Pastry making is quite simple and easy once you get the feel of it. Most pastries are made with a few ingredients of flour, butter or shortening, water and salt. The key is to keep the dough cool so the butter or shortening used doesn’t heat up and melt. It’s the layers of butter between the flour that makes for a flaky crust.
- A large work surface such as marble or wood
- Rolling pin (wine bottle will work)
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Sharp knife for trimming and slicing crusts
- Fine meshed sieve
- Large Bowl
- Pastry blender
- Food processor (optional but makes for quick even dough)
- Pastry scraper or metal spatula
- Plastic wrap
- Pie pans or tart pans
The Basic Pastry Dough
Pastry has just a few ingredients and a straightforward process. The technique in handling the dough is what’s important to insure a light flaky crust. Try our classic recipes in our Recipes section.
The basic ingredients in pastry dough are:
- All -purpose or pastry flour- having a low protein content, they make a tender crust and should be sifted. Unbleached flour works fine but if you really feel guilty about the lack of whole grains, you can substitute a small amount of the pastry flour with whole wheat. A total whole wheat crust will be tough like cardboard! Some of the flour can be replaced with ground nuts, adding flavor and bringing down the carbs.
- Fat – may be shortening, butter or lard (animal fat). Cut into small pieces about the size of walnuts and chilled. Cream cheese or sour cream may be substituted for some of the fat. Fat should be rubbed in with your fingers or blended in by cutting fat in with a pastry blender.
- Liquid – usually ice cold water, but milk or cream can be used, just decrease the amount of fat to compensate for fat in liquid.
The different types of pastry are as such:
- Shortcrust pastry – Shortcrust pastry is made with half butter and half lard or shortening. The butter for color and flavor and the shortening for shortness(crumble). May be made a little richer by the addition of egg, for a firmer texture.
- Pate Brisee – A French version of a shortcrust, this dough is made with only butter. Provides for a firm, crisp tart, giving support to fillings. Excellent for fruit tarts. Fine texture and should be rolled thin. With the addition of sugar, it becomes Pate sucree.
- Puff Pastry – called laminated dough because most of the butter is rolled in during the rolling out phase, creating a light layered pastry.
- Phyllo Pastry – Recently popular, this pastry is a paper thin dough from Greece. Available at most grocery stores, its not worth it to try to make your own. Remember when using, that it dries out quickly so keep covered with damp kitchen towel while assembling the layers. Brush each layer with butter for flavor and moisture. Bake in hot oven, 375-400 deg. or it will become soggy.
Here are some tips on the steps of pastry making
- Mix flour and salt first for even distribution. Then combine flour mix and fat- Cut the chilled fat into the flour either by hand, rubbing between you fingertips, or by pastry blender or food processor. Mix until fat pieces are like the size of dimes for a flaky crust or to a coarse meal for a mealy dough. Do not over work. The fat component needs to be loosely blended so it layers or crumbles.
- Add the water, generally all at once, to avoid overworking, but hold out a little till the recipe is tried and true. Combine with a loose motion till dough evenly moist. Shape in to flattened disc and chill, about 30 minutes to 1 hr. Chilling allows the dough to relax, the fat firm up, and the flour to absorb the liquid.
- Roll out the dough. Keep your hands, rolling pin and work surface dusted with flour to keep dough from sticking. Roll outwards, away from you, keeping the dough rotating to keep from sticking. Roll to a thickness of ¼ inch or less. Work from the center towards the edges. Brush away all extra flour.
- Line the pie or tart pan with the dough. Easiest way is to roll dough right into rolling pin and then roll out onto to pie pan. Use a scrap of dough to gently coax the dough into the sides of the pan. Trim the excess from the rim, leaving enough to seal a top crust, if used.
- Finish for a pre-baked crust. Chill crust for 15 min. before baking. If using a cold filling, such as a pudding, then you need to bake the crust first for 10-15 min. on 375 deg. until golden, called ‘baking blind’. Either prick bottom a lot with a fork and brush with an egg wash to seal from getting soggy later after filled, or place a layer of parchment paper weighed down with dried beans or pastry weights in the bottom of the pan on top of the crust. If using weights, remove for last 5 min. of baking. Let cool completely before filling.
- Finish for filled pie. Mix all filling ingredients first and then mound in center of the pie. If using a top layer of crust, roll out just like the bottom crust and cut slashes to allow steam to escape. Seal edges together by pressing with a fork or thumbs making a series of depressions. Trim off excess by running a sharp knife around the edge. Brush crust evenly with egg wash for a golden crust.
- Bake on a cookie sheet in a 425 deg. oven for 15 min, and then lower to 375 deg. for remaining time till tender and crust golden. If edges start getting too brown before filling is done, carefully cover edge with strips of foil or purchase a pie ring if you bake pies often.
Don’t limit yourself to just sweet pies. Savory pies and tarts are great for appetizers or side dishes.
Pastry is not just used for pies. Everything tastes better wrapped in pastry! Just wrap and seal like turnovers. Use egg wash to seal in ingredients and make sure the filling doesn’t get in the way or the filling will leak out during baking.
The texture of the finished crust is determined in large part by the mixing method. If the fat is worked into the dough completely, the finished crust will have a fine crumb. If fat has been briefly rubbed into the flour, the dough will be flaky. If under-baked, the texture may be gummy whereas if over-baked, it will be tough.
The flavor of the dough depends on the fat used, shortening being the most neutral.
Pastry Recipes (Coming Soon)
- Shortcrust Pie Dough
- Rich Shortcrust
- Puff pastry
- Pate A’ Choux