An excellent puff pastry starts with the right ingredients and so it is important that you use the correct and quality ingredients whenever you're making one. So if you're going to splurge heavy amount of cash shopping, puff pastry is the right time to do it. Below is a quick run-down on what ingredients you need for a successful, nectarous and excellent puff pastry.
A simple puff pastry constitute only flour, salt and butter. However since puff pastry recipe is a bit flexible, you usually find other ingredients like lemon juice, yeast, baking powder and some few more.
The very first ingredient i'm going to start with is the heart of puff pastry "Flour"There really isn't much when it comes to choosing flour for puff pastry. All you'd want is a flour with a slightly high protein content which effectively forms gluten for elasticity and resilience and contains little to no bran. Basically these characteristics are more dominant in All purpose flour and Pastry flour. A blend of bread flour with about 40 % pastry flour will do just fine. You can also use the flours both in their bleached or unbleached form, the difference is "peewee". So once you're sure you've got the right flour, which could be Pastry flour, All purpose flour, or a proper blend of Bread and Pastry flour, in its best quality, then you're only 70% away from making an excellent puff pastry.
The second ingredient which is the soul of puff pastry is "Fat"Fat is what would majorly determine the taste of your finals, and that is why it is very important you take time to decide which one you use for the "Dough fat" and which you use as your "Main Fat" A bit confusing right?
"Dough fat" is the little amount of fat you rub into the flour during the dough making in traditional puff pastry.The aim is for the flour to be finely coated in fat to give it a light, crumbly and flaky texture when cooked.
"Main Fat" is the large square fat you enclose in the dough during traditional puff pastry making.
If you noticed, i specified "traditional puff pastry" which is one of the few methods for preparing puff pastry. Others include rough or simple puff pastry method which replaces "Main Fat" with "Dough Fat".
Most puff pastry recipes will call for butter in both the "Dough Fat" and the "Main Fat",and that is because butter is king of taste and has a very low melting point that easily allows for it to be rolled without melting when properly chilled, as compared to margarine which is difficult to handle in slightly warm temperatures .
You can use Organic quality Unsalted butter, Lard, "Pastry margarines" or Vegetable shortenings as your fat. The only difference would be in the working temperature and taste.
On average, your working temperature should be at most 66 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 19-20 degrees centigrade) to be able to effectively work with all fats mentioned above.
Now that you have the heart and soul of puff pastry at your palms, its time to bring it to live.
You can check my article on "Different methods for puff pastry" to do that.
Other Ingredients that might as well be useful during puff pastry making include:Acids: Buttermilk, Lemon juice, or even Vinegar are acidic ingredients that can be found in different puff pastry recipes. Its no magic that the gluten in your dough toughens and would require acids to soften and tenderize it to prevent shrinkage and thats where our acidic ingredients come into play. For puff pastry, it is most common to use Lemon juice or Vinegar. Mostly 1 tablespoon for 4 cups of flour would do.
Salt: It is essential but not necessary. it contributes a lot to the overall flavor, and enhances texture. You would want to add salt in your dough to prevent hard crust, toughness and overall dense nature. Mostly 1 teaspoon for 4 cups of flour would do.
Sugar: You already have an idea what this does, it sweetens. Also, it partially contributes to leavening, and leaves crusts moist. It is totally optional. Mostly 1 tablespoon of sugar for 4 cups of flour would do.
Yeast & Baking powder: This are puff pastry ingredients i happen to call "Very not necessary" but helpful especially if you're trying out puff pastry for the first time. I think where a lot of bakers fail in puff pastry is "successfully creating layers of butter and dough for leavening". So if you're afraid you cant leaven your pastry with mere layers, adding yeast or baking powder in the early stage would help leaven your dough eventually, except that we wouldn't call your dough "puff pastry" it'll be "Yeast Pastry" or "Baking powder Pastry"! Yee!
The last, final and most important of all ingredients that sums up all other ingredient into a final product: May be "Crunchy" crimp" "flaky" "delicious "So not good" or even "tasteless" is - Your Focus, Mindset and most of all Patience. As you know, puff pastry calls for dedication, never give up spirit and also puts bakers to test with time. Ability to persevere and endure all of this, and put together all the ingredients in the right manner, will leave you with nothing but That Perfect Puff Pastry.