Clever chefs and professional patissiers make proper puff pastry and sometimes call it millefeuille (meaning `thousand leaves). It involves rolling and folding the pastry several times to trap the air and letting it rest between rollings. It is a labour of love and dedication and can be therapeutic if you have time to lock yourself away for a few hours but it is not something for the fraught cook trying to juggle this with the rest of life happening outside the kitchen. Yet all is not lost because there is a quick and easy version crisp light and if you close your eyes you wont know whether you are eating 50 or 1000 leaves because the taste will be the same.
Quick flaky pastry is really a cheats version because it doesnt involve the turning rolling resting and all the palaver that goes into the real thing. The advantage is that what you get is a homemade pastry made purely with butter which gives you a texture and flavour that is quite unique and special but at the same time doesnt involve either a lot of time or believe it or not a lot of skill. The secret is grating partly frozen butter then mixing it with flour (so no boring rubbing in). It really does involve the minimum of skill but at the same time produces spectacular results.
What should perfect flaky pastry be like? Answer: as light as possible wafer thin and so crisp it eats like a whisper so that you hardly know its there. So if you dont believe that its incredibly easy to achieve here are the detailed instructions. I promise you will be so pleased with the results that you will probably make four more batches to put in the freezer for a rainy day.
Flourshould always be soft plain and sifted lifting the sieve high as you do so and letting it fall into a large roomy bowl. I have said it before but there is no harm in underlining that the most important ingredient in pastry is air. Sifting the flour like this gives it a good airing.
RestingLike all pastries quick flaky pastry must be rested after it has been mixed that means putting it in a polythene bag in the refrigerator and leaving it there for 30 minutes.
TextureQuick flaky pastry is not puff pastry so dont expect it to rise up like a thousand leaves. It is light textured and flaky though and will puff and rise fractionally when it is cooking.
Then when you are ready to make the pastry sift the flour and salt into a large roomy bowl. Take the butter out of the freezer fold back the foil and hold it in the foil which will protect it from your warm hands. Then using the coarse side of a grater placed in the bowl over the flour grate the butter dipping the edge of the butter on to the flour several times to make it easier to grate. What you will end up with is a large pile of grated butter sitting in the middle of the flour.
Now take a palette knife and start to distribute the gratings into the flour dont use your hands yet just keep trying to coat all the pieces of fat with flour. Now sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cold water all over continue to use the palette knife to bring the whole thing together and finish off using your hands. If you need a bit more moisture thats fine just remember that the dough should come together in such a way that it leaves the bowl fairly clean with no bits of loose butter or flour anywhere. Now pop it into a polythene bag and chill for 30 minutes before using. Remember this like other pastries freezes extremely well in which case you will need to defrost it thoroughly and let it come back to room temperature before rolling it out on a lightly floured surface.
All you do is grate the frozen butter into once the butter is distributed add water Finisb of with your hands adding a the flour using the coarse side of the grater and use a palette knife to combine little more water if the pastry needs it