Saturday, March 12, 2011

It Starts With A Good Pastry Dough

Some many great desserts start with a really good Pastry Dough.
Easy to say but, not so easy to make.  This is something I have been
working on for years but, only recently been able to come up with
something that I think is really decent.  OK, here goes...

First you collect the ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups Flour -
    This recipe uses unbleached white flour.  If you want to use Whole Wheat flour,  I would look for a different recipe 'cause the proportions here will be off...and yes, I've tried it.
  • 1 stick of Unsalted Butter (cold but not frozen) -
    I have played with a mixture of Unsalted Butter and Vegetable Shortening over the years and have had some luck with 3/4 butter to 1/4 shortening but, this time, all I had was butter so, what you get is a bit more cookie like than pastry like but that works for some things.  Of course, old timey folks swear by pastry dough made with lard but, I just can't bring myself to buy it.
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt (ground fine) -
    Good old Morton's works fine here.  I have been using mostly sea salt in my kitchen so, I grind it in a mortar and pestle to get the size grains I need.  A fine grind works here as it spreads more evenly and doesn't leave salty spots in the dough.
  • 2 - 4 Tablespoons Ice Water -
    Yes, really!  The water has to be really cold.  Not just "out of the tap" cold, but "drop a cube of ice in the water" cold.  Not sure why this matters but it does...again, tried it...
 Other stuff you might want:
  • A Food Processor - I have a Cuisinart that I have had for so long that the plastic is yellowing.  If you are going to do a lot of cooking, it is well worth the days and days of Goodwill hunting to find a good one (or just going out to buy one if you can afford it).
  • A Pastry Blender - This is used for cutting shortening (or butter) into the flour to get a flaky crust.  
  • Plastic Wrap - To wrap up the dough while it's in the fridge.  Keeps the dough from drying out.
  • A Pastry Scraper - this is a thin, flat piece of metal, wood or plastic that you can use to scrape the dough off your work surface.
OK, now to the doing part:
  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Cut the cold butter into 1/2 in cubes.

  3. Put the butter, flour and salt into the food processor and pulse it on and off till there are no pieces of butter larger than a frozen pea.  The more you work the dough at this point, the tougher your pastry will get.  Less is definitely more in this case!!

  4. Add 2 tablespoons of Ice Water to the food processor and pulse until it this is mixed in.  Take a small handful of dough and squeeze it.  If it sticks together, its ready.  If not, add another tablespoon of water and pulse it in.  Squeeze again... you get the idea.

  5. Dump the dough crumbles out of the food processor onto a lightly floured surface. 

  6. Divide the pile into 4 even quarters.

  7. With the heel of your hand, squash each quarter of the dough going in only one direction.  This gives you layers of fat (butter in this case) and flour.  That's how the flaky happens.  Use the Pastry Scraper to gather up the dough and roll it into a ball.

  8. Flatten out the ball into a 5 inch wide, round disk and wrap the disk in Plastic Wrap.

  9. Put the disk into the fridge for about an hour... or up to a day if you don't have time to make your yummy right away.
...and that's all there is to it.