pot, combine apple, 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, light brown sugar, honey, and a pinch of sea salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples become translucent and soft, and the liquid has almost totally evaporated, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Use an immersion blender (or transfer to a food-processor,) and pulse until the apples are mostly puréed, but not completely smooth.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and place in the freezer to flash-chill until cold, about 1 hour, stirring it every 15 minutes speeds up the process. (Alternatively, make the purée up to 24 hours in advance and chill, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.)
  6. For the vanilla custard: In a small pot, whisk together the milk, vanilla bean scrapings, egg yolks, granulated sugar, and flour until completely smooth (purée in a blender or in the pot with an immersion blender to expedite this process). Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken and bubbles slowly form on the surface, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat immediately, then stir in butter, remaining 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, and a pinch of sea salt until the custard is silky and smooth.
  7. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap that directly touches the surface of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming). Place in the freezer to flash-chill until cold, about 1 hour (stirring it every 15 minutes speeds up the process. (Alternatively, make the purée up to 24 hours in advance and chill, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  1. Pastry
  2. For the pastry dough: In a large bowl, combine flour, sea salt and water, and mix until a craggy but even and cohesive dough forms (it should look somewhere in between shaggy pie dough and smooth brioche dough). Resist the urge to knead it further—we don't want much gluten to develop. Lightly flour the dough and wrap it in parchment, then place in the freezer to flash-chill for until the dough is cool to the touch, about 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the chilled dough onto a well-floured work surface and roll it out into a rectangle about 8x11-inch. Evenly arrange the sliced butter to cover the bottom two-thirds of the rectangular dough, leaving about a 3/4-inch border all around. Working quickly (especially if it’s warm in your kitchen, as the butter will soften fast,) brush some of the beaten egg over the margin.
  4. Fold the dough like an envelope: fold the exposed top third halfway over the buttered area. Gently smooth the folded area to eliminate any big air pockets, then fold the bottom, buttered third of the dough over so you’re left with a rectangle roughly 8x3 2/3-inches. Gently smooth out air pockets then pinch outer edges of the dough together to make sure they’re sealed. Trim any excess edges for a neater dough-envelope.
  5. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, dust with just a bit of flour if the dough is sticking, then roll it out into another 8x11-inch rectangle. (This would only happen if the temperature in the room is warm, but some butter may squeeze out from the edges but don’t panic, simply smear it back onto the dough wherever, dust with a bit more flour, and keep rolling. If any large air bubbles surface, poke them with a wooden skewer.)
  6. Dust the dough with more flour, then fold it like an envelope as you did in step 3. Repeat step 4, then fold the dough like an envelope once more, for a total of three folds. Place the dough on a small sheet pan or plate and transfer to the freezer to chill for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface, seam-side down, and roll out into a rectangle about 10x15-inches. Trim all the edges to make it a perfect rectangle.
  8. Spread the apple purée in the middle of the pastry, covering an area little more than one third, and leaving a 3/4-inch margin.
  9. Gently spread the vanilla custard on top of the apple purée in about a 3/4-inch layer (you may have extra left which is great for eating from a spoon).
  10. Brush more beaten egg around the margin, then fold the left and right sides of the dough towards the middle, and over the fillings (the dough should partially overlap). Pinch the top and bottom edges to seal tightly, then flip the whole thing over so the seam-side is down. Chill in the fridge while you preheat the oven (but no longer). Preheat the oven to 400°F (fan-on convection oven) or 425°F in a conventional oven.
  11. When ready to bake, brush the surface of the pastry with more beaten egg, and cut a few slits on the top to allow steam to escape. Bake for 35 min, rotating halfway, until golden-brown all over. Let cool on a rack for 20 minute before slicing.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • Bruce Yanoshek
    Bruce Yanoshek
  • Nina Angela McKissock
    Nina Angela McKissock
  • Doreen W
    Doreen W

17 Reviews

sheila January 14, 2024
Made this with a savory filling and it was delicious. Would it work for small danishes?
Smaug January 14, 2024
You could make some sort of pastry that way, but Danish dough is a yeast dough (with folds)
Smaug May 10, 2023
This was just OK. I just made the pastry; I wanted to make hand pies, and this filling seemed like it would be too soft- pastry cream can work well with strongly flavored fruits, such as berries, but with apple I really can't see it; at any rate, I used some leftover apple rugelach filling. The pastry is sort of a hybrid; the amount of butter is more typical of a pie crust than a puff pastry. For a puff pastry, the butter is kneaded and mixed with a bit of flour, to try for a texture as much like the dough as possible; this skips that, but cutting the butter into pieces is an added step. Puff pastry takes a lot of time, largely because it is given refrigerator rests after each set of folds to keep the temperature (which of course profoundly effects the texture) and to relax the gluten formed by the fold and roll process, but it's really not a lot of work time. This simply skips that; worked OK in my cold kitchen and with the small number of folds (puff pastry is typically folded in 9s rather than 3s). By the last set of folds, springback was getting to be a little bit of a problem, though not serious. The end result is relatively few, thicker layers, and I don't think it was particularly successful;
yeasted pasties, such as Danish, work well with less folds. This did indeed come out with a crisp outer layer, but it's a bit thick and on the tough side, and the thicker butter layer bled a lot at all the cut edges (a lot in a turnover); they ended up more or less frying in their own butter. As to the baking instructions, they might work for a pie, but just too hot for turnovers; I usually cook them at 360 in a convection oven- I have a couple of pieces of dough leftover; I'll experiment with that. All in all, this is fast- at the cost of rushing things, but I can make a flaky pie crust faster and it makes for a better turnover.
Smaug May 8, 2023
I'll have to try this, but just reading the recipe the pastry doesn't seem like any less work than standard puff pastry (which really isn't all that bad). It skips the rests between folds, so faster, but it could be trouble in a warm kitchen.
alicek94 May 8, 2021
Can you sub cornstarch for flour in the pastry cream?
Bruce Y. March 16, 2021
You should say “fold like a letter”, not “fold like an envelope.” You don’t fold envelopes, especially into thirds.
rutlamb1 March 8, 2021
Had some issues with this. The dough was extremely dry but I didn't want to mess with the recipe so I moved forward with it that way and wow, was it tough. I definitely overworked it in my quest to get it to the correct size. No rise at all, no flaky layers and the custard was grainy and separated during/after the bake - is that normal? I will say that the filling was delicious and I will definitely try again.
Smaug May 8, 2023
This all seems to be rather rushed- a longer rest at refrigerator temperature might allow the dough to hydrate better- I don't generally measure water in pastry recipes, but this seems like plenty.
Nina A. March 2, 2021
I wonder if I can use a TBS of my sourdough starter in these...What do you think?
Marbesner February 28, 2021
Love this recipe! Flaky and delicious. I used almond milk for the custard and it came out delicious too.
Lynn D. February 27, 2021
I don't see a link to a video
Mark A. February 27, 2021
Here you go:
maryschelling March 1, 2021
Can’t get the video link to work.
Mark A. February 21, 2021
Special and pretty straightforward, especially with the help of the video, which diverges a bit from this recipe (it's especially worth watching when it comes to slicing the butter for adding to the dough—what a great tip!). As a bread baker, I struggled to resist the urge to knead the dough, and yet my dough ball was initially less cohesive than Mandy's example in the video. I have a few things to work on, but it's definitely worth the effort to perfect. Next time I'll cook both apples and custard a little longer so they're firmer and less runny, reducing the chance that the filled pastry leaks (even though I sealed it well). The bottom of the pastry was a bit tough or overbaked so it might need a shorter time in my oven. But the overall effect was a delight—not too sweet, nicely French (a terrific balance of apples, butter, and vanilla custard), and definitely shatteringly flaky! This is a keeper recipe because it's such an easy and rather humble puff pastry with a dramatic effect.
Doreen W. February 20, 2021
Flaky & delicious indeed! Watching her video really helped with this recipe. For the dough, I first made it with the cup measurements and it was too dry. I couldn’t combine it where it was a cohesive dough. So I started over and made it based on the gram measurements and it was significantly better. After rolling the dough to 10x15, I sliced the dough into smaller pieces to make personalize size pastry. It still came out flaky and delicious! I’m not an avid baker, this took me 3 hours to make since I took breaks to rewatch her video, so I agree the dough recipe is pretty foulproof :) after making it once, I think I can prob make this way faster next time. I recommend even for novice cooks!
Doreen W. February 18, 2021
Will it still be flaky and dough portion will be ok if I cut up the dough into small squares? rather fold the entire dough sheet over the filling, I cover the filling with a small square sheet of the dough? Seeing if I can use the same recipe portion but make it into smaller personal size pastry bites.
Melissa M. February 26, 2021
Although I haven't tried it, I imagine that will work similar to other rough puff pastry I've made. The only thing to look for is exposing the butter on the cut edges - too much exposure could lead to the butter leaking when it hits the oven. Good luck!