Monday, June 8, 2009

My Virgin Puff

the beautiful layers in the puff pastry

I have always avoided making the seemingly daunting puff pastry or pâte feuilletée ( ‘pat fe-yeh-teh’) . Why don’t we just use the store bought varieties? I received my answer at the end of this week’s lesson.

The making of the puff pastry from scratch is extremely rewarding and seriously, I wouldn’t mind doing it all over again.

On the first lesson, Chef M*ichael went through the different methods of puff pastry methodically-the French, the English and the Scottish method. We were introduced to the world of lamination (The layers between the fat and the dough), dé tramp (the dough you start with- flour, water and salt), and turns (the foldings to achieve the layers between the butter and the dough). As if there wasn’t enough terminology going on, we went through the different types of turns (single turn, double turn, book turn) and the different kinds of puff (full puff, half puff, three-quarter puff). By the end of the demo class, you would have your mind spinning with all these culinary terms!


A perfect puff pastry is crisp and flaky and full of buttery goodness! We all eat puff pastry in some form or other, be it in savouries like curry puff or chicken pie or in sweets like Danish.

In essence, the puff pastry is made up of thousand of layers of butter-dough-butter-dough. The job of a baker is to create the layers and structure of the puff pastry through a proper and systematic folding and rolling technique.

We spent the first lesson making two batches of puff pastry using (a) the French method and (b) the English method. The Scottish/ ‘rough puff’ method is frowned upon because as is name suggests is made very roughly and would not give the products as good a lift as the French or English method.

My personal favourite is the French method. Not purely because I believe that the French know their food and pastries, but also because I find that this method makes perfect sense. Think about it: Say if you want to completely cover all four sides of a book, what would you do? You would wrap it up like a present from all four sides wouldn’t you? That pretty much sums up the French method- To wrap a square block of butter from all four sides.

The process of making the puff pastry is time consuming and tiring especially when you are doing it all by hand. Imagine going through 2 kg of butter and 2 kg of flour. My arm felt so light after the class. No wonder my seniors have warned me about this particular lesson.

I feel that I have to set the records straight for those wondering about the difficulty of the puff pastry. Despite the numerous technicalities involved, it is not difficult if you are blessed with patience. You can’t rush through making puff pastry because the dough needs time to rest in between every two turns; it is not difficult if you are systematic and organized; it is not difficult if you are blessed with a cool room to work with because hot and humid weather is the arch enemy of the puff pastry. You will just get a huge lump of buttery mess if you do it on a hot summer day or just any day in Singapore. That’s why pastry chefs are in the cooler room of the kitchen. They have to be!

After a tiring Thursday, Friday and Saturday classes were dedicated to producing a range of puff pastry products- both savoury as well as sweet. The savouries were a welcome departure from the usual sweet. Finally something proper for lunch and dinner.

Will write more about it in the next post..


  1. I'm looking forward to some savoury pastries when you come back!!

  2. yes definitely. I know you prefer savouries to sweets..

    my dad's been asking about the beef pie too since he likes savouries in puff pastry!