12 January 2009

Pâte feuilletée — puff pastry

To make the puff pastry — la pâte feuilletée — for a Galette des Rois, or for croissants, here's what you do. Walt will correct any misconceptions about the process that might slip into my descriptions.

First take about ½ lb. of butter (250 g, or about two sticks) and roll it out with a rolling pin.

Meanwhile, make a dough with ½ cup of water (12 cl), ½ lb of flour (250 g), and a pinch of salt. Knead the dough until it comes together, wrap it is plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

A rectangle of butter on top of a rectangle of dough

Put the softened butter between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten and roll it out with a rolling pin into a rectangle about ¼ in. thick.

On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough into a rectangle that is about twice as large as the rectangle of butter. Lay the butter on middle of the dough and fold the sides of the dough up over it. Roll that out slightly, re-wrap it, and put it back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more.

The dough wrapped up into a package
with the butter in the middle

After 30 minutes, take the dough out, fold it on itself, and roll it out again. Re-wrap it and put it back in the refrigerator. Repeat that process 6 or 8 times. It takes several hours of folding and rolling and chilling.

Finall, take the chilled puff pastry dough out of the refrigerator and, for a Galette, cut it into two pieces. Roll out each piece so it's ¼ to ½ in. thick and cut out a round of dough using a dinner plate as a template. For croissants, cut the dough into triangles and roll them up.

After folding, rolling, and re-chilling the pastry 6 or 8 times,
cut it in half and roll each half out flat.

The important thing is to keep the dough nice and chilled all the time and to roll it out on a well-floured, cold surface.

For a Galette, cut out two rounds of pastry.

Doesn't that sound easy? Well, not to me, because I've never had to try it (but I've watched). Certain people say it's pretty easy — it just takes patience. And the result is great.

If you can get French-style butter, it might be easier to work with. One brand is Plugrà, if I remember correctly. French butter has slightly more fat and slightly less water in it than American butter does, so it rolls out more easily, without being too brittle or crumbly. In some places you can buy butter imported from France.


  1. You only need to let the butter soften if it's frozen. It should be cold, so right out of the fridge works. Don't let the butter warm up.

  2. I remember making puff pastry at college and have made it once or twice since. It isn't difficult so long as you keep everything cold the whole way through (so no faffing about while you work it), and are prepared to repeat the process over and over to make a block of pastry with alternating layers of fat and paste.

    These days I don't bother with puff and make rough puff instead, which involves grating frozen fat into the flour. Much less time consuming and trouble, and great for pies and pasties. For specialist stuff like the galette you probably need to make the real thing.

  3. Thank you for ensuring that I never eat another croissant again! (Really did not need to see how much butter when into those things, lol)

  4. It's good to know such things, Ksam. I've seen people put confiture AND butter on their croissants. That's going way too far. A croissant from time to time is good, but I don't know anybody who eats one every day.

  5. You don't know how I envy you two. Every day you cook and eat something wonderful. I like to cook and try new recipes all the time but they don't often hit the bullseye.

    And you both look trim! Are there two portraits in an attic somewhere that show the effects of all this rich food?

  6. Wow, most instructive and impressive. I am a disaster with a rolling pin, so it drives me nuts to see how easy it is for some folks. :) I tried to roll fondant once for a cake for one of Gabe's birthdays, and it was the most frustrating and humbling experience. You guys rock. Now I know why croissants are so expensive, and I appreciate the labor that goes into them.

  7. Sigh. I suspect I've put on weight just from reading this post. It would have been so much more satisfying to be able to taste the results of Walt's efforts. Like Ginny, I'm rolling-pin challenged. It's all I can do to roll out frozen puff pastry without botching it up. Kudos to the pastry chef.


  8. Oh good, a manageable amount of butter/flour and I have Plugrà. Wish me luck. :)


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