Season: All | Active Time: 40 minutes | Total Time: 3 hours 40 minutes | Difficulty: 3 (Moderate)
This recipe, a hybrid of pie dough and traditional puff pastry, relies on a series of rapid folds to flatten slices of butter into thin sheets within the dough, which then release steam during baking and produce a flaky, layered effect. It mimics the more formal pastry technique known as lamination, used to make Kouign-amann (this page) and Spelt Croissants (this page), but without a lot of fuss. The key to the flakiest pastry is to keep it very cold, so feel free to return the dough to the refrigerator as frequently as needed while you work.
Makes enough pastry for two 10-inch crusts
3 sticks unsalted butter (12 oz / 340g), chilled
3½ cups all-purpose flour (16 oz / 455g), plus more for rolling out
2 tablespoons sugar (0.9 oz / 25g)
1½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.16 oz / 5g)
Freeze some of the butter and the dry ingredients: Place 1½ sticks of the butter (6 oz / 170g) in the freezer until very firm but not frozen solid, 10 to 15 minutes (this will make it easier to grate). In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt and place in the freezer until the butter has firmed up.
Slice the remaining butter and prepare ice water: Thinly slice the remaining 1½ sticks butter (6 oz / 170g) crosswise into ⅛-inch-thick slices and place them on a plate in the refrigerator. Prepare about 1 cup of ice water and refrigerate.
Grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture: Remove the butter and flour mixture from the freezer and toss the whole butter sticks in the flour mixture to coat. Working quickly to prevent your hands from warming the butter, grate the flour-coated butter on the large holes of a box grater directly into the flour. ① Use a fork to toss the butter bits in the flour to thoroughly coat them.
Add the sliced butter and bring the dough together: Remove the butter slices from the refrigerator and toss them in the flour mixture to distribute. Gradually drizzle ½ cup of the ice water (4 oz / 113g) into the bowl, tossing constantly with a fork, until you have shaggy pieces of dough.
Using your hands, knead the dough a couple of times in the bowl to bring it together in large pieces. Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface and transfer the large pieces of dough onto it, leaving the floury bits behind in the bowl.
Drizzle more ice water into the bowl by the teaspoon, tossing with the fork, just until the remainder of the dough holds together in a mass when squeezed (the dough will still seem very dry, which is normal). Place every last bit of dough on top of the plastic wrap and pat it down into a ½-inch-thick square, pressing firmly on any dry spots to compact.
Wrap tightly in plastic, eliminating air bubbles, then use the rolling pin or the heel of your palm to flatten the dough further, pushing it into the corners of the plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Roll out and fold the pastry twice: Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to soften. Unwrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to beat the dough all across the surface to make it more pliable.
Roll out the pastry, dusting the top and underside with more flour as needed, into a long rectangle that’s about three times longer than it is wide and ¼ inch thick. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter, first lifting up the bottom third and pressing it into the center, then folding down the top third. Rotate the dough 90 degrees. Using more flour as needed, roll out the dough into another long rectangle and fold in thirds again. Cut the dough in half crosswise, wrap each half tightly in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour. The pastry is now ready to use. ②
The rough puff pastry, well wrapped and refrigerated, will keep up to 2 days or can be frozen up to 2 months (let the dough thaw in the refrigerator overnight before rolling out).
① You could also use the grating disk of the food processor to very quickly grate the partially frozen butter instead of using a box grater. Place 2 tablespoons of the total flour in the bowl of the food processor first so it coats the butter shreds and keeps them separated.
② Don’t try to use the pastry right after performing the series of folds, even if it still seems cold and workable. The back-to-back rolling and folding will develop gluten, which will cause the pastry to spring back when you try to roll it (and then shrink during baking). It needs to rest at least 1 hour in the refrigerator so the gluten can relax.