Sunday 19 April 2009

Puff the magic dragon

I haven't done a step-by-step for a while, so thought it was time to crank one out. We make pâte feuilletée inversée or inverted puff pastry pretty much every two days, sometimes daily. An ideal candidate.


In making puff pastry, you are alternating layers of butter with a moist flour-water dough (known as the détrempe). When the pastry is cooked, the moisture in this dough vaporizes but is trapped by the impermeable butter layer. Because the steam cannot escape it causes the pastry to puff.

I've read some explanations which say it is the moisture in the butter which causes the puffing. While there is some water in butter (c.15% but even less for special pastry butters) and this will vaporize, there is a higher proportion of water in the détrempe (30%+). 

What is inverted about it?

In a classic puff pastry, the détrempe is wrapped around the butter. In the inverted method, the butter is wrapped around the détrempe. The cooked pastries are pretty much the same (some say identical) but the inverted method is a bit easier in the earlier stages.

Also, if you think about how the pastry is puffing (see above), it makes sense for the top and bottom layers to be butter and not détrempe. Small point.

We exclusively use inverted puff pastry.

Additional point

To make it easier to wrap the butter around the outside of the détrempe, it is mixed with a little flour to give what is called beurre manié. So, for inverted puff pastry, you are layering a détrempe with a beurre manié.


For the détrempe:
400g water
750g flour
100g melted butter
25g salt

For the beurre manié:
650g butter
250g flour

- ordinary flour works fine
- unsalted butter

NB I recommend starting with half these quantities like we did (it's a bit easier), but avoid going any smaller as feuilletage does not work well in mini quantities. The dimensions mentioned below are for a half quantity.


1. Lob all the ingredients for the détrempe into a mixer with a dough hook. Mix just until the dough becomes homogenous. Flatten (to speed chilling) and pop in fridge in cling film.

- Any mixing after homogenization develops the gluten and will make the dough harder to roll out. Some questionable folks recommend kneading to develop gluten in the détrempe. The little devils.

2. Mix the ingredients for the beurre manié in a mixer with a dough hook. Film and fridge.

- No need to wash the mixing bowl or the hook.
- The butter can come straight from the fridge. Chop into chunks on the way into the bowl.
- During the mixing, the ingredients will break down to form a sandy/breadcrumb type mixture. As the hook continues to turn, the butter will win out and the crumbs will start to clump together. Once the mixture is starting to resemble butter again is a good time to stop as this indicates the flour is well distributed throughout.

3. When both the détrempe and the beurre manié are well chilled, roll out the beurre manié to around 40 x 20cm, and the détrempe to around 20 x 20cm. Pop latter on former as per Exhibit A.

- The neater the easier later on.
- It is also a lot easier to do in a cool kitchen.
- Flour work surface frequently to prevent the beurre manié sticking. This is the only tricky bit about puff pastry. You can see in the photo the flour layer is really quite thin. But it is reapplied after every few strokes of the pin.

Exhibit A

4. Fold the top 1/3 of the beurre manié down then fold the whole lot in half.

- This is a kind of tour simple. A tour simple is when the dough is folded in thirds. You're aiming for this from the side:

Exhibit B

5. Roll out a little in both directions to speed cooling, film and pop in the fridge until well chilled.

- This chilling helps keep the dough easy to handle (after all, the outside is mostly butter) and relaxes any gluten which may have started to get excited.

6. Give the dough a 1/4 turn. Roll out.

- The quarter turn means going from the orientation in Exhibit A to that in Exhibit B. From the position in Exhibit B you are rolling primarily away from the camera.
- You are aiming for something long and thin like a (small) bowling alley. Maybe 25ish cms across but 50-60 long (I always go for rolling pin plus 1/4).
- You'll end up with something a little like this:

7. Fold the top down and the bottom up to meet.

- They can meet at any point, does not have to be the centre.

8. Fold the whole lot in half. Roll out a little and chill as usual.

- This action (steps 6-7-8) is known as a tour double.
- A side-on view:

9. Repeat the tour double and chill.

- Don't forget the quarter turn. You should always be looking at the folds (as in Exhibit B) when you roll out.
- The dough can be frozen after this step. To use, thaw then carry on.
- If you want to make palmiers, cover your work surface in sugar before the next step.

10. Roll-out again (after a 1/4 turn) but this time fold the dough in thirds (like in step 4). I.e. give a tour simple.

- The aim is to have 6 turns all together. (Two singles and two doubles.) Any more and the layers start becoming so thin they risk merging.
- Chill as usual then roll out for use. Chill before cutting.
- Always cut with a very sharp knife so you cut cleanly through the pastry without destroying the layers.

Summary: 1 tour simple, 2 tours doubles, 1 tour simple.

And that's it. Puff pastry in 10 easy steps.

People often lament the fact that the process is very long-winded. Well, it does take time mainly because of all the chilling (which cannot be left out). However, the actual hands on time is minimal. Once you know what you are doing you can do each tour in a minute or so, so if you are in the kitchen cooking anyway, you may as well have some puff pastry chilling in the fridge. You can just give the tours at suitable breaking points in whatever else you are doing.

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