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Years ago I was hired by a Le Cordon Bleu chef to teach a baking class in Seattle, Washington, and the topic was gluten free puff pastry. I was initially daunted by the idea, having never made puff pastry before, gluten free or otherwise. But I set to work researching the different methods of making this iconic pastry dough, and what ingredients could work to make it both gluten free and dairy free. I wanted uncompromising results, and I wanted to devise a recipe that was easy and quick enough for anyone to make it (no chef training required!).
Here’s what I learned. Purists will tell you that butter is essential to making puff pastry taste so delicious and have such a distinctive, flaky texture; however, I found that vegan Earth Balance® Buttery Sticks work just as well in this recipe, for those who must avoid dairy. I also ran across the belief that no good puff pastry could be made without gluten. Well we know I wouldn’t stop until I’d proved that notion wrong, don’t we?! With the right combination of gluten-free flours, anything is deliciously possible!
A bit more about puff pastry, and why it bakes up as such a light, lovely dough. The primary ingredients are butter and flour, so don’t compromise on either. No one would enjoy a delicate pastry made with gritty rice flour or funky smelling bean flours, so take your ingredients seriously. Note – if you’re looking for a yeasted, Danish style puff pastry recipe, hop to my recipe here.
You’ll see in the directions that I focus on the process: it is essential not to overwork the dough so that the butter doesn’t melt in the dough as you work with it. The dough is folded over itself again and again, forming layers, but the balls of cut up butter also help to form flaky layers by releasing steam, pushing the dough apart while baking.
Bakeries making traditional puff pastry often work the dough over the period of a few days. For our purposes though, this “rough” puff pastry method will do just fine. This method creates a lovely pastry dough with stretch and resilience, strong enough to wrap around anything savory or sweet, yet not tough in any way.
The delicate texture so indicative of this dough is preserved using this method, and the whole process only takes about 1 ¼ hours! If you have a silpat or pastry mat, that is the most ideal work space for this pastry-making endeavor. It is also really helpful to have a pastry cutter or bench scraper, but two butter knives will certainly do.
So let’s get started, why don’t we?
(Note: I have received so many requests lately to share this recipe that I am publishing it without going back and taking new photos. I will add more photos and step-by-step photos as I have time, but I promised to publish the recipe anyway, for those who really, really want to make gluten free puff pastry NOW).
Whisk together 2 1/2 cups of gfJules Flour, baking soda and salt and pour out onto a clean counter or pastry mat (leave a lot of space to work for yourself). Slice pieces of butter by tablespoons or smaller, and drop them into the flour mixture, stopping periodically to cover the butter pieces with more gfJules flour by tossing together (total flour used will be around 3 cups when flour is added to the counter or pastry mat).
When all the butter is in the flour mixture, begin chopping into the flour with your pastry cutter, bench scraper or two butter knives cutting against one another like scissors. Chop and toss together until a rough meal is formed – you are not trying to eliminate the chunks altogether, just make them roughly equal and well-integrated.
Begin gradually adding in the cold water by pouring into the flour and using your pastry cutter to mix all together until it can form a ball of dough. You may need slightly less or more than ½ cup, but work the water into the flour well before adding more than ½ cup, as the more you work with the dough, the more moisture is released into the dough from the butter, and you don’t want to make the dough overly wet.
Form the dough into a rough ball and pat into a large rectangle, with shaped corners. Begin gently rolling the dough into an elongated rectangle, approximately 18 x 15 inches. Fold like a business letter by folding from the short end in thirds to layer on top of itself. Gently lift the dough and turn one quarter, and fold again from the short side. You will see the butter will begin to marble in the dough. Wrap dough tightly and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
After refrigeration, begin the same rolling and folding process again, dusting with more flour if you need to keep it from sticking to the mat and rolling pin. Repeat this process two times after refrigeration, then return, tightly wrapped, to the refrigerator or freezer for at least another 20 minutes. Try not to over-work the dough at all.
Cut the dough in quarters and return three quarters, tightly wrapped, to the refrigerator when beginning a recipe, so that the other portions won’t dry out or get too warm while you are working the other dough. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze in freezer bags for up to one month.
Use in any recipe calling for puff pastry dough. You can see some ideas here from my photograph: wrap around asparagus, line mini muffin cups and fill, envelop a round of brie, cream puffs … let your imagination be your guide!