How many times have you heard a chef on TV say that store bought puff pastry is just as good as making it yourself? Probably many times! I know I have and I have never seen a recipe that says “first make puff pastry”. No one makes puff pastry aside from a few bakeries out there. Most businesses determined, long ago, that it is not cost effective to pay someone to spend the entire day making just laminated dough. They tend to have it shipped frozen and roll out the thawed dough to make their pastries.
Hey, I get it! I made full puff pastry in culinary school and it was a serious chore! But have you heard of “rough puff” dough? If you are a fan of The Great British Baking Show, then there is a good chance that you are aware of this baking shortcut.
I got to thinking, is store bought really just as good? I decided to make two identical tarts, one with store bought puff pastry and one with rough puff and compare the end products.
Puff pastry is all about building layers and keeping everything cold. I am currently in my kitchen in Tucson and the temperature the day I made this was 86°F, so not ideal conditions! But I went for it anyway, and here is what I found out.
Let’s start with the rough puff which is only four ingredients: flour, salt, butter and milk (or water). Since one huge advantage store bought dough has over making your own is time, I needed to record how long the rough puff takes to prepare.
I set my phone timer and hit start.
I combined 1 cup of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, whisked it together. Next was the addition of 5 oz. of COLD. European butter. Why specifically European? It is comes from grass fed cows and gives the pastry a quality our domestic butter just can’t match. But if you don’t have access to that, just make sure your butter is cold!!
The butter is cut into the flour and salt mixture until small bits of butter are visible.
Lastly add the 1/4 cup COLD milk or water and combine until a shaggy dough forms.
This is where the folding come into play. Pat the dough, on a well floured board, into a rectangle, about 8 X 10 and then fold into thirds. This is your first fold.
Rotate 90 degrees, and repeat by rolling into the 8 X 10 rectangle and fold the dough into thirds and onto itself again. That is fold number two. The goal is to do this a total of 6 folds.
After my third fold is where the temperature in my kitchen caught up to me! The butter was getting soft, so after the third fold I had to put the dough into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to cool down. I finished the next three folds (for a total of 6) as quickly as I could and then the dough needs to be refrigerated for an hour before proceeding.
So, how long did it take to get to this point? When I got the pastry into the fridge for the 1 hour rest I hit stop on my clock.
Since I had to stop and chill the dough and then let it sit for more than the recommended hour to firm up, my time was longer than it should have been. If I had done this in my Seattle kitchen, I think it would have only been about 30 minutes.
By comparison, if I was using store bought I would have saved this 50 minutes.
It was now time to make the tarts. First I pulled out the chilled rough puff pastry, rolled it into a 10 X14 rectangle, pricked the pastry with a fork. I returned this to the fridge while I prepared the store bought dough.
The store bought puff pastry was thawed, in the fridge overnight so all that was needed was to unfold it, roll it into a 10 x 14 rectangle and dock the dough. Since the store bought was already in a 9 X 9 inch sheet, the rolling out process was also faster.
So far they look fairly equal, except for their color.
There is a big difference in color thanks to the rich butter. There was also extra dough from the rough puff but nothing left over from the thinner store bought sheet. I used the extra dough to decorate the rough puff so I wouldn’t get them confused in the oven!
With Thanksgiving around the corner I decided to make pear, apple and cranberry tarts. Once the filling was in place they both went into the 400°F oven for 30 minutes.
They both looked great!
Visually, there doesn’t appear to be too much of a difference! Choosing the lowest points of each crust to measure the depth of the crust showed that they were practically the same. A slight edge could go to the rough puff.
Slicing it open and looking at the layers did show a difference.
Now it was time for the taste test! My hubby was the judge, he was given a slice of each but it was a blind test. He did not like the buttery flavor of the rough puff! He said it was too buttery for his taste. It was also the flakiest of the two tarts, but the store bought was tasty too!
The verdict? I felt that the rough puff was worth the extra time and effort. I would like to take one more crack at it with a cooler kitchen! I did like the flakiness and the extra butter flavor did not bother me!! Although if you are tight for time, then the store bought is just as good as making your own.
Rough Puff Pastry
A quick puff pastry recipe that is buttery and flaky and easy to make.
-1 cup flour
-1/4 Teaspoon kosher salt
-5 OZ. good quality European Butter, cold
-1/4 cup milk or water, cold
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms
- Flour a smooth surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours.
Apple, Pear and Cranberry tart
A simple and elegant fruit tart. Perfect for a buffet table and can be served at room temperature.
-2/3 cup dried cranberries
-1/4 cup Calvados or Brandy
-1-2 apple, peeled cored and sliced thin
-1-2 pears, peeled cored and sliced thin
-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
-2 Tablespoons butter
-1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup
-egg wash as needed
- Place dried cranberries into a shallow bowl and add the Calvados, or Brandy or Water to rehydrate. Allow a minimum of 15 minutes.
- Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and pears. Arrange in a pattern over the pastry dough. Add the cranberries and sprinkle with the sugar.
- Dot the tart with the butter and brush the crust with the egg wash. Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.
- Brush the warm tart with the maple syrup. Serve warm or at room temperature.