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Everything you need to know about this light and flaky pastry dough.

By Melanie Fincher
January 07, 2020
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If you aren't already acquainted with puff pastry, let me introduce you to this versatile baking staple. You're probably familiar with the buttery and flaky pastries found at your local bakery. What's the secret? It all starts with puff pastry.

Get comfortable with using this dough for easy appetizers, desserts, and so much more. Whether you're making it from scratch or using store-bought dough, here's everything you need to know about puff pastry.

What is Puff Pastry?

Puff pastry is a light and flaky pastry made from a laminated dough, or dough that is made by alternating layers of butter and dough. The only ingredients used to make puff pastry are butter, salt, water, and flour — no leavening agents are required.

Making puff pastry from scratch is no small task. It involves wrapping a cold block of butter in dough, rolling it out, folding it over, and repeating this rolling and folding process until you're left with hundreds of layers of pastry dough. Not to mention, the dough needs to chill between each turn of rolling and folding, make the process very time-consuming.

In the oven, the liquid in both the butter and dough evaporates, causing the layers to puff. The butter melts into the dough giving it its golden color and crispy texture. The technique was perfected by the French but has been adopted by bakers all over the world.

Because of this painstaking process, many people choose to forego making puff pastry from scratch, instead opting for the store-bought version found in the freezer aisle. Whether you make it from scratch or you use the store-bought kind, the result is a light and buttery pastry with a slight crunch to it. It's used for everything from turnovers and palmiers to pinwheels and even beef wellington.

Puff Pastry vs. Phyllo Dough

It's easy to get puffy pastry confused with it's laminated dough cousin, phyllo. After all, they're both made with the same ingredients. The main difference between the two is phyllo dough is stretched and stacked, rather than rolled and folded like puff pastry. It also contains less water, which doesn't give it the same rise as puff pastry.

Phyllo dough sheets are almost as thin as a leaf, which is actually where it gets its name from (the world filo or fillo means "leaf" in Greek). Phyllo is common throughout Greece, Turkey, and much of the Middle East. It's likely most famous for being used in baklava, and like puff pastry, it can also be found in the freezer aisle.

How to Make Puff Pastry from Scratch

While using store-bought puff pastry is certainly convenient, making it from scratch allows you to observe the magic of puff pastry rising in the oven without the help of any leavening agents. So if you're in the mood for a weekend in baking project, read our guide on how to make puff pastry dough from scratch.

How to Cook With Puff Pastry

Making puff pastry from scratch is the hard part — cooking with it is easier than you would think! Use it to make easy pastries that look that came straight from a French pâtisserie. And it's an easy way to add something new to weeknight dinners. Read on for our tips on how to work with frozen puff pastry.

Where to Buy Puff Pastry

Frozen puff pastry sheets come in a long rectangular box in the frozen section of most grocery stores; sheet sizes will vary, so check the dimensions on the box. Puff pastry is often found next to the pie crust and other frozen doughs. You may also be able to find packaged puff pastry cups for savory appetizers and delicate desserts. Keep a package of frozen puff pastry in your freezer at all times for easy last-minute baking.

Pepperidge Farm Frozen Puff Pastry Sheets
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How to Store Puff Pastry

Store-bought puff pastry should be stored in the freezer until use. To use, follow the thawing instructions on the box. Homemade puff pastry can be refrigerated for a couple days or stored in the freezer for up to a month. Be sure to rewrap what you don't use tightly in plastic wrap.

You can also store uncooked pastries in an airtight container in the freezer for up to two weeks. When you're ready to cook them, they can go straight from the freezer to the oven.

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We're serving up and celebrating the biggest home-cooking trends from the most enthusiastic cooks we know: our community. We crunched the data from 1.2 billion annual Allrecipes.com visits and 2.5 billion annual page views. Then we dug even further, surveying Allrecipes cooks about what's in their carts and fridges, on their stovetops and tables, and on their minds. Puff pastry is just one of the topics they're most curious about. See more of the "State of Home Cooking" special report.