Monday 10 October 2016

For the Pastry Challenged

When I was a kid, my grandmother whipped together flaky pastry using real lard, rolled out on her lower-than-standard counter top because she was a short little thing. My mother made pastry as well. She never measured or checked a recipe, or if she did I didn't see her do it. When I left home and wanted to try to make my own pastry, I would phone my mother and ask her for guidance. She gave me ever so helpful hints like, "there's just a feel to it" and "just use your hands". This was not helpful.

Over the years, I have tried a variety of recipes, including the one on the side of the shortening box using an egg and a bit of vinegar. I've tried vegetable shortening, lard, butter, the whole kit n' caboodle (did I even type that correctly?).

I think my pastry turned out perfectly once. Just that once it was beautiful and pliable and didn't crack and rolled out with the greatest of ease. I have no idea what I did differently. I have used knives to cut the shortening into "pea size" pieces (which I have NEVER achieved) and I have used my mother's old pastry blender. I have even tried to "use my hands" like my mother told me to. I usually have to do a bit of patching after I get the pastry into the pie pan. Sometimes I roll it out onto a floured counter top. Sometimes I roll it between or on top of waxed paper. I think I even tried parchment paper once.

But then my life changed. I bought a full sized food processor (as opposed to the ridiculous small size one I was given as a wedding present). I researched how to make pastry in a food processor. This is how I do it (I got the recipe from thebakerchick, but I suspect there are similar ones out there).

2 cups flour
2 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes (I used salted, this would be the same as 1/2 a pound of butter for us Canadians who don't buy our butter in sticks)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Pulse the flour, salt and sugar together in the food processor. Add the butter and process until it seems a little chunky, little pieces, about 10 seconds. While the processor is running, slowly pour ice water through the tube until the dough holds together. After you take the dough out of the food processor, divide the dough into two equal sections and form them into thick discs and refrigerate for about an hour (or more). I wrapped them in waxed paper.

After an hour,

I put some waxed paper on the counter top and rolled out one of my discs of dough (Note the red wine which also helps with pastry making).

You can roll the pastry around the rolling pin so you can transfer it into the pie plate.

Hey! Look at that! It is almost big enough!! Only a couple of patches required around the edge! 

Next I use a sharp knife to cut around the edge of the pie plate (see the spot where I will use some of the cut off dough to make a repair?)

Then I use both hands to pinch the dough between my fingers to create an edge that looks pretty, but also serves to hold the contents of the pie inside so they won't ooze out over the edge.

I used the second disc of dough to show another way to transfer the pastry into the pie plate. You gently fold it in half...

then fold it in half again (quarters!! see, you do need to learn fractions).

Then when you place it in the pie plate, put the folded corner in the middle and unfold.

One pastry became this apple pie. Oh my lord, it was sooo good!

The other became pumpkin (what else?) which was also very good.

If you are already a pastry wizard, then this post won't really apply to you, but there just might still be someone out there who could use a tip or two. Or at the very least, this will serve as a tutorial for my own kids should they ever want to make pastry. Far more helpful than "there's a feel to it."


  1. 28 years ago I took a foods & nutrition class in high school. The final exam was a pastry. I blew it. It turned out really bad. Actually, it didn't turn out at all! That was the day I gave up making pastry. Probably for the best because I love pastries and would be making and eating it all the time!

    1. Oh, that's kind of sad and kind of funny at the same time. You failed pastry (sorry, maybe it's just my warped sense of humour). I have very little self control when it comes to sweet food, so I don't make pies very often.

    2. It was funny! I still ended up passing the class because all my other work was excellent. :-)

  2. This is the same recipe I have used for years and years. I honestly don't have a clue where I originally got it, but it always worked for me. I've always used the food processor too. It helps keep the lard cool as opposed to the hands.

    1. I always find that if you combine the fat allowance into exactly half butter and half lard you get THE BEST pastry ! Now I want pie. Hmmmm

  3. I love this post. And I love pastry and pies! But I've never been satisfied with my pastry. It's good, but not better than Pet Ritz... However, I just recently got a Cuisinart food processor, so I will try your recipe. Thanks!

  4. As someone who bakes regularly but still hasn't made the perfect pastry, I have to say that yours is a work of art! I'll have to try your method. And I'd love for you to share your apple recipe...unless it's a family secret :)

    1. Will do. That can be my next post. There are no secret family recipes... probably some family secrets, but not recipes.

    2. That is terrific! And funny about the family secrets :)

  5. Your pies look delicious!
    Pastry is my nemesis. I've thrown out more than my fair share of dough and even when it's "kind of" successful, it's not pretty. I will have to try your recipe. Although, I think I see the secret in your photos. Never thought to add wine-drinking to my pie-making! I'm guessing that would change everything! :)
    Happy belated Thanksgiving!

  6. I think we must have had the same grandmother -- lard, no recipe, great crust. I'm more like you -- it's never really worked for me. So this is a particularly good post -- especially at this time of year when it's pie time! Thanks!

  7. Dare I tell you that I gave up my hit and miss pastry making some years ago and on the rare occasions when I make a pie I always use Jus-Rol, which is a ready made pastry (short crust or puff). It is always a success. We don't eat puddings very often sadly (love them but try to keep off the sugar.)

  8. Love your sense of humour....and...your pies look great!
    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend...
    Linda :o)

  9. I use Jiffy Crust mix - I have tried homemade a few times and it always turns out tough and thick;when I try to roll it thin it breaks apart. There is a skill required
    the Ol'Buzzard

  10. I think my family would be happy if I baked pie every day. With daughters who love baking, I don't make pie very often, even though I enjoy it.