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Flaky Pie and Tart Pastry

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This is a basic flaky pie and tart pastry that is perfect for any recipe that calls for a pastry crust. It is unsweetened and super flaky. This makes a large batch, so you can use some now and freeze some for later.

Pastry rounds in a stack.

Pastry is one of those things that used to intimidate me. My grandmother always made her own pastry, and my mom has always made her own as well (except for that one time, and we won’t talk about that!) But it is one of those things that looks scarier than it is.

I think the thing that most people are worried about is ending up with chewy, tough crust. When you are eating a perfectly scrumptious pie you want a crust that melts in your mouth.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it is not nearly as hard as you may think. And I’m going to help you, so that you can make a flaky, delicious pastry crust that will leave your family wondering if you purchased it at a fine bakery.

Pastry crust in a pie plate

If you want to see how flaky this pastry is when baked, check out these old fashioned butter tarts or these lemon coconut tarts.

HOW TO MAKE FLAKY PIE AND TART PASTRY

The best flaky pastry starts with the right recipe. I know that there are many recipes out there, and there are plenty that will result in a flaky pie crust. The recipe I use, and my mom uses, and my grandmother used, is the tried and true Tenderflake pie crust recipe, which I’ve included below.

This is a recipe that has been around for a long time, since 1943 in fact. It uses good old fashioned lard and results in a flaky, tender crust every time. If you don’t want to use lard (which is animal fat), you can go ahead and use shortening (which is vegetable fat). The results will be similar.

This recipe makes a large batch. Enough for 6 pie crusts, or 3 double pie crust. If pie isn’t your thing, it makes enough for 5 dozen tart shells or 10 dozen mini tart shells. The best part? Whatever you don’t need right away you can freeze and save for the next time you are baking pie.

What are the different pastry making methods?

There are a few methods to making flaky pastry.

All methods begin with very cold fat. Then you need to cut it into small cubes so that it is easier and faster to work with. Speed is important. You don’t want the fat to warm up too much. The cold fat is key to getting those nice flakes.

Lard cut into cubes.

You can use a food processor to blend the fat into the flour. You can use your fingers to rub the fat into the flour. Or you can cut the fat into the flour using two knives, a fork, or a pastry blender.

Dough being mixed in a bowl

My favourite method is the pastry blender. I find that when using a food processor the fat ends up too small and you end up with a slightly denser crust. When you use your fingers to rub the fat into the flour you run the risk of heating or melting the butter and you can lose your flakes completely. When you cut the fat into the flour you have more control over the size of the crumb, you won’t melt the fat, and you end up with that nice, flaky pastry you are after.

How do you form the pastry dough?

After you have cut-in the fat, you need to add the liquid. The thing to remember about flaky pastry is that you are not making a bread dough. You want to add just enough liquid so that it starts to come together. If it forms a dough ball you’ve gone too far.

Pastry dough in a bowl

After the dough has just started to come together, turn it out on to the counter and then gently bring it together. Then flatten it out into a round. You want to handle it as little as possible, and you absolutely do not want to knead this dough.

HOW DO YOU PORTION AND FREEZE THE DOUGH

This part is easy. I like to use a bench scraper to cut the dough into 6 wedges. Then to make sure they are equal (or close to it) I weigh them on a digital scale. Then you are just going to form them into balls, place them on plastic wrap, squash them into a disk and wrap them tight.

You will want to chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before rolling for your recipe.

When it comes to rolling, you want to make sure you are handling the dough as little as possible. I like to place a pastry mat, or large piece of parchment on the counter (sightly dampen the counter first so it doesn’t slide around). Then I flour the mat/parchment, place my dough in the middle, and then I cover the dough with the plastic wrap it was stored in before rolling it. When your pastry has been rolled to the correct size, gently peel the plastic wrap off. This helps ensure that you aren’t adding too much flour into the dough while rolling. It also makes clean up easy.

After that, follow the directions for baking according to the recipe you are making.

This apple crumble pie is one of my favourites! You could also use this pastry in place of the crescent rolls for these cranberry goat cheese tarts.

THINGS TO KNOW & HELPFUL HINTS

  • What if I don’t have a pastry blender? If you don’t have a pastry blender you can cut the fat with two knives or even use the tines of a fork to break the fat up.
  • Do I have to chill the dough before rolling? Yes! Please do not skip this step. The resting allows the flour to hydrate and for the fat, that may have softened, to solidify. It is the melting while baking that creates the flakes.
  • Do I have to use cake & pastry flour? While you don’t have to use cake & pastry flour, I highly recommend it. All purpose flour contains more protein than cake & pastry flour and will result in a firmer, less flaky crust. If you are going to use all purpose flour in this recipe, reduce the quantity by half a cup.
  • My pastry is turning out tough and chewy, not flaky at all. We’ve all had that happen. When the pastry is tough and chewy, one of two things are happening. Either you are handling it too much, or you are adding too much liquid/and or allowing the fat to melt. Pastry is delicate, it does not like to be man handled like bread dough does. Be gentle with it, only add as much liquid as it takes to hold it together, and make sure you are allowing it to chill before rolling.
Pasty crust in a pie plate.

OTHER RECIPES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Bakery style cranberry lemon scones

Flaky cheddar chive biscuits

Old fashioned lemon squares

Pastry in a pie plate

Flaky Pie and Tart Pastry

A basic, flaky pie and tart pastry. This pastry is unsweetened so it is perfect for any recipe that calls for pastry. Easy to make and makes a large batch. Use some now and freeze some for later.
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Course: Pastry
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 Pie Crusts
Calories: 446kcal
Author: Deanna

Ingredients

  • 6 Cups Cake & pastry flour
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 Pound Lard Cold, cut into cubes
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 Tbsp Vinegar
  • Very cold water to make 1 cup liquid

Instructions

  • Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
  • Cut the lard into 1/2 inch cubes and add to the flour.
  • With a pastry blender, cut the lard into the flour until it resembles very course crumbs.
  • In a measuring cup, whisk the egg with the vinegar, then add enough cold water to make 1 cup of liquid.
  • With a fork, gently mix the liquid into the dry ingredients, just until it starts to bind together. If the mixture is too dry, and not coming together, add water 1 tbsp at a time until it does.
  • Turn the dough out onto the counter and gently bring it together with your hands.
  • Press it into a round, then cut into 6 equal portions.
  • Wrap each portion in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 mintues before using. At this point you can also freeze the dough for use later.
  • After the dough has chilled, prepare and bake your pastry according to your recipe directions.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Whole pie crust | Calories: 446kcal | Carbohydrates: 91g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 804mg | Potassium: 610mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 3856IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 221mg | Iron: 5mg
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