Puff, the magic pastry! If you’re new to puff pastry, this flaky and delicious dough can seem intimidating. But don’t worry, because while you can eventually learn to make your own, the pre-made stuff is generally pretty good quality and great for baking. Honestly, even the pros use it sometimes!
How to get started with puff pastry sheets
Where is puff pastry in the supermarket?
Puff pastry can be found in the frozen aisle of your local grocery store. Often, it will be located in the dessert section, or near the frozen pie dough and/or frozen phyllo dough.
Are puff pastry and phyllo dough the same thing?
No. While both have flaky-textured results, puff pastry and phyllo dough are not the same. The key difference is fat: namely, puff pastry has plenty of it, while phyllo dough has just a little bit.
Puff pastry is made by folding fat (usually butter) into the dough over and over; phyllo dough is far thinner and doesn’t have nearly as much fat in the dough.
Storing and defrosting puff pastry
As with any frozen item, when you purchase frozen puff pastry try to get back home fast so you can properly store it. Store the puff pastry in the freezer.
When you take it out to thaw, you’ll notice that the puff pastry comes in a tri-fold, like a folded letter; do NOT attempt to unfold it until it is thawed.
To thaw, you should always review the instructions listed on the packaging, as they will be most specific for the puff pastry you’ve purchased. However, here are some good rules of thumb.
If you have 5 minutes
To thaw frozen puff pastry in the microwave, work with one pastry sheet at a time and follow this process:
- Wrap the pastry sheet in a paper towel and microwave on HIGH for 10 seconds.
- Turn over, and microwave for 10 seconds on the second side.
- If the pastry still is not quite ready to unfold, give it 5 more seconds on each side (repeating one more time if necessary).
If you have 40 minutes
To thaw puff pastry at room temperature, remove the sheets from the box and packaging. Let thaw until the pastry is able to be unfolded (it will still be cold), about 30-40 minutes.
If you have a few hours
To thaw puff pastry the fridge, remove the puff pastry from the packaging, and place each sheet on a separate plate and cover each with plastic wrap. Let defrost in the fridge until it can easily be unfolded, about 4 hours. Personally, I’ve let it defrost overnight and haven’t noticed any adverse effects.
How to bake with frozen puff pastry
Your puff pastry is defrosted — what now? Start by gently unfolding it. As you unfold, if you notice resistance — that is, if it seems like the pastry will crack apart if you continue — you haven’t defrosted long enough. Let it sit (or microwave it) a little longer. It should be somewhat cool but firm, not gummy, in texture.
Once you unfold, you may notice creases. You can use your hands or a rolling pin to gently smooth them out, but don’t work them too much or they can prevent the pastry from rising — part of the magic of puff pastry is that it expands to about 8 times its original thickness when baked!
If you’re using a recipe that calls for puff pastry, it will usually have the courtesy to tell you what to do next in terms of rolling and cutting.
What should you make with puff pastry?
There are so many possibilities, both sweet and savory. Here are three quick ideas for puff pastry to get started:
Savory puff pastry cups
Cut your puff pastry into approximately 2½” squares, and press each square into a cupcake tin. Fill with savory fillings such as cooked meat, vegetables and cheese; bake at 375 F until toasty and golden.
Puff pastry turnovers
Even easier than pie! Simply fill squares of puff pastry with preserves or jam, fold it over into a triangle, bake, and enjoy the breakfast of champs!
Puff pastry palmiers
Puff pastry palmiers are easy and delicious. As you can see in this recipe, it really is as easy as sweetening the dough, shaping, cutting and baking at 400 F.
For more clever and inspiring ideas for how to use puff pastry, check out this handy list!