Whether it's a breakfast croissant, an apple turnover for elevenses, a savoury tart, a bouchée starter or beef Wellington main, puff pastry features in dishes throughout the day. Shop-bought puff pastry is ideal for quick fixes but making your own can be really therapeutic and very satisfying, often surpassing branded varieties in terms of its flaky, buttery qualities.
Often used in elaborate desserts like mille feuille, Napoleons and other such delicacies, puff pastry is created by a method called lamination. This involves butter and pastry being repeated folded until many layers are created.
When bringing the dough together, be careful not to over-work the dough as this will activate the gluten in the flour and result in a poor quality puff pastry.
Always use a long, sharp knife to cut down through the pastry in one downwards movement. Using a serrated knife or dragging a knife through the pastry will cause it to tear and it will not rise properly.
Cut any leftover, unrolled puff pastry into small pieces and freeze wrapped very tightly in cling film for later use.
Puff pastry is used for vol-au-vents, sausage rolls, cheese straws, tart bases and pie tops as well as for a multitude of desserts. In the savoury camp, there’s British classic Beef Wellington and French pithiviers and pissaladière – try Graham Campbell’s Fillet of beef wellington, Colin McGurran’s Ox cheek pithivier or Pierre Koffman’s classic pissaladière.
The most famous puff pastry dessert must be apple tarte Tatin; try Marcus Wareing’s very simple version or Luke Tipping’s Pear tarte Tatin with Gorgonzola or look to Shaun Rankin’s pineapple for a more tropical flavour. Bruno Loubet puts a savoury twist on this classic with his Shallot tarte Tatin with chicken livers.