Store-bought puff pastry is more than fine, but it’s easier than you think to make it at home (and you can still stash it in your freezer). Here’s what you need to know, with a puff pastry recipe.

There’s every reason why you should always have a stash of puff pastry at your culinary disposal. It’s a clutch utility player on your kitchen squad, and can be called in for a wide variety of savory and sweet recipes that require a flaky, buttery, freshly baked crust.

Start your meal with kid-friendly pigs in a blanket or a rustic tomato and cheese tart. For mains, pot pie (chicken, turkey, or veggie) is a big-batch crowd pleaser, or go high end with salmon en croûte, or the mighty beef Wellington. If you have a sweet tooth, apple turnovers never disappoint (a spiced pear and almond version provides joy during the holidays) while pineapple and coconut tartlets bring a taste of the tropics and palmiers offer a dash of elegance.

Chowhound’s Pigs in a Blanket

My wife and I had always relied on the stress-free simplicity of store-bought puff pastry. But with some extra time on our hands and a boost of confidence after tackling homemade flatbread, we were ready for a new baking challenge.

Related Reading: 11 Ingredients to Stock for Your Best Baking Ever

So we enlisted the help of Chef Margarita Manzke (her multitude of bonafides include co-owner and head pastry chef at République and head chef at Sari Sari Store in Los Angeles, James Beard award nominee, and author of “Baking at République: Masterful Techniques and Recipes”) to help guide us on our latest kitchen adventure.

“It’s one of my favorites,” Manzke says of puff pastry, and her legendary mille-feuille and chicken pot pie (a joint effort with husband and business partner, République head chef Walter Manzke) are a testament to that.

Fortunately, she was kind enough to share some of her expert tricks and tricks for puff pastry perfection.

Butter or Bust

While some puff pastry recipes call for shortening, Manzke recommends going exclusively with sticks of churned dairy. “I prefer all butter, for the taste and consistency that it provides.”

Related Reading: Store-Bought vs. Homemade Pie Crust: When Is One Better Than the Other?

Keep It Cool

Maintaining the right temperature of the butter is critical for nailing the consistency of the dough and avoiding puff pastry that’s soft and flabby or too stiff.

“The butter should still have a chill,” Manzke advises. “Don’t leave it out to be room temperature. It should be pliable and not too cold.”

Related Reading: How to Bake Your Own Bread Even If You’re a Complete Beginner

Be aware that in the process of forming your dough, it’s likely that it’s warmed up to room temperature. Refrigerate it a bit before you roll it out, but don’t overdo it. If the dough is too cold and rigid, Manzke warns that it may crack when you sheet it. When it’s ready to roll, Manzke uses a professional grade sheeter, but home cooks should fare just fine with a simple rolling pin.

Chowhound’s Beef Wellington

Turn Turn Turn 

Turning your dough is essential to ensuring an even distribution of all that buttery goodness which will result in a wonderfully flaky puff pastry. According to Manzke, the process should consist of rolling the dough into a rectangular shape, then folding it three times like you would a letter. This should be done for a total of five turns.

She also recommends refrigerating the folded dough after every turn for about 20 minutes to keep it at the right temperature.

Save It for Later

If you don’t intend on immediately using all your sheets of puff pastry, keep your leftover sheets in the fridge for later in the week or the freezer for long-term storage. Though commercial puff pastry usually comes coiled up, that’s not how Manzke rolls.

“We store each sheet of dough on parchment paper, laying flat on a tray. If layers are stacked, we place parchment paper in between each layer,” she says.

Related Reading: Parchment vs. Silicone Mats: Which One Is Better for Baking?

Armed with Chef Margarita’s valuable insight we devised this simple puff pastry recipe suitable for the home kitchen:

Homemade Puff Pastry Recipe

Puff Pastry

Makes: 6-8 sheets
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ sticks of cold butter, cut into ¼ inch cubes
  • ⅔ cup cold water
Instructions
  1. Whisk the flour and salt in a large bowl, then add the butter cubes followed by the cold water.
  2. With clean hands, form the dough into a ball, then shape and flatten it into a square. Cut the square into four pieces and flatten each piece into its own individual square. (It’s okay if the butter cubes are visible—they will merge with the dough during the rolling process). Seal each piece with plastic wrap and freeze for 20-30 minutes, but don’t overdo it. They should be cold, but still pliable.
  3. Sprinkle flour over your work surface and your rolling pin. Unwrap one square of dough. With the rolling pin, proceed to “turn” it by flattening the dough into a rectangle and folding it in thirds, like you would a towel or a letter. Place on a plate for refrigeration. Repeat for the remaining three doughs.
  4. Chill the folded dough in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes, and proceed to “turn” and chill four more times.
  5. After the fifth turn, the puff pastry is ready to bake according to your recipe instructions (depending on how you are using it, time and temperature varies), though make sure to keep it chilled until you are just ready to use it.
  6. If freezing, separate each puff pastry sheet with parchment paper and bookend the stack with parchment paper to protect it.

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David is a food and culture writer based in Los Angeles by way of New York City. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, CBS Local, Mashable, and Gawker.
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