dessert doughs first time for everything

Puff Pastry Dough

My kitchen workspace
My kitchen workspace

This entry is not PG-13.

Puff pastry dough makes me want to grind my teeth and yell obscenities at it to make it do what I need it to. Oh wait, I did that. This morning after two cups of Starbucks Komodo Dragon Blend, a gift from my friend Rachel who I had over for tea and Welsh cookies yesterday, I decided that I needed to utilize the apples monopolizing our refrigerator space. I pulled my three favorite cookbooks down and scanned the indexes for “apple” initially thinking some kind of fritter was in our future. To myself I thought, “Ok Cook’s Illustrated, show me what you’ve got. Apple chutney, apple cake, apple crisp, apple braised pork chops… nope, nope, nope, and no thank you. Flaky apple turnovers. Now there’s an idea. It calls for applesauce. Well I do need to use up these apples, and oh look it needs additional apples for the filling! I’m too lazy to walk to the store today so I’ll just make the puff pastry dough, no big deal. Rob is camping and I have all the time in the world, what’s 9 hours devoted to one dough that I’ve never made before in my life?” WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, BRAIN.

Applesauce was the easy part, and I covered that in my last post. Moving right along to the bright idea that was puff pastry dough from scratch. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook is an amazing resource and I refer to it constantly. It has never before led me astray and after tasting the end result of this arduous process it still hasn’t, but this recipe should have come with a warning: you will become violent toward this dough with a rolling pin. Homemade puff pastry dough has officially claimed the all time most pain in the ass status on my totem pole of pain in the ass things to work with. Pizza dough formerly held the title. Way to go puff pastry, you brat. All whining aside, the recipe produced the most incredible, flaky, monumentally delicious puff pastry I’ve ever tasted in my entire life (EDIT: If you use the dough the same day you make it it produces this amazingness. If you freeze it and bake it off later it’s no better than store bought, unfortunately). I was frankly shocked that it turned out so well because the whole time I mangled my way through the process I was convinced that I’d done something very, very wrong. This recipe is again from Cooks Illustrated Cookbook and makes about two pounds of dough. I’ve added my own helpful tips and images to the directions.

3 cups AP flour
1 ½ TBS sugar
1 ½ TBS salt
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup of water, chilled
24 TBS (3 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
2 TBS AP flour

1. Process flour, sugar and salt in food processor until combined, about 5 seconds. With food processor running, add lemon juice, followed by ¾ cup water in a slow steady stream. Add remaining ¼ cup as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together and no floury bits remain.

your dough will probably look like this.  It shapes into a square easily enough.
your dough will probably look like this. It shapes into a square easily enough.

2. Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into 6 inch square. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. FOR THE BUTTER SQUARE: Lay butter sticks side by side on sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle flour over butter and cover with second sheet of parchment.


Gently pound butter with rolling pin until butter is softened and flour is fully incorporated, then roll it into 8-inch square. Wrap butter in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

more or less a square.
more or less a square.

(PAUSE. This doesn’t work the way it sounds like it should. It doesn’t just romantically come together into a magical uniform butter square. The flour on top of the three sticks of butter that you’re supposedly gently pounding works its way in between the sticks and turns making them stick together into a fucking circus. If I did this again I’d hold off on adding the flour until the butter had already stuck together and wouldn’t go shooting across the table. But that’s just me. I ended up folding the partially flattened San Andreas Fault butter over and over onto itself and then flattening it over and over to get the flour worked in and everyone playing together nicely. Also, try to make your butter square actually a square. It will make your life easier later on.)

4. Roll chilled dough into 11-inch square on a lightly floured counter. Place chilled butter square diagonally in center of dough.


Fold corners of dough up over butter square so that the corners meet in middle and pinch dough seams to seal.


5. Using rolling pin, gently tap dough, starting from center and working outward, until square becomes larger and butter begins to soften. Gently roll dough into 14-inch square, dusting with extra flour as needed to prevent sticking.


Fold dough into thirds like a business letter,

business letter dough
business letter dough

then fold rectangle into thirds to form square. Wrap dough in plastic and let rest in refrigerator for 2 hours.

square dough
square dough

6. Repeat step 5 twice and let dough rest in refrigerator for 2 more hours before using. (Each time you repeat step 5 the dough will become more elastic and will resist rolling to the proper size. DO NOT YEILD. Roll that sucker until it’s square and 14 inches. You’ll be happy you did.)

This image illustrates the number of layers you've created.  Well done, you!  I had cut the dough to have the correct portion for Apple turnovers.  Stay tuned.
This image illustrates the number of layers you’ve created. Well done, you! I had cut the dough to have the correct portion for Apple turnovers. Stay tuned.

Thus concludes the puff pastry dough portion of our program. Apple Turnovers will be the next entry and it will probably also not be kid appropriate.

I also learned that the coffee cups I use are roughly 14oz, so I really had 4 cups of coffee this morning. Ohhhh science.


  1. FYI Alexa… from an experienced Chef… this is something no chef will ever… ever do from scratch.. this is the same process used for making croissants…. also not an easy feat. I tip my Chef hat to you… welcome to the club.

  2. You are one brave soul! I have always been told “don’t make puff pastry from scratch”. You are my idol now! You Go Girl!

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