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Hi Mattie

I tried your Puff Pastry recipe for the first time this week, along with your vegan butter.

I think for a first try it's ok! However there's a few things I'd like to ask/improve on. Sorry this is a bit of a mamouth question sesh.

I don't have a stand mixer, so just cut the butter into the flour by hand with a knife - I've now ordered a pastry cutter! I did as the recipe said and left pea sized bits of butter in the flour. There were still these little lumps of butter when I'd finished all the rounds of folding, and I found that when in the oven a lot of oil was coming out of the pastry and resting on the lid of my pie! (and also dripped a lot onto to the tray beneath. Do you think the cause was these lumps of butter? My pastry looked different to the photos of yours...perhaps my lumps of butter need to be much smaller? All in all it was a good first attempt at puff pastry and very edible, just a bit on the oily side.

Possible things to improve on/errors
I used vegetable oil shortening (we can't get earth balance here in the UK) - maybe I'll try your homemade version. Do you think that made a difference?
I also used half 00 pastry flour as I'd run out bread flour - do you think this will have an impact?

What thickness should the final puff pastry be rolled out to?
Could you do more folds that recommended in the recipe?
Any other thoughts?

Tuesday, February 28 2012, 07:53 AM
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Accepted Answer

Wednesday, February 29 2012, 09:22 PM - #Permalink
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Great question Kirsty! I should have clarified in the recipe that in Step 1 under Mixing by Hand that it should state "Drizzle in the ice water and lemon juice and mix using the mixing spoon until just combined and the butter pieces are no longer visible." In my own testing I was mixing until the butter pieces disappeared because I classified that as "just combined". I apologize for not being clear enough- I've updated the recipe to what I stated above to make it more clear.

My puff pastry does come out a tad on the oily side and some of the oil can be lost in the form of a few drips. However, there shouldn't be a major loss of oil. Using shortening instead of butter definitely will make it more oily and this is probably why yours turned out this way. Butter consists of about 78% fat, 18% water and 4% milk solids. I've attempted to attain this ratio as close as possible in my vegan butters too. Shortening is 100% fat. So you can see that if you use shortening in this recipe you're increasing the fat by about 22%. If the flour can only absorb a specific amount of fat with vegan butter, when shortening is substituted, the fat will have nowhere to go except out of your recipe during baking.

Using shortening as a substitute also contributes another minor issue: Puff pastry leavens via mechanical forces in the form of steam produced when fat and water is heated. If there's less water in the dough, there will be less steam to rise the dough during baking.

The flour presents another issue (aren't you glad you asked me this question? ;) 00 flour has the same amount of protein as pastry flour which is about 9% protein. Since puff pastry relies on gluten to trap rising gas bubbles, a flour with 9% protein doesn't contain enough gluten to adequately trap this rising gas. The result is the gas permeates right through the dough like a flat tire. A blend of about half all-purpose flour (about 11% protein) and half bread flour (about 13% protein) supplies enough gluten for the puff pastry to be stretched into thin sheets as it's rolled and to trap gasses and puff as it's baking. Some bakers like to use 100% bread flour in their puff pastry but I find that it's a little too elastic and difficult to work with.

As for the thickness the puff pastry should be rolled out to, this is the thickness that it would be when rolled out to the diameter specified in the recipe which is 14 inches square. The thickness of the dough at this point should be about 4 millimeters or so.

Hope this helps! Puff pastry has kind of a steep learning curve but after you do it a couple times it becomes really easy. It's just a series of really specific steps. I love how you can make truly free-form creations with it and how exquisite it becomes once it's puffed.

Good luck!
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