PartySugar keeps puff pastry in her freezer; it comes in handy when she's looking for an easy appetizer to pull together at the 11th hour. But what exactly is puff pastry, and what differentiates this dough from others? Puff pastry originated in the 15th century in France, where it's known as pâte feuilletée, or "leafed pastry," a reference to the dough's countless flaky layers. Although its main ingredients are as basic as flour, butter, water, and salt, puff pastry expands exponentially when baked, rising to up to eight times its original height. The dough's many layers are the result of a labor-intensive process of chilling butter in between layers of pastry, rolling it out, and allowing it to rest. The prevalence of commercial, ready-made puff pastry makes for easier preparations of sweet and savory classics, including turnovers, strudels, croissants, palmiers, beef wellington, and pot pie. To achieve the best results, avoid overhandling the dough (this will make it tough), and bake it in a preheated oven at a moderate temperature.
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