Puff pastry from City Bakery, Mumbai. Photo: Tara Deshpande Tennebaum
In India, pattice and savoury khara biscuits available at Irani cafes are the most commonly eaten snack made from puff pastry. Puff Pastry also known as butter paste and puff paste originated in France, where it is called pâte feuilletée or feuilletage. Feuille is the French word for leaf.
Puff pastry, unlike pâte brisée is a laminated dough where layers of dough are repeatedly rolled and rested with layers of butter to produce a very flaky, fine and crisp dough. In some early, medieval recipes eggs were also added to the dough. The process is far more time consuming than short crust or choux pastry so many home cooks buy it frozen or readymade at a bakery.
The first published recipe for puff pastry appeared in François Pierre La Varenne's "Pastissier Francois" in 1653. But it was invented some years before this in 1645 by a French pastrycook's apprentice, Claudius Gele who accidentally stumbled upon the technique for puff pastry while trying to make a loaf of bread for his bed-ridden father.
Claudius later went to work for the Brothers Mosca's pastry shop in Florence, Italy where he continued to produce the puff pastry for his employers all the while keeping the recipe secret. He made his employers a fortune.
While many food historians agree puff paste was a logical outcome of short crust pastry, others believe that it was influenced by Middle Eastern Phyllo and werqa dough made with olive oil and fine sheets of dough.
No huff puff pizza. Photo: Binaifer Bharucha
My 1765 edition of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by a Lady has an early recipe for ‘Puff-pafte’. By the early 1800’s puff pastry become the standard term used in English cookbooks.
In Mumbai, you can buy puff pastry to order at Worli’s City Bakery. They sell it by the kilogram and must be ordered with 24 hour notice. It is also available refrigerated in 250 gram sheets at American Bakery in Byculla. Both are vegan. Check with the local Irani cafés in your city – if they make khara biscuits and pattice, chances are they will sell you the readymade dough.
While the packages recommend you keep the pastry frozen I find freezing and unfreezing dough in humid weather ferments it; I would suggest you keep the puff pastry refrigerated and use it within 48 hours. For me puff pastry is the go-to when I don’t have time to make leavened dough or a short crust pastry.
Apple & cinnamon turnovers. Photo: Binaifer Bharucha
Here are some of the easy, elegant and delicious recipes I make. You can also make chicken pot pies, cheese straws, vol au vents and poisson en croute (whole fish wrapped in pastry).
RECIPES YOU CAN MAKE WITH PUFF PASTRY
No Huff Puff Pizza
Perfect for large groups, you can add on almost any filling. While this recipe calls for a red sauce you can also do a Pizza Bianca or a sweet dessert pizza with fruit compote and almonds.
The author began her career on the English stage and worked as a model and MTV veejay. Post marriage, she moved to the US and attended classes at The French Culinary Institute in New York and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. The cookbook author now lives in New York and Mumbai, and documents her food stories on her website.