A box of frozen puff pastry is something of a miracle ingredient. If you've ever baked with it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It puffs into delicate, buttery layers, turning even the most basic recipe into something that feels totally fancy.
It's also super easy to use — all you need to do is pull the box out of the freezer and pop the dough in the oven, right? Well, not quite, although we promise it's almost that simple. Just remember these tips and you'll be on your way to light and flaky breakfast turnovers, bite-sized apps, and savory tarts.
1. Thaw your frozen puff pastry (preferably in the fridge, overnight).
Frozen puff pastry is a convenient alternative to homemade puff pastry, but it does require a little advance planning since it can't actually be used in its frozen state. It needs to be thawed before it can be baked into something delicious, and doing so overnight in the fridge is the best approach. This allows the pastry to become pliable without softening too much.
That said, if you forgot to take your puff out of the freezer last night and need to use it ASAP, hope is not lost! You can thaw frozen puff pastry at room temperature. The key is keeping an eye on it — you want to use it when it's just ready to be unfolded and rolled, but before it's softens too much so that the dough is limp and the butter is melting.
2. Unfold your pastry only when fully thawed.
Frozen puff pastry comes folded into a neat little package, which needs to be unfolded in order for you to use it. But don't make the mistake of doing so too early! While unfolding the pastry is a minor step in cooking, it can cause the pastry to crack or break. If the pastry does start to crack, wait a few minutes and try again.
3. Flour your work surface and your rolling pin.
Next, you'll want to flatten out your puff pastry — but before you do so, lightly flour not just your work surface but also the rolling pin. This will help the pastry to roll out smooth, and prevent any sticking and pulling.
4. Use restraint with your rolling pin.
Puff pastry is delicate and it requires some delicacy. If you over-roll or use too much force, you'll roll our some of the flakiness (read: it won't puff as much).
5. Cut with care.
If you're cutting the puff pastry, do so with care. Use a sharp-edged cookie cutter for shapes or a paring knife or pizza-cutter if cutting into squares. If you're using the entire puff pastry sheet (whole), it's also a good idea to trim the edges. This will give your tart a clean edge and also makes it easier for pastry to puff up.
6. All you need for a puffy crust is a paring knife and a fork.
If you want to make a big tart — or little tartlets! — with puffed-up crusts, it's easy to do. Just use a paring knife to score a border, then poke the inside with the tines of the fork. The edges will puff up and the center will stay down.
7. Chill the pastry again before baking.
Want a little extra assurance your puff pastry will really puff? Pop it in the fridge after working with it, while the oven preheats. This step gives the butter a chance to re-solidify, to get an even better result.
8. Serve as soon as possible!
Puff pastry won't last forever. Make only what you'll eat and make as close to serving as possible.
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Did we miss anything? What's your best tip for working with frozen puff pastry dough?