Puff pastry

Puff pastry

Puff pastry before baking, with layers clearly visible
Alternative names Water dough, détrempe, pâte feuilletée
Type pastry
Place of origin  France
Main ingredients Butter, flour, water.
Cookbook: Puff pastry  Media: Puff pastry

Puff pastry, also known as pâte feuilletée, is a flaky light pastry containing several layers of fat which is in solid state at 20 °C (68 °F). In raw form, puff pastry is a laminated dough composed of two elements: a "dough packet", the détrempe and a "butter packet" or other solid fat, the beurrage. Preparing a classic puff pastry requires an envelope formed by placing the beurrage inside the détrempe. An "inverse puff" pastry envelope places the détrempe inside the beurrage. The resulting paton is repeatedly folded and rolled out before baking.

The gaps that form between the layers left by the fat melting are pushed (leavened) by the water turning into steam during the baking process. Piercing the dough will prevent excessive puffing, and crimping along the sides will prevent the layers from flaking all of the way to the edges.


Spanish pastry in Madrid
Rustico leccese. Puff pastry filled with mozzarella, béchamel, tomato, pepper and nutmeg

Puff pastry seems to be a relative of the Middle Eastern phyllo,[1] and is used in a similar manner to create layered pastries. While traditionally ascribed to the French painter and cook Claude Gelée[2] who lived in the 17th century (the story goes that Gelée was making a type of very buttery bread for his sick father, and the process of rolling the butter into the bread dough created a croissant-like finished product), references appear before the 17th century, indicating a history that came originally through Muslim Spain and was converted from thin sheets of dough spread with olive oil to laminated dough with layers of butter, perhaps in Italy or Germany. Culinary educator Robert Wemischner states that the first printed recipe was published in François Pierre La Varenne's "Pastissier francois" in 1653.[3]


A palmier, or "palm leaf", design
Home made puff pastries with sugar

The production of puff pastry dough can be time-consuming, because it must be kept at a temperature of approximately 16 °C (60 °F) to keep shortening from becoming runny, and must rest in between folds to allow gluten strands time to link up and thus retain layering.

The number of layers in puff pastry is calculated with the formula:

where is the number of finished layers, the number of folds in a single folding move, and is how many times the folding move is repeated. For example, twice-folding (i.e. in three), repeated four times gives layers. Chef Julia Child recommends 73 layers for regular pâte feuilletée and 729 (i.e. 36) layers for pâte feuilletée fine (in Volume II of her Mastering the Art of French Cooking textbook).[4]

Commercially made puff pastry is available in grocery stores. Common types of fat used include butter, vegetable shortenings, and lard. Butter is the most common type used because it provides a richer taste and superior mouthfeel. Since shortenings and lard have a higher melting point, puff pastry made with either will rise more than pastry made with butter if made correctly; however it will often have a waxy mouthfeel and a blander flavor. Specialized margarine formulated for high plasticity (the ability to spread very thin without breaking apart) is used for industrial production of puff pastry.

Variants and distinctions

Further information: Flaky pastry

Since the process of making puff pastry is generally laborious and time-intensive, faster recipes are fairly common: known as "blitz", "rough puff", or "flaky pastry".[5] Many of these recipes combine the butter into the détrempe rather than adding it in the folding process and are thus similar to a folded short crust.

Puff pastry can also be leavened with baker's yeast to create croissants, Danish pastry, Spanish/Portuguese milhoja, or empanadilla; though such preparations are not universally considered puff pastries.

Puff pastry differs from phyllo (filo) pastry, though puff pastry can be substituted for phyllo in some applications. Phyllo dough is made with flour, water, and fat and is stretched to size rather than rolled. When preparing phyllo dough, a small amount of oil or melted fat (usually butter) is brushed on one layer of dough and is topped with another layer, a process repeated as often as desired. When the phyllo bakes it becomes crispy but, since it contains somewhat less water, does not expand to the same degree as puff pastry. Puff pastry also differs from Austrian strudel dough, or Strudelteig, which more closely resembles phyllo.

Recipes featuring puff pastry

See also

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  1. Le Gourmand Patissier
  2. The Kitchen Project, Food History
  3. Wemischner, Robert (2015-04-01). Darra Goldstein, ed. "Pastry, choux" in The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford University Press. pp. 508–. ISBN 9780199313617.
  4. Julia Child and Simone Beck (1970) Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol.2, Alfred Knopf, New York
  5. The Concise Household Encyclopedia (1935)
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