I'd like to take credit for this perfect-every-time pastry recipe, but I'm afraid I just can't.
I got this recipe, the first time I used it, from a package of Tenderflake lard.
Most people won't know that brand. I believe it is a uniquely Canadian brand, so most people won't be able to find it either.
But, whether or not I can find Tenderflake lard, I still use their pastry recipe (also shown at the bottom of this page).
You Have To Use Lard
I'm sure some of you are absolutely horrified at the idea of using lard instead of a vegetable shortening. I can almost hear you calculating the amount of cholesterol, not to mention calories. But, hey, let's not pretend that pastry is a diet-friendly item anyway.
However, it has been my experience that if you want a truly flaky, tasty pastry you need to use lard.
That's not to say that the recipe won't work with a vegetable shortening, it does. There have been times when I haven't been able to find pure lard. At times I have been able to find a shortening that has both vegetable shortening and lard in it. That works fairly well. But, I've never been happy with the results when I use an all-vegetable shortening.
You Can Freeze Pastry
This recipe makes a lot of pastry, enough for six pies, or three double-crust pies, or a really large number of tart shells.
Don't worry if you're not making that many pies or tarts, this pastry freezes well.
There are recipes for a smaller batch, but I always make the large recipe and freeze what I don't need. Then, the next time I need some pastry for a recipe, I can defrost the surplus and make a dessert without much fuss or mess.
I double wrap the leftover pastry in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. To defrost it, I set it out on the counter until it softens. Don't forget that you want it to be cold when you roll it out, so if you leave it on the counter too long, just pop it in the fridge for a while to chill it down.
Basic Pastry Recipe from Tenderflake Lard
- Mix together the flour and salt. Many recipes will tell you to sift the flour together with the salt. I haven't owned a flour sifter in years and usually just ignore any reference to sifting flour, or any other ingredients. I do, however, tend to use just a little less flour than they call for. After all, you can always add more if needed, but you can't take away any if you already have too much flour when you add the wet ingredients. I also like to generously flour my rolling surface, so if the dough is a bit wetter than it would normally be, so much the better.
- Cut in the lard with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal or peas. I've always had difficulty with this kind of explanation so check out the pictures of what this should look like in the "Learn to Bake" section. In a one cup liquid measure combine the slightly beaten egg and the vinegar. Then add enough water to reach the one cup level. Stir to combine.
- Conventional instructions say to add the liquid slowly to the flour mixture and only enough to make the dough stick together, using a fork or some other utensil to mix it. I have had great success with this pastry and what I do is add all of the liquid to the flour mixture and then get in there with my hands to mix it up. After a while you'll get to know the feel that you want so that you know when it's mixed enough. It will stick to your hands a bit but will pull off fairly easily. Make sure to get all the flour as it tends to want to sit at the bottom of the bowl.
- Pastry rolls out best when it's cold, so cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put the pastry in the fridge for a while. You might also want to chill the rolling pin. Determining the amount of dough you need for a pie crust or tart shells can be an art, but you'll get the hang of it. I like to grab a large handful, form it into a ball, put it on a well-floured surface and squash it down with the heel of my hand, and then flip it over to get some flour on the other side, before starting to roll it out. See instructions for this under "How To Make Perfect Flaky Pastry".
- The finished dough, when removed from the fridge, should be firm but pliable and feel a little greasy.