1. Put the flour, salt and chilled butter into a large bowl and rub them together with your fingertips until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.
2.Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in the water. Mix with a knife, then bring the dough together with your hands.
3. Mold into a ball, then wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 25 minutes.
4. Unwrap the dough ball and use a knife to score a large cross in the middle of it, cutting no more than halfway through. Lift all four corners from the middle of the cross, then pull them up and out to make the cross big enough to put the softened butter into.
5. Add the butter, then fold the corners of the cross back to the centre, covering the butter so it is completely enclosed. The corners should overlap in the centre so no butter is showing. It is important that the butter is not too hard or too soft other wise it will escape through the dough when you roll it out and the resulting pastry will not rise as well. If it’s too hard, leave the ball of pastry at room temperature until the butter inside has softened; if it is getting too soft, pop it in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up a little before rolling.
This next process is called ‘rolling and folding’ and it creates the characteristic flaky layers of puff pastry.
1. Begin by rolling the pastry out away from you on a well-floured surface to a rectangle roughly 3 times as long as it is wide (don’t turn the pastry when rolling). Keep the corners square and edges straight by pressing a palette knife or ruler against them.
2. Lift the dough occasionally to make sure it isn't sticking; flour the work surface again if necessary and sprinkle with more flour as you go, dusting away any excess with a pastry brush. Take the short edge of the pastry nearest to you and fold it up a third, then fold the top edge down a third to give a rectangular block. Turn the dough 90° and then repeat the rolling and folding.
3. You have now given the dough two ‘rolls and folds’. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and put in the fridge. Chill for 20 minutes.
4. Remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap and give it two more ‘rolls and folds’. Wrap and rest in the fridge for at least another 20 minutes. The block of puff pastry can at this point be kept in the fridge for a day or two, or frozen.
5. Remove from the fridge, unwrap and give the dough a final couple of rolls and folds, then roll it out to the size desired for your chosen recipe. Place on a baking tray, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes before using.
Recipe courtesy of Lorraine Pascale, Baking Made Easy HarperCollins, 2012 (£20)