How to Make Pastry

Food historians trace the genesis of pastry to ancient Mediterranean paper-thin multi-layered baklava and filo. Returning crusaders introduced these sweet recipes to Medieval Europe where they were quickly adopted.

History - Pastry Pointers - Baking Pastry - Recipes


Food historians trace the genesis of pastry to ancient mediterranean paper-thin multi-layered baklava and filo. Returning crusaders introduced these sweet recipes to Medieval Europe where they were quickly adopted. French and Italian Renaissance chefs are credited for perfecting puff pastry and choux. 17th and 18th century chefs introduced several new recipes, including brioche, Napoleons, cream puffs and eclairs. Antonin Careme (1784-1833) is said to have elevated French pastry to art. In Central and Eastern Europe, strudels evolved.

Pastry Pointers

There are three factors to success in pastry making: correct proportions, correct mixing and baking, proper conditions during baking. We shall cover these in turn.


Flour: 1 1/2 Cups for two-crust pie.
Salt: 1/4 teaspoon to each 1 cup flour.
Shortening: lard

When less than 6 tablespoons of fat are used with 1 1/2 cup flour, a little baking powder - 3/4 to 1 teaspoon - may be sifted with the flour to make the paste light.

For average tender, flaky pastry, use 9 tablespoons shortening to 1 1/2 cups of flour.

For puff pastry, use same amount butter to 1 cup flour.

Cold Water - just enough to hold flour together, usually about 3 tablespoons to 1 cup flour.


Everything must be very cold, fat cold and mixed with a knife or two knives, rather than with the fingers, to avoid heating; for flaky pastry fat should not be cut too fine. Ice water is best and is also cut in.

Avoid working in extra flour during rolling; flour the board very lightly.

Roll lightly, quickly and in one direction, not backwards and forwards.

Rich pastry is improved if kept over night and will last for considerable time if rolled in waxed paper, put into a closed container and kept in the refrigerator. Never allow even the container to come into direct contact with ice.

Fresh fruit pies better made with one crust, preferably in a deep pie plate, filled generously. Meat pies also made with one crust; cut upper crust, always, to allow steam to escape.

It is a good plan to cook shells first, for soft fillings. Put pastry over outside of an inverted pie plate and prick all over with a fork to prevent steam under pastry from spoiling the shape of the shell.

If using under crust, fit it closely into plate with stretching; get out all air from beneath pastry; slant knife away when trimming edges to leave pastry as large as possible.

Moisten edge with cold water and fit half inch rim around it; flute or crimp rim as you please.

If shell and juicy filling are to be baked together, brush surface of under crust with white of egg and let dry before filling, to prevent pastry from becoming soggy. Or you may sprinkle surface of pastry with a mixture of flour and sugar or with fine cake or cracker crumbs.

Another good plan is to cut pastry well beyond the rim and when upper pastry is in place, fold the under edge over it (moistening your edge with cold water). Decorate make openings for escape of steam.

In making deep-dish pies, a support should be used in the centre to hold up the paste ( one crust is used); an egg cup, tea cup, jelly glass etc. will fit various dishes.

Strips criss0crossed, twisted, made into lattice, etc., as well as fluted and crimped edges, are used to decorate top crust or to replace a top crust on an open faced pie.


Divide baking period into three parts.

One third of the time a very hot oven 450 degrees F. is required at first, with a strong under heat to make pastry rise.

Middle third - raise pastry higher in oven to brown.

Last third- lower temperature of oven and allow pastry to dry out. This is a general rule, which needs to be varied after the first ten minutes for certain fillings; a custard filling, for instance, or any other egg mixture, requires slower cooking.


Good Plain Pastry Recipe

1 1/2 cups flour

9 tablespoons fat

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cold water

Sift flour and salt together and work in the lard with a knife or with two knives, using a cutting motion. Add just enough cold water to bind together. Dredge board very lightly with flour, toss dough on it, pat and roll out in oblong shape, a little wider than it is long, with square corners. Roll to about quarter inch thickness.

Quick Pastry Recipe

11/2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening

Cold Water

Mix and sift salt and flour; cut in shortening. Add cold water to make stiff dough. Flour board lightly, toss dough on it, pat and roll out. Roll up like a jelly roll, and cut from the end enough to line a pie plate.

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