Excerpted from The Grand Central Baking Book by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson
Some of the cooks I respect most tell me that ready-made puff pastry is one ingredient they will buy. They scoff at the notion that puff pastry can be made easily in a home kitchen. The solution is rough puff pastry, which refers to a technique for making lovely puff pastry without the time, special equipment, or precision required for classic puff pastry. The simple formula and straightforward technique are proof that making puff pastry at home doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming.
Rough puff pastry dough is, by nature, a bit of a mess. There will be irregular chunks of butter and floury dry patches no matter which method you choose. Don’t lose faith; the end result is always stunning.
Puff pastry owes its dramatic appearance and flaky texture to lamination. For a better understanding of the process, it’s helpful to compare the structure of laminated dough to a cross section of plywood: microscopic layers of dough and butter are stacked up repeatedly, one on the other, without mingling. As the dough bakes, the butter releases steam, which is trapped by the layers of dough, causing the pastry to puff. In the case of rough puff, this structure is achieved by cutting large chunks of butter into the dry ingredients, where they’re distributed randomly, and then by folding the dough repeatedly.
Rough puff dough can be mixed by hand or with a stand mixer. I prefer to use my hands if I’m making a small quantity; it’s just as fast and there’s less cleanup. When I want to stock up, I pull out my KitchenAid to mix a large batch.
To yield about 3 lb rough puff pastry (the most a home KitchenAid mixer will hold):
4½ cups (1 lb, 6.5 oz) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp salt
2¼ cups (1 lb, 2 oz, or 4½ sticks) butter
1 cup (8 fl oz) water
1½ tbsp lemon juice
To yield about 2 lb rough puff pastry:
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
1½ cups (12 oz, or 3 sticks) butter
¾ cup (6 fl oz) water
1 tbsp lemon juice
To yield about 1 lb rough puff pastry:
1½ cups (7.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
¾ cup (6 oz, or 1½ sticks) butter
½ cup (4 fl oz) water
1½ tsp lemon juice
Measure flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl you’ll use for mixing and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Cut butter into 1-inch chunks.
Working with a stand mixer: Using the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, add the butter all at once and mix for 1 minute. The texture of the flour will go from silky to shaggy, and the dough will still contain some larger chunks of butter. You’re likely to find unincorporated flour at the bottom of the bowl and dry patches throughout. To hydrate the dough, reduce the speed to the lowest setting and, with the mixer running, drizzle in three-fourths of the ice water and lemon juice. Check the hydration of the dough by gathering a small fistful; if it holds together, it’s ready. If it’s dry or crumbly, mix the dough a little longer (2 or 3 rotations) before adding more water, 1 tbsp at a time, testing the dough after each addition by pinching it.
Working by hand: Use your fingertips and thumbs to quickly rub the butter pieces into the chilled dry ingredients. Stop mixing when the texture of the flour begins to change from silky to mealy. There should still be chunks of flattened butter ranging from the size of a nickel to the size of a quarter. Make a well in the flour mixture. To hydrate the dough, drizzle in three-fourths of the ice water and lemon juice while gradually pulling the dry ingredients into the middle with a fork and mixing gently. Check the hydration of the dough by gathering a small fistful; if it holds together, it’s ready. If it’s dry or crumbly, mix a little longer before adding more water, 1 tbsp at a time, testing the dough after each addition by pinching it.
Form and chill the dough. Bringing the dough together into a rough but cohesive mass is the first step in developing the structure of puff pastry.