This version of flaky pastry is long on buttery goodness and perfect if you're short on time.
The joys of puff pastry are widely appreciated. Witness the Saturday morning queues at any self-respecting pâtisserie, all those customers toting white-paper-bagged trays of golden goodness. Unfortunately, though, unless the aforementioned pâtisserie is willing to sell you a slab of its house-made pastry, or your local deli stocks the Carême version (yes, we sing its praises regularly, and no, we're not paid advocates - it's simply a great product), much of what's available from the shops is second-rate at best, generally made with margarine and lacking the buttery moreishness of a great puff pastry.
You could, of course, make your own (see our recipe for puff pastry). There's an art to it, and if you've got the time to invest, it will pay rich dividends. The reality is, though, that many of us are time-poor. Don't be dismayed. There's an alternative, and rough puff pastry is it. It doesn't require the technical precision that puff pastry does, it's less time-consuming, and it's a similarly buttery, flaky product - you'll find it difficult to resist going back for seconds.
The difference is in the rise. Well-made puff pastry rises and rises, and evenly, which is crucial when you're making delicate dishes such as millefeuille or pithiviers. This is less of a concern for dishes of a more rustic nature, and this is where rough puff comes into its own.
While it's not as lengthy a process as making puff pastry, you'll still need to allow a bit of time. Happily, you can do a fold or two one day and finish it off the next, with no detrimental effect at all. Conversely it can be done and dusted - and at a push, ready to use - in about an hour and a half, although it'll benefit from a good rest after you've completed the turning process. So clear a bit of your schedule, clear a bench and give yourself plenty of room.
Rough puff requires the same weight of butter as flour and just under half that quantity of water. A good pinch of salt is a must. Start off with your butter cold and cubed, your water iced. And have to hand a pastry scraper, preferably metal, available from kitchenware suppliers. Using this simple tool to cut the butter into the flour is super-quick, and also leaves large-ish chunks of butter dispersed throughout the mixture. This butter, when cooked, gives off steam, creating the requisite flakiness and layers. Never knead the dough or it will become tough and elastic, lacking those desirable layers. All you want to do is bring the mixture together, then rest it before you start rolling and turning, rolling and turning your way to pastry perfection. Try not to incorporate too much additional flour when you're doing this - dust your benchtop, your rolling pin and your pastry only lightly. Apart from that it's a fairly loose affair, and when you're done there's a whole world of pies, free-form tarts and other delights at your fingertips (such as this mushroom and ricotta galette).
Our final tip? Make a truckload and freeze it. Your cooking repertoire will thank you for it.