How to Make Pastry Dough

Industrial Age Pastry Advancements
Nothing is more American than the American Flaky Pie Pastry used in apple pie.
Nothing is more American than the American Flaky Pie Pastry used in apple pie.

­As people got busier, time got tighter and machines and electricity made life easier, pastries became simpler and quicker to make. Industrial age cooks borrowed from earlier eras to create flaky pastries with everyday utility. Crumbly French shortcrust pastry supports quiche and savory pies.

Shortcrust Pastry (for quiche and savory pies)

From "Traditional French Cooking" by Larousse Curnonsky

  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
  • 1 tablespoon (12 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 milliliters) water
  • 1 stick (100 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups (200 grams) all purpose flour

Dissolve the salt and sugar in the water and set it aside. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and mix it into the flour with your fingers. Pour the water into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently for two or three turns. Wrap the dough and allow it to chill before using in your recipe.

Flaky American piecrust is too delicate to support itself outside a baking pan, but it's a star attraction of dishes as diverse as the iconic apple pie and the irresistible chicken potpie.

American Flaky Pie Pastry (one crust)

  • 1.5 cups (200 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) cold fat (butter, margarine, shortening)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) sugar
  • Cold water to moisten (4-5 tablespoons or 59-74 milliliters)

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter or other fat into the flour with a pastry cutter, fork or two knives until the texture resembles coarse crumbs. (You want to use the tools instead of your fingers because you don't want to melt the butter with the heat from your hands. Your crust will turn out flakier if the ingredients stay cold during the mixing process.) Gradually sprinkle cold water over the mixture and gently fold it in until the dough holds together. Gather the dough into a ball and refrigerate for one hour before using so that any softened fat can re-solidify. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough to the thickness called for in your recipe and use a sharp knife to cut it to the shape you need [source: Better Homes and Gardens, Editors of Cook's Illustrated, Farmer]

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