You can make great pastry by hand or with a food processor; I happen to like to use a combination, looking to the machine to cut the fat quickly and efficiently into the flour, and then adding the water by hand so I can see and feel exactly what’s happening during this most critical step.
- 10 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 ounces cold butter, cut into bits, and returned to fridge
- 2 ounces lard or coconut oil, cut in bits and chilled
- 1/2 – 2/3 cup ice water
Put the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and whiz for a second to mix. Drop in the cubed butter and pulse until the butter is not discernable in lumps at all and the mixture looks to be the texture of cornmeal. Add the lard or coconut oil and pulse a bit more but this time stop when the fat is still in lumps as large as peas (or at least lentils). Dump the contents of the food processor into a big bowl for the next step.
(If you do not have a food processor, place the flour and salt in a big bowl and mix. Use a pastry blender or two knives in a scissoring motion to cut the butter, then the other fat, into the flour following the same criteria as above.)
Use a fork to lightly toss and stir the mixture as you drizzle in just enough ice water to allow you to gather the dough up into two loosely coherent clumps. Put one clump on a clean, unfloured counter, and using the heel of your hand, quickly smear the dough twice or thrice—no more—to bring it together. Swiftly persuade it into a flattened disc as you wrap it tightly in plastic. Repeat with the second clump, adding any bowl scrapings. Put both wrapped blobs inside a sealable storage container or ziptop bag and refrigerate for two hours to two days.
Tips for pastry success:
- Always make the pastry at least two hours before you want to roll it out; it needs a serious rest in the fridge.
- Try to use as little water as possible to make the dough cohere.
- Do like our ancestors and think of pie-making as a cold-weather activity. Use a cool surface to work the pastry on, and handle it as little as possible. (This is where those of you with freezing hands can really excel!)
- Once you start rolling out pastry, do not wander off, but keep focused on the task as systematically as possible. Have all the filling put together and ready to dump into the crust.