Puff pastry: Layer it like the pros

Puff Pastry brightened

Puff pastry.

Buttery, flaky, delicate. Hundreds of layers of dough and butter.

Hard to make?

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Let’s see how the Bakery at King Arthur Flour does it.

Start with a base dough, made with flour, salt, water, and butter. No yeast; all the leavening comes from the layers of butter. During the baking process, as the butter melts, the steam puffs the layers of dough up.

Place a square of cool, but pliable butter on the dough. Soft butter will melt into the dough – or more likely ooze out during the layering process.

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Press the dough over the butter so it’s completely encased.

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Now that the butter is in, we’re ready to roll!

This process is called lamination, because we’re constructing the dough by building up distinct layers of butter and dough.

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In most professional bakeries where puff pastry is made, you’ll find a dough sheeter. Think of a giant pasta machine, the kind that has two adjustable-width rollers for dough to pass through.

The dough goes through one side, and comes out of the other side uniformly thinner.

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Now that we have a long, thin rectangle of dough, it’s folded in half. The seam is off center, and there’s slight overlap to make sure that every bit of dough gets a layer of butter.

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When the dough is folded in half again, one “four fold” is complete.

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The process of rolling and folding is repeated three more times, for a total of four folds resulting in over 500 layers.

Now the dough must be chilled and rested before it’s ready to be rolled out and baked.

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Here’s a cross section of the laminated dough.

Very cool, but can I do it at home? Sure, start with this recipe for classic puff pastry.

Let’s see home bakers in action in the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center.

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Students make their base dough and refrigerate it to chill and allow the gluten to relax.

Meanwhile, the cold butter is pounded with a rolling pin to become pliable, and then formed into a square. The lamination process happens in the same way as in the professional bakery – except everything is done by hand ,with a rolling pin, rather than using the dough sheeter.

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To make “palmiers,” a.k.a. elephant ears, the fully layered (and rested and chilled) dough is rolled out in raw sugar, and formed.

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The finished product: crisp, flaky, light, and rich at the same time.

Yes, this is student product, although it looks good enough to be in any bakery case!

So is it too hard to make at home? Absolutely not! Time consuming, yes. But, worth every bite.

Read, bake, and review our recipe for Classic Puff Pastry.

Print just the recipe.

And, when you’re in a rush, try this recipe for Fast and Easy Puff Pastry.

Amber Eisler
About

Amber Eisler was born and raised in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and started her time at King Arthur Flour in the production bakery. Amber now works full-time in the Baking Education Center, and enjoys sharing her passion ...

comments

  1. Mandi

    I LOVE making puff pastry at home. So relaxing. But I have always wondered about larger bakeries and how they find the time to do it. Now I know. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Paul from Ohio

    Just curious – in that first photo of the slab of butter sitting on top of the dough – how much butter is that, as in weight? Fun to see how Puff Pastry is made in a bakery – who knew? Thanks for sharing.

    I believe the butter block is around 2 pounds, but I will see if I can find the exact weight.-Jon

    Reply
  3. waikikirie

    Next “stay-cation” homemade puff pasty is on my to-do list. Those elepants ears look delish! They can be made savory too by substituting herbs and a parmesan cheese for the sweet ingredients. YUM. Thanks for the reminder to make this!!

    Hopefully your next stay-cation is in a cooler month. August usually makes for melted puff pastry in my home; no air conditioning!-Jon

    Reply
  4. Mary Ellen

    On my long to do list… that begins in 16 years when my last child moves out of the house. ;-) I think the whole wheat version would be awesome to try as well from my KAF Whole Grain book.

    Reply
  5. Debbie

    Looks great. I don’t understand how 500 layers are formed from going through the rolling and folding process 4 times.
    Great question Debbie. The math works out to the number of layers quadrupling with each fold. As there are 4 folds, it would look like this:
    4 x4= 16
    16 x 4= 64
    64 x4=256
    256 x 4= 1024
    Hope this helps you “see” the layers as they progress. Happy Baking! ~ MJ

    Reply
  6. Cathy

    Is this similar to the way croissants are made? I made those years ago and the process seems similar.

    Yes, Cathy, there are croissants made just like this, in fact – good memory! :) PJH

    Reply
  7. "Paul from Ohio"

    Jon – that surely looks like MORE than 2lbs of butter?!

    These photographs are from our professional bakery where they easily make triple to quadruple the recipe we have posted on our site. We wanted to demonstrate the process from a professional standpoint, but you will certainly only need 2lbs for making puff pastry at home! Great observation, Paul! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  8. GeriAnne

    Today, I finally broke through my barrier and made my Danish pastry dough. What a fun process. I understand the process more now, using hands on. My dough has been divided in two parts both wrapped in plastic and foil. I understand that you can store x 3-4 days in ref. Once I decide on what wonderful pastry to make I will continue. I do have a question. Prior to joining this site, I watch many, youtube videos. Why do some chefs use yeast and others do not ? What is the diff ?.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Traditionally, danish dough is always made with a yeast for part of the leavening. While the technique for making it is similar to making puff pastry, the yeast element makes for a much different final product.-Jon

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Cream of tartar is a leavening agent, so it may have helped guarantee the flaky layers. Puff pastry recipes that we found with cream of tartar and lemon juice also list flour and butter in grams and oven temp. in degrees Celsius, so this recipe may be from across the pond! Whether you decide to use our recipe or your family favorite – we wish you happy baking! Irene@KAF

  9. Carrie C

    Wondering what the weight yield is for the classic puff pastry recipe is? I would like to compare the weight to the frozen brand in the store. I may be posting in the wrong place…

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re in the right place! The weight yield for the classic puff pastry is about 2.5 pounds. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  10. mary vescio

    Just tried my hand at making croissants using the puff pastry recipe. They are almost right, but the inside is just not right. Not puffy, doughy! Interested in the cream of tartar comment, and did I miss something regarding the lemon juice? Please help me with steps to the perfect croissant–this is my new years project.

    Reply
  11. fatima

    Hi,i work very hard with the dough and still ,when i bake my puff pastry it is not flaky.i bake it on full heat upper and lower grill on,please guide me on what heat temperature i should bake my puff pastry.thankyou.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Fatima, we have had good success with this method. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce to 350 degrees, and bake until the pastry is golden brown. ~Jaydl@KAF

  12. William Stewart

    Is it possible to make either the yeast-risen laminated dough or the puff pastry dough in a smaller quantity at home using a pasta machine? I know the narrow width (my machine is 6″ wide) is a limiting factor, but there are only two of us and I would not know what to do with a large recipe of this dough. A propos of that, can “leftover” dough be stored successfully for any length of time? If so, how?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi there,
      You can definitely make the full batch and then just cut off what will easily fit through your machine. Wrap the leftover dough airtight and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. A great way to have dough on hand for spur of the moment baking! ~ MJ

  13. Roberta Kriegsman

    I made the Danish pastry dough and it called for yeast. The top of the page King Arthur says “no yeast”. They wrote the book! Why no yeast? Also my pastry was dense and didn’t have much filling. I tried different shapes, etc., but none of them came out the way I wanted them to. I had a lot of trouble rolling out the dough too. All in all it was not very successful. So, I froze the rest of the dough and filling. Is there any way I can use the dough to make something else? Perhaps tearing off little pieces and roll them into a little ball and make a dent in them and put some filling in them? I hate to waste all that dough! Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Roberta! I’m a little confused about your post. Did you make our danish dough or puffy pastry? They are quite different as one is yeasted, while the other is not. I would suggest to call our Baker’s Hotline and one our of bakers can help you figure out which dough you made and how to use it. Jon@KAF

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