Pastry cannot be easily excluded from the menu of the New Englander. Who can dream of a Thanksgiving dinner without a pie! The last decade has done much to remove pies from the daily bill of fare, and in their place are found delicate puddings and seasonable fruits.
If pastry is to be served, have it of the best, — light, flaky, and tender.
To pastry belongs, 1st, Puff Paste; 2d, Plain Paste.
Puff paste, which to many seems so difficult of preparation, is rarely attempted by any except professionals. As a matter of fact, one who has never handled a rolling pin is less liable to fail, under the guidance of a good teacher, than an old cook, who finds it difficult to overcome the bad habit of using too much force in rolling. It is necessary to work rapidly and with a light touch. A cold room is of great advantage.
For making pastry, pastry flour and the best shortenings, thoroughly chilled, are essential. Its lightness depends on the amount of air enclosed and expansion of that air in baking. The flakiness depends upon kind and amount of shortening used. Lard makes more tender crust than butter, but lacks flavor which butter gives. Puff paste is usually shortened with butter, though some chefs prefer beef suet. Eggs and ice were formerly used, but are not essentials.
Butter should be washed if pastry is to be of the best, so as to remove salt and buttermilk, thus making it of a waxy consistency, easy to handle.
Rules for Washing Butter. Scald and chill an earthen bowl. Heat palms of hands in hot water, and chill in cold water. By following these directions, butter will not adhere to bowl nor hands. Wash butter in bowl by squeezing with hands until soft and waxy, placing bowl under a cold-water faucet and allowing water to run. A small amount of butter may be washed by using a wooden spoon in place of the hands.
For rolling paste, use a smooth wooden board, and wooden rolling-pin with handles.
Puff paste should be used for vol-au-vents, patties, rissoles, bouchées, cheese straws, tarts, etc. It may be used for rims and upper crusts of pies, but never for lower crusts. Plain paste may be used where pastry is needed, except for vol-au-vents and patties.