Sam Kabo Ashwell (maga_dogg) wrote in failed_recipe,
Sam Kabo Ashwell
maga_dogg
failed_recipe

unflaky pastry

Here is how I was taught to make flaky pastry: first, make a basic shortcrust and cool it, yada yada. When you come to roll it out, take as much shortening and butter as you used to make the shortcrust in the first place, and break it up into lumps about the size of a fingernail. Roll out the pastry into a sheet. Put blobs of butter and shortening about every inch or so across half the surface, then fold the other half over it and roll it flat again. Repeat until all the butter/shortening is used up. Chill for another hour or so before use.

This process bears a certain resemblance to the forging of a masterwork katana and takes approximately as long. You have to be really careful to roll gently towards the end, because otherwise the squashed lumps will break through the thin layers of pastry. But you get a delicious multi-layered flaky pastry at the end. It's worth the effort, but it's not something you make a regular habit of. It's ideal for, say, Cornish pasties, which was what I was aiming for tonight.

Because it's not something you do regularly, I wasn't sure about the recipe so I decided to look it up in the closest thing we have to a Basic Cooking Reference: the Settlement Cook Book, 1965 edition.

Here is how The Settlement Cook Book says to make flaky pastry: make a basic shortcrust, but instead of half butter, half shortening, use all shortening but put in a quarter-cup more. This should, in retrospect, have made me suspicious.

Instead "Woohoo," went I, "lo these many years my labour has been wasted, when the antediluvian American housewife, in her constant struggle to hang on to her man's affections, knew the secret to quick and easy flaky pastry all along."

The antediluvian American housewife did not use the adjective 'flaky' to mean what I think it means.

I think I've salvaged the result. But Cornish pasties it ain't. Rrrgh.
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I've never made flaky pastry (not being a pastry fan), but a couple of recipes I have indicate a trick to avoid cutting in butter...that might help you here.

Freeze the butter, and then grate it with a cheese grater. You would get bits that are approx. finger-nail sized, without much work.

As I said, I haven't tried it with pastry - but it might help.

Was the result palatable?
It was more or less unrollable; sort of a cross between Scottish shortcake and shortcrust pastry. I squidged it into little oven-dishes to make pot-pies instead, but this resulted in far, far too much pastry per pie.

It was edible if you didn't eat 75% of the pastry.
The Settlement Cookbook was originally written by and for primarily Jewish immigrants. Jewish people who keep Kosher do not combine meat and dairy foods at the same meal, so the advent of Crisco was a godsend and made pastry accessible to the Jewish home kitchen. (Sure, you could eat butter if you kept Kosher, but you couldn't eat meat for dinner and follow it with a butter-crust pie or make meat pies with a butter dough.) This is probably why the Settlement cookbook you were using suggested an all-Crisco dough. Which, besides being too fatty and not flaky, was probably gacktastic in its greasy mouthfeel. I make my pastry with part Crisco and part butter for better flavor.

Sorry you had that experience. You may have known all this about Crisco and the Settlement cookbook already, but I thought I'd mention it in case you didn't.
Aha. This I did not know - the book was inherited from a house's previous owner. There are normal part-butter part-shortening pastry recipes on either side of the supposedly-flaky one, and decidedly non-kosher recipes throughout the book (oyster rarebit? ick).

It wasn't so much gacktastic as unworkable; it wouldn't roll without crumbling.