One of the foodie joys I miss most by not eating wheat is the crisp, golden, flaky, melt-in-the-mouth bite of real puff pastry. Whilst I’m not about to claim that the following recipe comes close to the original, it does make a crisp, flavoursome alternative that makes a crunchy base for a tart or a handsome topping for a pie. It’s good with sweet or savoury flavours. I use half white vegetable fat and half butter for my taste, but you can substitute the butter for a vegetable based block margarine if you’re dairy free or vegan – butter or margarine adds colour as well as flavour so using all white fat will give a different result. Tapioca flour is often part of a gluten-free blend but adding a little extra to the mix helps give a more stretchy texture to the dough which helps in the layering process.
I remember that rough puff pastry was one of the first “fancy” pastries I made at school, and I’ve been making it ever since. A favourite because it starts off as one hell of a messy mixture, but by the end of all the rolling and folding, you end up with a silky smooth, perfect block of pastry. Even with wheat flour, the rise isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot easier to work the fat into gluten-free flour using the “rough puff” method than with any other method I have tried. It does take a bit of time, but if you fancy the challenge, why not give it a go?
Makes: approx. 550g
- 65g cornflour
- 65g tapioca flour
- 120g gluten-free plain flour blend + extra for dusting (I use Dove’s Farm)
- ½ tsp salt
- 75g unsalted butter or non-dairy, vegetable margarine, chilled
- 75g white vegetable fat (I use Trex), chilled
- 150ml cold water
- Put the 3 flours in a large mixing bowl with the salt and mix together until well blended.
- Cut the butter or margarine and white vegetable fat into small pieces and stir into the flour, coating each piece of fat in flour.
- Gradually stir in the water until the mixture comes together to make a soft, very lumpy dough.Then turn turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and work the dough into a flat, roughly rectangular, shape.
- Now the rolling and folding begins. The aim is to consistently roll out the pastry to the same dimensions, and then to fold it, turn it and seal it in the same way each time; this is how the pastry layers get constructed. My rolling pin is 35cm long and is the perfect length guide for rolling out the pastry to consistently the same length. Roll out the pastry to approximately this length, with a width about 12cm.
- Fold the top one third of the pastry down and the bottom one third up and over the top pastry; twist the pastry round so that the open edge is facing to the right, and gently press the 3 open edges of the pastry together with the rolling pin (see middle image of slide below).
- Repeat this rolling, folding, turning and sealing 3 more times and then chill the pastry for 30 minutes. The mixture will be very sticky but try to refrain from dusting with too much flour as this will dry the texture of the pastry.
- After the chill time, repeat the rolling, folding, turning and sealing another 3 times, working the pastry each time in the same direction. You should now begin to feel that the fat is more blended into the flour. Chill the pastry for a further 30 minutes.
- Now you’re on the home-stretch. Repeat the process 3 more times and you should see that the fat pieces have practically disappeared. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour before using. From start to finish, you should aim to roll and fold the pastry 10 times.
Unless I have lots of baking to do, I usually cut the pastry in half or quarters and wrap for freezing. It cooks perfectly after freezing and means that you have a back up supply for future use. You’re now ready to use the pastry as per your recipe.
You will need to dust the work surface with extra gluten-free flour and put some on your rolling pin too. It is tricky to roll the pastry very thinly, so I usually stop trying at 1/2 cm. For thicker crusts (like vol-au-vents), 1cm gives a good rise. When rolling up, say for palmiers or arlette, you will notice the pastry cracks quite easily. After chilling and wrapping the roll in baking parchment, it is possible to smooth out some of the cracks before slicing and baking – recipes to follow in future posts.
I usually bake the pastry at 200°C (180°C fan oven, gas mark 6), and most things benefit with a light protein-based glaze (milk or egg depending on your diet). I have found that exposed edges of the pastry do bake quite hard after cooking, so if you’re making a turnover or roll, you may want to wrap the pastry round the filling entirely so that the pastry forms a seam rather than a flat, sealed edge.
The finished result is crisp and flaky, with good flavour, and if you do the rolling and folding correctly, you should get plenty of layers.