Weigh Your Flour: Most recipes measure flour by volume instead of weight, meaning they call for 1 cup of flour instead of 5 ounces. A perfectly measured cup of flour weighs 5 ounces. However, that same cup will weigh less if you pack the flour too loosely, and it will weigh more if you pack it in the measuring cup too tightly. To be sure you’re using the proper amount of flour, weigh it on a kitchen scale.
Use Cold Ingredients: All of your ingredients should be cold – including the flour and salt – to achieve the best results. The fat especially needs to be very cold, so it stays solid during the mixing process. (Put your shortening in the freezer for a bit to make sure it’s good and cold, almost frozen.) Once the prepared pastry goes into the oven, the shortening will melt, creating small air pockets between the layers of dough, which is what produces a tender, flaky crust.
Mix Dough With Food Processor: You’ve more than likely heard that minimal handling of the dough will help ensure flakiness – and that’s true. The more you mix pastry dough, the tougher it will be. Using a food processor mixes the dough quickly and lightly – way more lightly than mixing it with your hands. To mix your dough in a food processor, combine two-thirds of the flour with salt, and pulse a few times to evenly distribute the salt. Add all of the shortening, and pulse until a ball forms around the blade, about two minutes. Add the remaining flour, and process until mixture forms coarse crumbs, about another minute. With the food processor running, add your cold liquid, a little at a time, and process just until the mixture begins to form a ball. You may or may not need all the liquid called for in the recipe. Remove dough from the food processor, and squeeze it gently with your hands a couple of times to form a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator to chill until firm.
Chill Your Dough and Rolling Pin: To make rolling easier, chill the pastry dough for at least an hour. When you put your dough in the refrigerator, put your rolling pin there, too. Using a cold rolling pin will keep the shortening particles from breaking down and melting during the rolling process.
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