Flaky Pie and Tart Pastry Dough

Those of us who like the flavor of butter, which makes pastry crumbly, but also like our pastry flaky, as though made with lard or shortening, have to fold the pastry dough over itself a few times to create layers and hence flakes. You can make virtually any pastry flaky by rolling out the dough, folding it over itself like a letter, rolling it out again, and folding it again. You can repeat this folding up to 5 times; after that, continued folding makes no difference. This pastry dough is especially flaky because the butter is left suspended in relatively large pieces. When the dough is exposed to sudden heat, the moisture in the butter vaporizes and presses apart the layers of flour and water, creating a flaky effect. But whereas puff pastry dough, the ultimate folded pastry, is meant to puff up, this dough is meant simply to be flaky—and it is very flaky.

Because it contains a lot of butter, which can melt if the room is even slightly warm, you’ll need to refrigerate the dough periodically to keep it from getting too sticky or too soft to work with. You should also refrigerate it if it starts to become elastic. Refrigerate the dough when it’s rolled out in a rectangle instead of when it is folded so it chills faster.

More liquid is used in this dough than in others because the butter is not mixed thoroughly into the dough, contributing little to its moistness. This method won’t work for dough that has been made in a food processor, because the butter is so thoroughly mixed into the flour it won’t form flakes.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 eggs, beaten, ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream or ice water, or a combination of liquids totaling ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons

Method

Stir together both flours and the salt in a bowl and sprinkle the butter over the mixture. Pour in the liquid and stir until there is no loose flour in the bottom of the bowl.

Place a 2-foot-long strip of plastic wrap on a work surface and put the dough on top of it. Form the dough into a mound about 15 inches long. Cover with a second sheet of plastic wrap. Pound the dough with a rolling pin and with the heel of your hand, and press it with your fingers, to coax it into a rectangle about 6 by 18 inches. Press the dough with your fingers or with the heel of your hand to combine loose pieces of butter and flour and to flatten the dough so it covers most of the plastic wrap and ends up being an inch or two larger in each direction. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and fold the dough as though it were a letter so it has 3 layers. Lift one end of the dough by holding onto the bottom layer of plastic wrap. Support the fragile dough with a bench scraper while you’re folding it.

Pound the dough with a rolling pin to shape it into another rectangle the same size as the first. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Fold the two ends of the dough so they meet in the center with just a little space separating them, then fold the two ends together again so you have a packet with four layers. The dough now has 12 layers.

Roll the dough out into another rectangle and fold it so the ends meet in the center as before, then fold the two ends together again. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate for 15 minutes. The dough now has 48 layers and is ready to use.

Making Flaky Pie and Tart Pastry Dough

  1. Scatter the butter cubes over the flour, then pour in the liquid. Fold the mixture so all the flour on the bottom of the bowl is moistened.

  2. Dump the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and gather it in a mound along the center of the plastic wrap. Cover with a second strip of plastic wrap.

  3. Pound the dough to flatten it into a rectangle about 3 times longer than it is wide.

  4. Press the dough with your fingers or with the heel of your hand to combine loose pieces of butter and flour and to flatten the dough so it covers most of the plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

  5. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap. Fold the pastry dough like a letter: lift one end of the pastry dough by holding onto the bottom sheet of plastic wrap, supporting the fragile pastry dough with a bench scraper while you’re folding.

  6. Make the first fold.

  7. Press the fold in place.

  8. Lift the other end of the dough and fold it over so the dough is now a rectangle 3 layers thick.

  9. Pound on the dough with a rolling pin to form it into another rectangle. Chill as needed.

  10. Continue pounding or gently rolling the dough until it is about 3 times longer than it is wide.

  11. Fold the 2 ends of the dough so they meet in the center.

  12. Fold the 2 ends together again so you have a packet with four layers. The dough now has 12 layers.

  13. Pound and roll the dough into another rectangle and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Make another 4-layer-thick packet, for a total of 48 layers.