Thursday, January 24, 2013

French puff pastry - Pâte feuilletée

I was in the mood to make something with my hands. To create something out of nothing, not unlike a painter working on a blank canvas. I needed something to be proud of, something to show off and say “look, I made this myself, from scratch”.

Flour, water, butter. Lots of butter. Whole lots of butter. So much butter that no one person should consume on a regular basis. And yet, I needed even more. For to make puff pastry, you need to feel like butter is your friend and treat it as such. It will try to escape, to soften, to ooze out, but you need to contain it, know how and when to handle it.

Puff pastry is the queen of doughs. It’s not a difficult one to make, not when you can be patient, when you know some tricks and tips and when you understand the idiosyncrasies of her majesty, the pâte feuilletée.

This dough requires time—time to rest. It requires cold—cold hands, cold working area. It requires a good rolling pin and a little elbow grease. It will consume you for half a day, you need to pay attention to it, but while it is resting in the fridge, you’ll get a rest too and have the chance to tend to other things. And then, you can enjoy the glory of its hundreds of layers, the puff, the rise, the buttery goodness.

Puff pastry is not for the faint-hearted. If you love making doughs, then you’re going to love making this one too. If not, you can certainly find ready-made puff pastry that is good, when it’s made with actual butter that is. If you’re not one to shy away from a pastry challenge, this one’s for you.

Pâte feuilletée, the French word for puff pastry which translates to layered dough, is made with flour, water and butter and it does not contain any kind of leavening agent.
It is made up of three parts: the détrempe, the beurrage and the pâton. The détrempe is a basic dough, the beurrage is a block of butter and the pâton is a package of dough formed by combining the first two parts. The beurrage is incorporated into and dispersed throughout the détrempe through a number of rolls and folds, named tours (turns), and the result is a laminated dough, a dough that has alternating layers of dough and butter pressed together.
The layers of butter are those that make the dough rise in the oven. Butter is made of milk/fat solids and water. During baking, the water content from the butter turns to steam and pushes up the successive layers of dough, creating an airy, lightened structure. The fat from the butter is then absorbed into the layers of dough and cooks them, leading to the crisp texture and an increased stability of the light structure. The cooking of the butter’s milk/fat solids is what causes the puff pastry to take on a golden-brown color and also gives it its delicious buttery flavor.

French Puff Pastry (Pâte Feuilletée)

Below you’ll find useful tips for making puff pastry that will make your life easier. Take care to read through carefully and comprehend them before making the pastry and make sure to refer back to them while making it. The various notes throughout the recipe are terribly important as well.

Puff pastry needs cold—cold kitchen, cold work surface, cold hands—and it’s easier and quicker to make puff pastry during the winter rather than in the summer when the temperatures are high. For example, when I make puff pastry in the winter, the dough only needs to stay in the fridge for 30 minutes between each tour but during the summer it needs at least 1 hour.
You need to rest the dough in the fridge for two reasons. The first is for the gluten in the flour to relax, and the second for the butter to chill and set. Both make rolling out the dough easier and you also minimize the risk of tearing the layers and of the butter escaping through them.

The resting times in the recipe apply to winter temperatures. Adjust resting times if you’re making it during the summer or in a warm environment. Also, use your common sense. If you realize your dough is not as cold as it should be and the butter starts to ooze out or break through the layers, then return it to the fridge.

Don’t forget to flour your work surface and dough before rolling it out and don’t neglect brushing off the excess flour when you fold it.

The best way to keep your hands cold while handling or rolling out the dough is by washing them under cold water.

I always use a marble slab to roll out my puff pastry on. I don’t know if it’s a myth or not, that marble is colder than other surfaces and thus better for rolling out pastry, but I have found that it works for me. So, whatever works. (Oops, Woody alert!)

Puff pastry doesn’t require a lot of hands-on time but because of the resting periods, you need to be available to go in and out of the kitchen at regular intervals. So arrange to make puff pastry when you know you have that time.

beurrage - butter block
détrempe - basic dough
pâton – the combined détrempe and beurrage
tour – each rolling out and folding action

Yield: about 1.2 kg of pastry


For the détrempe
500 g strong white bread flour
200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
10 g sea salt
15 ml (1 Tbsp) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
200 ml cold tap water

For the beurrage
250 g unsalted butter, cold

Extra flour (either bread or all-purpose) for sprinkling over work surface and dough

Special equipment: stand mixer (optional yet preferable), rolling pin (it needs to be long, don’t use a short rolling pin), pastry brush, dough scraper, plastic wrap


For the détrempe
In a stand mixer
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the flour, butter, salt, lemon juice and water and using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium-low speed for a couple of minutes until you have a rough dough. Do not over-knead the dough. You’re not looking to develop the gluten in the flour, we’re not making bread dough.

Empty it onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for a few seconds in order to smooth it. You should have a dough that’s pliable and that it’s not sticking to your hands; if it’s ever-so-slightly sticky though, don’t alarm yourself, it’s okay. Shape it into a ball and then press to create a 15-16 cm flattened square (see photos). Using a dough scraper, cut a cross halfway through the dough. Wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in your refrigerator for 1 hour.

By hand
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and add the butter. Mix either with your hands, a pastry cutter or a fork, until the mixture resembles coarse meal and add the water and lemon juice. Mix with your hands until you have a rough dough. Empty it onto a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes until you have a pliable and smooth dough. Don’t over-work the dough. Continue as instructed above.

For the beurrage
Take the cold butter and place it between two large pieces of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, beat the butter into a 15-16 cm square, the size of the détrempe.
Place the beurrage in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Note: The détrempe and the beurrage need to be really cold before you move on to combine them and make the pâton. They also need to be of almost equal hardness otherwise it will be difficult to incorporate the beurrage into the détrempe.

Make the pâton
First, take the détrempe out of the fridge, unwrap it (keep the plastic wrap to re-use it) and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Dust the détrempe with flour and, using your rolling pin, roll out the four pieces of the cross you’ve made, making sure the center is not rolled out so a mound remains. See photos for reference.

Then, take the beurrage out of the fridge, unwrap it and place it in the center of the détrempe, on top of the mound, and press it gently. Now fold each rolled out piece on top of the beurrage, making sure it covers it completely and also pinching the détrempe around it so that the beurrage is encased properly in it. What you have now is the pâton.

Using your pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the pâton, wrap it with plastic wrap (re-use the one you had wrapped the détrempe with) and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

From this point on what you need to do is make 6 tours; roll out and fold the dough 6 times in total. The dough needs to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes between each tour so that the butter solidifies and doesn’t melt inside your dough thus ruining the layers you’re trying to accomplish.

Note 1: Traditionally, classic puff pastry needs to be rolled out and folded 6-8 times but 6 times is the usual.

Note 2: Before you start, keep in mind that you need to act quickly. The more the dough stays out of the fridge, the more the butter melts and the dough softens, making it difficult to roll out. I don’t want to make you panic, just be aware that you need to be quick.

1st tour
Take the pâton out of the fridge and unwrap it. Flour lightly your work surface and keep the flour at hand because you may need to dust your surface with more flour while you’re rolling out the dough. Dust the top of the pâton with flour.
The best way to roll out the pastry is by first making indentations using the rolling pin, in three-four places, the two always being towards the far edges of the pastry. (See photos for reference). This will help keep the rectangle shape of the dough but also push and distribute the butter throughout more evenly.

Then make more indentations between those first ones. It will make rolling out the pastry easier and you won’t need to put much pressure with your hands. Then roll the dough out in one direction (do not roll out the sides) into an elongated rectangle with a thickness of 1 cm (approximately 45 cm long and 20-22 cm wide). Remember to flour as you roll when you feel the dough is sticking to your work surface, otherwise the butter will peep out of the dough and your layers will be ruined. Also, if butter does leak out of the dough, then put it back in the fridge.
Furthermore, while rolling the dough out, always try to maintain a rectangle and an even shape.

Dust the flour off the dough and you now need to fold the rectangle into thirds. Divide visually the dough into thirds and fold one third over the middle, dust the flour off and then fold the opposite third over, much like you would fold a business letter. Brush off the excess flour, making sure to also brush off the flour from the bottom of the dough, and wrap it in the plastic wrap. Place the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Note 1: Make sure you dust off the dough every time you fold it, otherwise it will dry out.

Note 2: Between tours, before rolling out the dough, you need to always scrape the butter and flour off your work surface otherwise the dough will stick to it. Have your scraper always at hand.

Note 3: If you are making puff pastry during the winter and you realize that after one tour your dough is still cold and firm enough, you can do two tours back to back before you return the dough to the fridge. However, do not get carried away and try to do more than two tours at one time, because your dough will most probably tear, you’ll lose your layers and all your hard work will go to waste.

Note 4: If you want to keep track of how many tours you have done, the classic way when making pâte feuilletée, is by marking the corner of the dough by pressing with the tip of your finger(s), making as many indentations as tours you have completed (see photo). Don’t press too hard though, you don’t want to tear the layers.

2nd tour
Take the dough out of the fridge and unwrap it. Flour lightly your work surface and place the dough, seam-side up, with its spine on your left (if you were to unfold the dough, it should open to your left, like how you open a book) and dust the top with flour. Make indentations on the dough just like you did on the previous step and then roll it out again to a 1 cm thick elongated rectangle (just like you did on the previous step). Continue rolling and folding the dough just like in the 1st tour to complete the 2nd tour.

3rd – 6th tour
From this point on, you need to repeat the same exact process 4 more times, completing 6 tours in total.

This recipe yields about 1.2 kg of puff pastry, which is a lot, so you can cut it at this point into 2 or 4 pieces, cover them with plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge.

If you want to use the pastry right away, you need to put it in the fridge for 30 minutes after the 6th tour and then roll it out again, but this time more thinly, depending on what you are making. For example, if you want to make a tart, you should roll it out 0.3-0.4 cm thick.

You can keep the puff pastry in the fridge for 4-5 days but I find that you get a better result i.e. a higher puff, when you use it within the first couple of days.
You can also store it in the freezer, wrapped well with plastic wrap, for one month.

You can use your puff pastry to make anything from savory and sweet pies, mille-feuilles, napoleons, tarte tatin, palmiers, beef Wellington or anything “en croute”, vol-au-vents, etc. The possibilities are endless. I'll share some recipes very soon!

Have fun making it and enjoy eating it!


  1. Beautiful. You did an amazing job!

    1. Why did my puff pastry melt in the oven? My guess is I let the butter come through the dough, if this was the case how do I stop this from happening.

  2. That is an absolutely amazing and flawless tutorial. Thank you so much - I have always shied away from making puff pastry because I have never seen such thorough directions. I will be making this very soon. ~ David

  3. Wow! Really helpful tutorial! Thanks.

  4. I'm so impressed by your step by step recipe and wonderfully clear explanations. I once made puff pastry for a tarte tatin and really enjoyed it and it wasn't as difficult as I imagined. Time and cold and important as you say. I'm looking forward to your recipes using it as at the moment, I'm craving flaky pastry with feta (hint, hint).

  5. What a wonderful post Magda! The step by step images are just perfect. It was beautiful to read through the process too.

  6. David — I know it looks daunting but it's actually not very difficult. Give it a try!

    Anonymous — you're welcome!

    Emily — yes, it mostly need time and patience and to know some secrets that will make the process less intimidating. Yes, something with feta is coming up shortly :)

    Anna — I'm so glad you like it!

  7. Wow Magda, fantastic post! I love the step by step photos - it was wonderful to move through each stage of the process. Well done! I think making your own puff pastry is a HUGE achievement!!

  8. What a fabulous tutorial! I've thought of making puff pastry but have never seen such great directions. Thank you for sharing this.

    I love Greek food & look forward to exploring the rest of your blog!

  9. MulberryPomegranate — I guess it's pretty great, isn't it? :)

    Susan — hello and welcome to my blog! I'm glad you liked the tutorial!

  10. Have to try making this by myself! It raised really beautifully!

  11. Wow, Magda, I am beyond impressed---all these years I have studiously avoided making my own puff pastry. You've provided inspiration, and superb instructions.

    happy new year, glad you are back.

  12. Magda, this is one of the most helpful and insightful posts I've seen on making homemade puff. Thank you!

    My mother took a French pastry course when she first married my father, and over the years has imparted her knowledge of these classic techniques to me. This, however, is the one I never got around to making on my own! I am going to make it and photograph it for her - I know she'll be absolutely tickled. And thanks to your detailed instructions I'm really confident I can do it :)

  13. Oh Magda, it that ever gorgeous!!!!!
    I haven't had a bite of puffed pastry since I had to go gluten-free 4 years ago. I've been meaning to try my hand at making my own from scratch, but I'm afraid the lack of gluten in the dough will lead to disappointment.
    Maybe I can get some of your pastry making magic by osmosis;)

  14. I really admire anyone who makes puff pastry from scratch...a great tutorial.

  15. What is the best butter available in the U.S. for making puff pastry? By that I mean the one with the highest fat content. I used to make puff pastry in Europe but I didn't know the brand.

  16. Your tutorial is right on! I took a french pastry class and we made this and I decided right then and there that no one in my family deserved to have that much time spent making their food! Hours of work that would be eaten in 10 is like you say, an art and a wanting to make something beautiful from scratch.

  17. Thank you so much. Just was wondering what it the thawing directions

    1. I'm not sure exactly what you mean but if you're asking about thawing instructions for the puff pastry: 24 hours before you want to use the pastry, take it out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator. Then you're ready to use it.

  18. Great tutorial. I'm trying to make my own puff pastry. But it failed due to leaking the detrempe. But, i'll try again soon. May your tutorial will help me to get the best result..

  19. Thank you for this tutorial!
    I've done this once so far but the result was just perfect!

    1. Hello anonymous friend. You are very welcome, I'm so glad it worked out for you! I took a look at your photos and your puff pastry looks amazing!!

  20. Hello,

    I ran into another recipe by Anna Olson for puff pastry, she incorporates the detrempe (dough) into the beurrage (hunk of butter) , does the puff pastry result differently?

    1. Hello. I've heard of this method but I wouldn't try it. It is too tricky and more complicated. I don't know if the result is better.

  21. Hi. I realised my sister accidentally put both the detrempe and the beurrage into the freezer Instead of the chiller. Upon the 1st and 2nd fold I found it really hard to contain the beurrage in the détrempe. I stopped after the 2nd fold and hope to find a way to salvage this. Please please help

    1. Hi Patricia. I would suggest you leave it in the fridge overnight so the temperature of the detrempe and beurrage become the same and continue from there. Good luck!

  22. What a great instructor you are, these instructions a so concise, it's so easy to understand, thank you so very much! Took a class in Paris in back june @ Paris Cuisine but was all over europe after that and forgot some of the"savoir faire". So thanks again, amma gonna go make so fresh pastries to my little family, on my way to find some european style butter in Quebec :)

    1. Thank you Sylvie. Hope you enjoy your pastries :)

  23. hello, is there any chance you can clarify the baking time and temperature of the oven?

    1. I've read online that 400°F/204°C is the magic temperature to get the desired puff out of the pastry.

      As far as timing goes, I don't really know... I baked some palmiers last night at 425°F/220°C for about 18 minutes and it browned nicely.

      I also made some steak and oxtail pie and baked that at 350°F/180°C for 40 minutes and they browned nicely as well.

    2. thank you! will see how it goes :)

    3. Hi there and sorry for the late reply. It depends on what you are making. If you are baking a single sheet of puff pastry, a pie (with two sheets), small/individual pieces, etc. Check here and here for my recipes with puff pastry for baking times.

  24. Thank you so much for such a wonderful and easy recipe!

    I made this last night to top a savoury pie for dinner. It was perfect!

    I don't have a stand mixer with dough hook and didn't fancy mixing the détrempe by hand, so I tossed everything into my food processor and pulsed it until it formed a dough ball and then kneaded it gently and put it into the fridge to rest as directed... was a little wary about doing that but it worked.

    One word of note to people who are new to baking with puff pastry... please * * do not * * use an egg wash on this if you want a good rise to your pastry... I made the mistake of putting an egg wash on the savoury pies that I made yesterday and while I got the desired layer definition, the pastry failed to puff.

    I know for a fact that it was the egg wash that prevented the rise because I used some leftover dough to do a test run of palmiers, just to see what would happen if I baked an unwashed dough, and I got a _very_ good puff.

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Katherine and thanks for your comment. I'm very happy your puff pastry was successful! Topping a savory pie...mmm sounds delicious! I have to disagree with you however on the eggwash part. I have never had any problems with rising. You can see this recipe here as an example. Thanks!

  25. my boss want me to use every last piece of the puff pastry, is frozen and after the first use it became hard to work and it doesn't rise as much. Is there a way to fix it? should it put more butter and repeat the steps?

    1. Hi Victoria. You first need to thaw your puff pastry in the refrigerator. Leave it there for a good 24 hours before using. It shouldn't be difficult to work with then. No need to add more butter or repeat any steps. That's how I work with it and I've never had any problems.

  26. I just finished this recipe and I am so proud of myself! Hahaha. I was delighted when my puff pastry looked just like your pictures. Thank you for such a detailed and easy to follow tutorial. Just one question...should I roll it out thin before freezing? Or do you roll it out after thawing? Thanks again!

    1. Oh I'm so happy to hear this Sarah! I'm glad your puff pastry turned out as mine. You can either freeze it once you have rolled it out, or you can freeze a whole block and roll it out when thawed. You can't refreeze it though.

    2. Ok good to know! Thank you.

    3. Hi this is SarahL but signed in from my blog. I just wanted to say I'm crazy about how this puff pastry came out. We made minced meat pie and apple turnovers. I shared the turnovers with some friends and they were in love too! I will definitely be making it again!

    4. Hi Sarah. I'm so glad you liked it! :) Thanks for your feedback.

  27. I love this recipe and technique! It's the best one I've found for full puff pastry and it's been wonderful to practice with. Thank you!