Pastry · Puff Pastry

Homemade Puff Pastry Dough

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This week's Last week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection, Parisian Apple Tartlets, calls called for puff pastry dough, apples, brown sugar, and butter.  The sensible thing to do, when confronted with such an easy recipe (no mixing, grating, whisking, double boilering, or anything like that) would be to rejoice, pour a cup of coffee, and go catch up on your blog reading.  I, however, do not always do the sensible thing, and so I decided to make my own puff pastry dough instead of using the frozen Pepperidge Farm dough (which I do have in my freezer, you know, for those puff pastry emergencies.)

I figured "Hey!  It would make for a great step-by-step blog post!"  Plus, I don't know, I LIKE making things from scratch.  Best of all, I had everything I needed.  Flour, butter, salt, water, lemon juice. 

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I've made puff pastry dough before – it's not really as difficult as it may seem.  I think the daunting part of it is the time involved.  Like bread, puff pastry dough takes a while from start to finish, but it's not like you're slaving over a bowl of ingredients for that whole time.  You mix stuff together, get it situated, and then leave it alone for a while.  Then you go back to it, mess with it a bit, and then leave it alone.  You mess with the puff pastry dough more frequently than you do with the bread dough, but there's still time in between to do other things.  And the "messing with" part takes but a couple of minutes. 

For the recipe, I turned, this time around, to Rose Levy Berenbaum's fabulous The Pie and Pastry Bible.  She offers an ingredient list for both a small and a large batch, and I figured I might as well make the large batch.  I could always freeze whatever I didn't use for the tartlets.  Then I'd have some homemade puff pastry dough in addition to Pepperidge Farm's version.  You know, in case I had a LOT of puff pastry emergencies.

But then I was thinking (oddly enough) about health and nutrition, and I thought – "What about making puff pastry dough with some whole wheat flour instead of just the all-purpose?  How would that be?"

So I shifted gears and decided to make two small batches:  one with just AP flour, and one with a blend of AP and whole wheat.

And that's where we begin.

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On the left side we have a cup and a half of AP flour, 1 cup of unsalted butter (Ms. Berenbaum recommends Plugra or some other French butter – I'm assuming because the water content is lower than our American butter, but I used the watery American butter anyway.  I had a lot of it and didn't feel good about rushing out and spending a lot more money for the other stuff.  Now…if I didn't have unsalted butter on hand, things might have been different.), half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of lemon juice, and half a cup of water (in the blue mug).  On the right side we have basically the same set-up except I used one cup of AP flour and half a cup of whole wheat.  (Yesterday I thought I should have maybe made a third batch with all whole wheat…perhaps I'll try that another time.)

The butter should be cold, but you don't have to freeze it.

What's the lemon juice for?  You could also use white vinegar.  They both provide a bit of acidity that helps break down the proteins a little and make it easier to roll out the dough.

Oh, and keep in mind that the directions I'm giving apply to either version.  I don't see the need to say "do this with the AP version and then do it with the whole wheat version."  I'm long-winded enough as it is.

Okay, first thing you do is cut off 2 tablespoons (or one ounce) of the butter and put the rest back in the fridge.  You'll get to that larger amount later.

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Next, you're going to combine most of the flour with all the salt and your 2 tablespoons of butter. 

I left the remaining bit of flour in the original bowl and placed the larger amount (a cup and a third) in a new bowl along with the salt and the butter.  I also cut the butter into smaller bits.

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Okay, next I poured the salt out of that little dish into the flour, and then, with my hands, worked the butter into the flour like you would when making a pie crust except that you want the butter completely worked in.  You don't want little lumps of fat in this part of the dough; you'll be making a great BIG lump of fat with the rest of that butter.

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Once the butter is worked in nicely, and the whole mixture is like sand…like slightly damp, slightly buttery sand…you pour in the lemon juice and 6 tablespoons of the water into the flour mixture and stir it all together just enough to get all the flour wet and form a shaggy little mess of dough.  If your dough is still on the dry side, you can add a bit more water.  Now turn the dough out onto the counter and knead just enough to form a smooth little ball. 

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You don't want to work it hard like you would with bread dough. 

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Now wrap the dough in plastic and set it aside to rest for about twenty minutes. 

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While the dough is resting, get your butter out of the fridge.  It's time to create your layers of fat.

Oh, and at this point, you can get rid of any remaining water.  You won't be needing it for this part of the process.

Okay.  For this part, you are going to combine your remaining ingredients – the large amount of butter and the small remaining amount of flour.  When I first learned to make puff pastry dough, I was taught to use a stand mixer to paddle the butter and flour together, and then to shape it into a square on some plastic wrap, and then chill in the fridge until it was firm but not rock hard. 

Ms. Berenbaum's method is faster and, when you're working with a small amount like we are right now, it makes more sense than using a mixer.  Your hands really are the best tools, you know.

So here's what you do, according to Ms. Berenbaum, with my commentary, of course, thrown in for good measure or for entertainment purposes. 

You need a sheet of plastic wrap – say around a foot long.  There are no measurements for that part – you just have to go with your gut on it.  Now, take the rest of your flour and dump that on the plastic.

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Now put your remaining butter on the flour, and take some of the flour and sprinkle it on top of the butter. 

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Next, wrap the butter and flour loosely in the wrap,

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and, with a rolling pin (or your fists, if it's been that kind of a day) pound the &*(%^! out of the butter.

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(Okay, not THAT hard.  Just enough to soften and flatten the butter.)

By the way – because I was making two batches of dough, and because violence was involved, Julia asked to do the second one. 

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What you're doing is softening the butter enough so you'll be able to work the flour into it, but not enough so soft that it's mushy or melty.  The plastic keeps things neat, and it also keeps your hands from coming in direct contact with the butter.  This is good for two reasons.  Number one – using your hands to manipulate the butter with no barrier would be messy.  Number two – the heat from your hands would soften the butter too much and you'd end up with that undesirable mushiness I just mentioned.

After you've pounded the butter down some, Ms. Berenbaum tells you to "knead the butter and flour together, using the plastic wrap and your knuckles."  It took me a little practice to get the hang of it, but eventually I got a kind of rhythm going, folding and turning the butter within the plastic, so that eventually all the loose flour was worked into the butter.

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  The butter was softer, certainly, than when I took it out of the fridge, but not melty and mushy.  More like modeling clay, or playdough.   At this point you shape the butter into a square about 4 to 4.5 inches on a side and about 3/4 of an inch thick. 

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Right now you can either go on to the next step, or, if you have errands to run or something, wrap the butter and put it in the fridge so it doesn't soften further. 

Ms. Berenbaum credits Bernard Clayton – he of bread baking/cookbook writing fame – with "coming up with the most significant secret to making successful puff pastry:  that is, the ideal temperature, 60 degrees F., for the butter."  If the butter is too cold, and, therefore, too hard, it will tear the dough.  If the butter is too warm, and too soft, it will ooze out of the dough and won't form the nice fat layers that give puff pastry its puff.

Anyway, if you refrigerate your butter, let it warm up a bit so it's pliable before you start folding it into the dough.  If you want to stick a thermometer into it just to be sure, that's okay, too, but you don't have to.  The butter should feel just a bit more firm than the dough.  You want it to be able to bend and roll out at the same pace, so to speak, as the dough itself.

Onward.

Time to laminate.

Yes.  Puff pastry, croissant and Danish doughs are all laminated doughs.  "What does this mean?" you might ask.  To laminate is basically to make something out of two or more layers of stuff.  It could mean flooring, it could mean encasing a sheet of paper in a plastic coating, like when you laminate pages or pictures…or, in this case, it means encasing butter in dough.  So laminated doughs are doughs made up of layers of dough and fat.  See?  No?  Here – I'll show you.

First you take your ball of dough.  The one that's been waiting off to the side for about 20 minutes while you beat up the butter.

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Flatten the dough on a floured surface and roll it out into a 6 inch square. 

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Now take your smaller square of butter and place it inside the dough stuare on the diagonal.  It will look like a quilt block.

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Okay, well, kind of.  My dough corners aren't as sharp as they could be.  And, of course, there's no seam allowance.  But you get the idea, right?

Next, you mark the outline of the butter on the dough, like so –

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Now set the butter aside for a moment while you get your rolling pin and roll out those corners of dough.  You need to elongate them so you can wrap them over the butter.  I found that starting the rolling-out process further in than the line on the dough gives you better (i.e. longer) results.

As you can see, on the left is the first one I made, the AP flour dough.  The rolled-out areas aren't all that rolled out, and when I stretched the dough over the butter, either the end didn't reach all the way, or the dough ripped.  When I did it a second time, with the 1/3 whole wheat dough, I made sure to roll more of the dough at each corner.  It may look freakishly big by comparison, but it worked a whole lot easier with that batch.

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Okay.  Once you've got your corners rolled out like in the pictures above, and your square of butter is in the center, brush the stretched out corners lightly with water to help them stick, and, one at a time, fold the corners up, over, and across the square of butter.

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As you can see, the corners didn't stretch far enough on this one, but you get the idea, right?

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Here it is, completely wrapped up like a gift.  This shot is of the 1/3 WW dough, where I'd rolled out the corners better and, as a result, the wrapping was better.

Next, you roll this package into a rectangle that measures 12" x 6".  When you do this you want to really keep the edges straight and corners nice so that you distribute the butter evenly throughout the dough.

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Then you fold the dough into thirds, like you'd fold a letter.  Dust the excess flour off as you go along.

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Now turn this rectangle so the open edge side is to the right and the "spine" is to the left, and carefully roll this into another 12 x 6 inch rectangle and repeat the fold process.

At this point you've done two "turns."  You can mark the dough itself by pressing two knuckles or fingertips into the dough and then wrapping it in plastic wrap and then foil OR

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and this is what I ended up doing - just keep track of the turns on the foil with a sharpie.

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Now put the dough in the fridge for 30-40 minutes to chill.  You don't want to leave it in for longer than 40 minutes or the butter will be too firm to roll out evenly with the rest of the dough. 

After the dough has chilled, unwrap it, place it on the floured counter with the spine to the left and the open edge to the right, as before, and roll it out again into your 12 x 6 inch rectangle and fold as before.

I found that rather than just rolling from center to edges in one fell swoop, it worked better if I pressed down with the rolling pin to flatten the rectangle more evenly before rolling it into the rectangle.

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Complete this – the third – turn, put the dough back in the fridge for 30-40 minutes again, and keep repeating this process until you have completed 6 or 7 turns.  The tradition is 6 turns, which gives you 729 layers; 7 turns will give you 2,187 layers.  The choice is yours.

Regardless of your final layer tally, you need to keep the dough chilled when you're not working with it, and when you bake with it, it should be cold when it goes into the oven. 

Why?

Because of the butter.  Butter will melt at around 90-95 degrees F.  Shortening, in contrast, has a higher melt point of about ten degrees higher.  The special "thing" about a laminated dough is the flaky layering that results from alternating layers of fat and dough.  The layers are created when the fat is hit with high (around 400 – 425 degrees F) heat, which not only causes the fat to melt; more importantly, the heat/fat interaction also creates steam, and that's what separates the layers of dough and gives you the desired flaky layers.

So.  If the fat is nice and cold, the sudden exposure to heat will create the melt/steam reaction very quickly.  If the fat is, say room temperature and already soft, then the exposure to the high heat won't be AS big a shock and the fat will just melt.  The layers won't be as pronounced, and some of the fat will run off, and the resulting pastry will be kind of greasy.  (By the same token, if your oven temperature isn't hot enough, you'll also end up with greasy pastry because the contrast of cold dough to hot air won't be extreme enough.

I hope I've explained that in a way that makes sense.

And now, back to our program.

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Here are the two doughs.  The 1/3 WW is on the left, and the AP is on the right.  Both puffed up equally well.  The WW had a stronger flavor, I noticed, but other than that there wasn't a huge difference between the two.  I thought the WW looked more interesting, with the little wheat speckles in it, but that's just aesthetics.

I'm definely considering making a batch with a higher whole wheat percentage, just because I'm curious.  I'll let you know when I do, of course.

Now, you can use puff pastry dough for all sorts of things – assorted tarts and tartlets (such as the recent TwD Parisian Apple Tartlets), Napoleons, and other sweet items, or you can use them to make savory tarts as well.

I used about half of the dough (some of each version) to make those tartlets, and then I made savory tarts with the rest of it.

Here's the first one just after it came out of the oven:

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It's hard to tell from the photo, but it puffed up really high.

Which leads me to another little bit of info for you – if you don't want your pastry to puff way up, you need to dock it, or poke little holes in the dough either with a fork or a pastry docker.  The holes made by the fork or docker also compress the layers of dough, and this prevents the dough from getting a good puff going.  It's similar to dimpling focaccia dough with your fingertips.

Anyway, I didn't think of docking the dough when I made the tarts, and this one was the only one that puffed up so high.  I think it was because the toppings weighed less than on the other tarts.

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(Here it is after it deflated.)

This first tart is covered with arugula, pepperoni, and cheddar cheese.  I made it for Alex, because he doesn't like mushrooms. 

Which leads us to the next tart:

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I sauteed big sliced mushrooms and a sliced onion in some butter until the moisture had cooked out and the smell was making me weak with hunger.  I spread this on the tarts (two of them) and then dotted the top with bits of ricotta and some salt and pepper.  Y.U.M.

I had one little piece of dough left, and I topped that with some ricotta and some grated romano cheese.

Here are the three different versions, all ready to go to the table:

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And that, at long last, is my neverending (it seems) post about making puff pastry dough.

See how NOT hard it really is?  It just takes a little time and a little patience. 

So GO!  GO NOW!  And make a batch.  It's extremely versatile, it rolls out beautifully, and it freezes well. 

And think how impressed your family and friends will be!

 

 

42 thoughts on “Homemade Puff Pastry Dough

  1. That was a great tutorial, with all of those step-by-step photos! Thanks for putting this post together for the benefit of puff pastry newbies like me!

  2. Thanks for this fantastically detailed post! It will definitely come in handy when I finally get motivated to make my own puff pastry 🙂

  3. Wow! Coming from someone who’s not known for being such a great baker, this looks like a lot of work to me, but the end results are amazing. All of those look so good!

    Great step by step instructions! Maybe I’ll get brave enough to make my first ever batch of puff pastry.

  4. Hi – thanks for the post, I was looking forward to it. Quick question – once you are finished folding and rolling, do you roll it out flatter to use it? The frozed stuff is pretty flat once you undo the tri-fold, while your dough looks thick. Thanks!

  5. Carmen, thank you! Actually, though, that isn’t flour (though it just as easily could be, the way I am) – we’ve been renovating the second floor of our home, making two bedrooms out of one, and I took that picture after I’d been sanding a ton of joint compound off the drywall. But it does look like flour – I hadn’t even thought of that til you mentioned it!

  6. Hi Anita,

    Yes – you do roll it out. I left it in the final fold because I was putting it back in the fridge, but at that point, you can roll it to any size/dimensions you’d like.

  7. Yum–those tarts look really delicious. And now you’ve got me wanting to make more puff pastry with some whole wheat. I did a quick version, and was amazed at how well it worked. I’ll have to do the full thing at some point.

  8. Hello !!

    I am a 17 year old girl that does not know what to do with her life. I want to be a oncologist, a lawyer or a Chef. I did some research before making puff pastry and every single website says that it is too difficult. I took a risk and made it. I did not use your recipe, but I did use your step by step recipe…THANK YOU SO MUCH !! U DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH THIS MEANS TO ME! I CAN NOW GO TO CULINARY SCHOOL =)

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  9. Tatiana,

    Good for you!  I’m so glad you made the puff pastry dough, despite what too many of “them” had led you to believe.  It’s not difficult at all, is it? 

    I applaud your intention to go to culinary school!!  I’d love to hear how that’s going, once you’ve started.  And even if you change your mind and decide to become an oncologist or a lawyer or something else, that’s okay, too.  You’re so young (I’m sure you’ve heard THAT before) and there are so many possibilities out there.  The main thing, as you know, now, having attempted and succeeded with the dough, is to try, no matter how difficult someone tells you something is.  Difficult does not equal impossible, nor does it equal not worth attempting.

    Best of luck to you!

  10. that was a very good tutorial its simple, the pictures are clear and the outcome was great! Thank you..from kenya…i am now more than ever motivated to make my own puff pastry sausage rolls..

  11. Wow! Impressive. I am hopeless when it comes to baking. Miraculously, I successfully learned to make pizza from scratch a few months ago. I think that success has gone to my head, seeing how I think I am ready to tackle something fancy like this!! So, I have a couple of ignorant questions: I tried adding up the times the dough rests in the fridge and it looks like this takes about 4.5 hours (possibly 6.5) to make? Did I add up right? And is it ready to use after the 6th (or 7th) fold? Thanks for your incredible post, and for answering my questions.

  12. Hi Marie,

    Youre right – itll take somewhere between 4.5-6.5 hours to make. But, like I said in the post, youre not actively working on it the whole time. Its kind of a good project if youre in and out during the day. The 30-40 minute rest time isnt cast in stone – if you need to leave it longer, you can. It just might need a bit of extra time on the other end for it to soften enough to roll and fold.

    And – yes, once youve finished the 6th or 7th roll, your dough is ready. Have fun!

    From: TypePad

  13. Hi, thank you for sharing your step by step making puff pastry. Where and how can I get this recipe for making this puff pastry?

  14. I know you said that the dough can be frozen. Any thoughts on how far in advance I should remove it from the freezer and leave in the fridge? And will wrapping it in plastic wrap suffice? How long will it stay good in the freezer?

    Also, have you ever rolled it out as pie dough? I am entering a savory pie contest and am testing my pie using this recipe. And I am using all whole wheat flour…we’ll see how it goes.

  15. Hi Amy,

    Ive used it as the base for savory tarts, so using it for a pie should work okay. As far as thawing goes, Id take it out of the freezer the day before you plan to use it and put it in the fridge. And wrapping – for long-term freezing Id wrap in plastic first, then foil or a ziploc bag or freezer paper for extra protection. I dont know how long it will stay good in the freezer; mine never stays in for very long because I know its there and I cant help but use it up. I would say three to six months, though.

    Good luck with the contest!

  16. I just tried this recipe for a salmon cream cheese wrap with cucumber sauce, and I was more than thrilled with the results. I can’t believe it came out so flaky and puffy. Thank you so much for this tutorial!

  17. I’m just a 72 year old male enthusiastic kitchen-dabbler. I had a recipe buit followed your excellent picture guide to the letter. You simply can’t go wrong. What a confidence booster you are. I Made sausage rolls like I haven’t tasted since Christmas at Grandma’s place when I was a kid. Thank you for your excellent lesson and for the wonderful memories.

    P.S. Not interested in a clapped out old geezer for a husband I suppose? lol

  18. I L<3VE this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing, really. I've tried many other recipes and it didn't quite work well for my custard tarts and they didn't come out the way i expected too for anything else. This one was it. PERFECT. The "pictorials" are great too (and cute.haha)^^
    I just put two more batches in the fridge to chill. This would be my third time making them ^^
    they taste, look, and puff great xD
    Thanks again ;D

  19. I tried this recipe the other day with 100% whole wheat flour (for avocado and goat cheese empanadas), they turned out great and were still very puffy and flaky.

  20. Im making a sheet for baking apple turnovers.
    Is it okay that small bits of butter seeps out slightly when you turn and fold the dough?
    It’s hard trying to contain the butter within the dough. Maybe my layers of dough are too thin…. what should I do?

  21. I am in the middle of making puff pastry, I have the same problem, as Mr. sunny. At the BEGINNING stage or rolling and folding, few chunks of butter seeps out. After rolling and folding couple of times, TOWARDS THE END, I see that in some areas there are FLECKS of butter n in some areas there are NONE. How does it work? Once it gets in the oven how will it puff up?
    Thank you Ms. Jayne!

  22. Hi Sunny,

    Your dough layers should be fine if you followed the recipe…and a little bit of butter peeking out is probably not going to ruin the dough either. But are you keeping it well chilled in between folds? If the butter is too soft, thats when you run into problems. Still, even if the first batch you make isnt perfect (or the second or third), I bet it will still puff up (if youre baking it hot enough) and will taste great. Let me know how it goes, if you think of it….

  23. I’m having this same problem too, though I suspect it is because my butter is getting too soft. I completed the first two folds and am chilling it as I type, but it was a bit of a disaster. I’m going to continue with it and see how it goes anyway. If I think of it, I’ll try to repost an update after dinner!

  24. I’m DEFINITELY a baking novice but I’ve been doing the stay at home mom thing for almost 2 years now and suddenly I’ve got baking fever. So I’m gearing up to try this because this tutorial has me brimming with confidence. But I have a couple of questions: 1) How long do I cook it, did I miss that part on the tutorial? I presumed you left it out because it might depend on the topping, which brings me to the next question: 2) Do I always need to fill/top with ready to eat food? I.e, does meat need to be basically cooked already? What about something wet like egg? What if I want to roll something up in it, does that affect the cook time? (That’s more than a couple questions… sorry.) Thanks!

  25. Hi Angelique,

    Sorry it took me a few days to reply. Im so glad youre going to make the puff pastry dough!

    Okay, to get to your questions – 1) How long to
    cook. Yes – it will depend on the topping, or filling, so you want to check on it periodically and not just trust a timer. But basically you want it crispy and brown and puffy. It shouldnt be pale or soft. 2) No, you dont always need to fill with ready to eat food, but you want to be sure that whatever youre cooking in/on the puff pastry doesnt require a really super long time to cook through, otherwise youll burn the pastry in the process. Eggs are fine, and if youre using meat, cut it small. Same with potatoes, if youre using them. 3) If youre rolling something up, the best plan to be sure its all cooked through is a thermometer – you want the inside to reach the appropriate temperature for whatever food youre cooking. It might affect the cook time – depends on how thick the whole thing is.

    Hope this helps!

    Jayne

  26. I dream of having my own desert shop but making things from scratch has never been my biggest talent. After finding your blog, I am delighted with hope! I have one question though.. how do I make apple or cherry filling if I wanted to make turnovers?

  27. Thank you so much for these DETAILED instructions. I made my first batch of dough using someone else’s instructions and I might as well through that batch away! The second batch, using your instructions, turned out perfectly!

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