The dough begins like pie crust with cold butter mixed into the flour to a cornmeal consistency. Once it comes together is when the true labor begins. The dough is rolled around a thick slab of butter. Through a process of folding, turning, and rolling, the butter is dispersed throughout the dough creating hundreds of very thin layers of dough separated by a film of butter.
The butter layer is what causes the rise. When the pastry is heated, the butter melts and boils, creating steam which lifts the successive layers higher and higher. At the same time, the heat is cooking the flour, hardening it around those minute air pockets, creating the puff.
Puff pastry expands 6 to 8 times its pre-baked height. Puff pastry is known as Pâté feuilletée, in France and is used in the making of Napoleons, palmiers, croissants, allumettes, turnovers, en croute dishes, pithiviers, tartes tatain, beef Wellington, bouchées, and vol-au-vents.
More About Puff Pastry and Puff Pastry Recipes:• Puff Pastry Storage and Cooking Tips
• What is puff pastry and what is it made from? FAQ
• Puff Pastry Recipes
Puff Pastry Photo © 2009 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.