Don't Bother Buying Frozen Puff Pastry If It's Not All Butter

From savory pot pies or a delicious onion tart to sweet fruit tarts and syrupy baklava, puff pastry is an ingredient that can make any meal or dessert feel special. The only unpleasant aspect of this type of pastry is that it's incredibly hard to make from scratch. Consisting of hundreds of buttery, flaky, super-thin layers that are meant to puff up and rise when baked, puff pastry requires multiple labor-intensive rounds of rolling, folding, and chilling dough. This is why frozen puff pastry has become such a staple in many home kitchens.

Frozen puff pastry is considered an acceptable shortcut even among some pro pastry chefs. Even chefs who know how to make pastry from scratch often recommend that home cooks save themselves the trouble and use a store-bought kind, and the results can be just as good as homemade. However, store-bought puff pastry can vary in quality, so not just any brand will do. The key is to look for a product that is labeled "all-butter."

Butter is what gives puff pastry its essential richness and puffy rise. As the pastry is rolled and folded, thin layers of butter are formed between the sheets of pastry dough, providing a rich flavor and light and crisp texture. However, some store-bought puff pastry brands use vegetable oil rather than butter, which can create a less satisfying result in terms of taste and texture.

All-butter puff pastry is more flavorsome and flaky

Traditional puff pastry only requires three ingredients: flour, butter, and salt. With such a short ingredients list, every part matters, so there's no way to hide a sneaky swap like using oil in place of butter. Leaving out the butter creates an obvious absence of flavor. All-butter frozen puff pastry tends to taste richer and more like homemade, while pastry made with vegetable oil has a different flavor that some may find flat, underwhelming, and overall less pleasant.

It's not just the taste of butter that matters when it comes to puff pastry. Butter also acts as a leavening agent. In the heat of the oven, the butter in the pastry melts, releasing its water content and creating steam. This airy steam creates pockets of air in the pastry as the sheetsx of dough are pushed apart, creating the deliciously light, flaky layers that puff pastry is meant to have. Oil simply doesn't product the same crispness and flakiness.

Assuming you're not looking for a dairy-free puff pastry, all-butter is always the way to go. These products make your dishes and desserts taste homemade, with much less fuss than actually making the pastry yourself. At the store, closely examine each package of pastry to see if it's all-butter or not. A few more tips, such as knowing how to defrost the pastry and how it should be rolled and cut, can make your recipes even better.

How to elevate frozen puff pastry when baking

To get the most out of your frozen puff pastry, defrost it in the refrigerator for at least three hours to overnight before using it, and don't thaw it any longer than that. Using the fridge — rather than leaving the dough out at room temperature — makes the butter less prone to melting, which could ruin the pastry's rise. Using the pastry as soon as possible after defrosting it also keeps it in good shape with no risk of melting.

When cutting the pastry, use a very sharp knife or cutter, so you don't crush the delicate dough while trying to slice through it. If you need to roll your pastry any thinner than the sheets already are, remember to keep your rolling pin cool, dust your the pin and rolling surface with flour, and don't roll the pastry too thin. All these tips ensure that the pastry doesn't warm up too much or get sticky or squished, which can compromise its texture.

Oncer you get the hang of using frozen puff pastry, you'll find that it's incredibly versatile in both sweet and savory dishes. Even pro chef Ina Garten uses frozen pastry to make flake and crispy croutons as a garnish for soups. Don't be afraid to take this culinary shortcut to churn out delicious pastries in record time. Just make sure to use an all-butter product and you'll be halfway to success.