Puff pastry is an ingredient that most of us buy at the market, rather than make at home. Puff pastry is made by laminating layers of dough and butter to form a pastry that has hundreds of layers to it and bakes up to be crisp and flaky. The process of making the layers can be time consuming, though the results are worth the effort. There is one way to streamline the whole process, and that is to make rough puff pastry instead of traditional pastry. Rough puff pastry takes much less time, effort and technical skill to put together than a traditional laminated dough, but it is just as delicious to work with.
Traditional puff pastry starts with a butter block and a lean dough, which are then layered together. Rough puff pastry is made by combining chunks of butter directly with flour to make one base dough. It is very similar to making a pie crust, though you’ll want much larger pieces of butter because they will yield a flakier finished product. The butter can be cut into flour using a food processor or by simply cutting it into large chunks and tossing them directly into the flour. Water is added and the dough is brought together into a rough dough.
Once you have the dough prepared, you can begin to create the layers needed for a flaky pastry. The process is exactly the same as it is for laminating traditional puff pastry or croissant dough. The dough is rolled out on a floured surface, then folded into thirds. The dough can then be turned 90-degrees, re-rolled and folded again.
With traditional puff pastry, the dough is often rested between each fold. With rough puff pastry, I find I can do two or even three folds before wrapping the dough in plastic wrap and resting it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Ideally, I recommend that you do just two folds at a time, to keep the dough easy to roll out; the resting time allows the gluten in the pastry to relax and makes it easier to work with.
Once a total of four folds are complete, the dough should be rested again and then it is ready to use! From start to finish, it should take you about 1 hour (maybe a little more) to have a completed pastry. Some recipes for rough puff push that time up by trying to fit in more folds at one time, but I think a little bit of extra patience really pays off in the end. Plus, the resting time is hands-off, so you can clean up the kitchen or catch ah episode of your favorite sitcom while you wait.
This pastry can be used in any recipe that calls for puff pastry. I used a batch recently to make my fun (and delicious!!) Butterfly Palmiers. Other options include savory Parmesan Palmiers, Tomato Tarte Tatin or Shortcut Danish Pastries.
You will likely need to roll it out into a thin sheet before starting your recipe to get to the approximate thinness of store-bought pastry. It can be stored – wrapped well in plastic wrap – for about 2 days in the refrigerator before using. It can also be frozen, but I recommend rolling into a thinner sheet before freezing because that will make it easier to defrost for later use. This recipe makes a generous batch because I like to have lots of puff to play around with. Feel free to halve the dough if you only need a small amount.
How to Make Rough Puff Pastry
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, chilled
7-9 tbsp cold water
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar and whisk to combine. Cut butter into almond-sized chunks and toss in flour mixture. If using a food processor, pulse until most pieces of butter are the size of a large almond, then transfer to a large bowl. Add in water and stir until dough comes together in a shaggy mass.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to smooth. If necessary, add in additional 1-2 tbsp water.
Roll out pastry into a large rectangle that is about 1/4-inch thick. Fold the pastry in thirds, as if folding a letter to fit in an envelope (pictured above). Rotate pastry 90-degrees, roll into a flat sheet and repeat folding process. Wrap pastry in plastic wrap and chill for 20-30 minutes.
Unwrap chilled pastry and complete two more “folds.” Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 20-30 minutes, or until ready to use.
Makes about 1 1/2 lbs puff pastry.