Painless Pastry

pastry

Pastry is one of those curious foods that requires a certain kind of touch–not everyone’s pastry is equal. It can be finicky and messy and can completely flop on you. But a well-made, from-scratch pastry is incomparable to bought pastry. Plus, if you can pull off hand-made pastry for your baking, it will amaze guests and in-laws to no end. But don’t get discouraged if it’s not perfect straight away, because good pastry also takes practice. Roll up your sleeves, and good luck…

(Mostly) Painless Pastry

Makes: 2 pie crusts (two bottoms or one double-crust pie)
Cooking time: 20 minutes, plus baking and time in fridge
Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 cup room-temperature lard or shortening (Tenderflake works best, or similar kind of lard)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • cold water

Mix flour and salt together; cut in butter and lard until pieces are about the size of peas. I recommend slicing up the butter and lard with a knife until in small squares, then mushing it all together with your hands (make sure they’re clean!).

Combine the egg and vinegar, and add enough ice water to make about 1/2 cup liquid. Sprinkle slowly over the dry mixture, tossing constantly until it just barely holds together–see the top photo. It should feel slightly dry and crumbly still. Careful not to mix it too much, or add too much liquid–you should still have a few tablespoons left!

Divide dough into two balls, cover with wax paper and refrigerate for a minimum of half an hour, or up to 3 days. Use as needed.

slumped pastry
what not to do!

To bake (bottom crusts only): Roll out dough between baking paper, or on a lightly floured surface, to cover your pie plates. Prick all over with a fork. Place back in fridge for 20 minutes (or freezer for 10), then bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 F / 180 C for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Having properly cooled dough prevents “slumping”, which happens when the lard and butter are too warm and can’t hold the shape of the pie plate. (See photo to right!)

Tips & Wisdom:

  • Whole wheat flour can be used, but is not recommended–it will make your pastry crusts very dark, nearly burnt
  • Do not substitute butter for lard, you need both!
  • If you accidentally add too much liquid to your pastry, simply mix in a bit more flour, but the less mixed your pastry it is, the more tender and flaky it will be

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