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When the Mercury Goes Up, Making Pastry Gets Tricky

Fine Cooking Issue 52
Photo: Sloan Howard
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Summer heat makes it tough to deal with pastry dough—the butter or shortening melts and you end up with tough pie crust. If your kitchen isn’t air-conditioned, here are a few tips for keeping your pies tender and flaky.

Work in the cooler early-morning hours. If you’re not a morning person, measure out your ingredients the night before so you don’t goof up before your coffee kicks in.

Chill ingredients well before mixing. Measure out the flour and chill it together with the cut-up butter. These ingredients can-be covered with plastic and kept in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Instead of cutting in butter, try grating it. Freeze the butter and grate it with the food processor’s shredding disk or on a box grater. The shreds can simply be mixed into the flour: no need to cut them in. If you’re using shortening, shape it into a cylinder, wrap it in waxed paper, and freeze it overnight before shredding.

Chill a marble or granite work surface by filling a roasting pan (or zip-top bags) with ice and setting it on the marble for 20-minutes or so. Dry the surface thoroughly before using it for pastry.

When rolling out dough, keep a baking sheet in the fridge or freezer. If the dough begins to soften, slide the cold sheet under the dough for a quick chill. Once the dough is on the sheet, it can also be covered with plastic and put in the refrigerator.

Chill your equipment: bowls, whisks, pastry blenders, rolling pins, etc. Using cold bowls and tools keeps ingredient temperatures balanced. Stainless-steel and marble rolling pins stay the coolest.

Keep a pitcher of ice water in the refrigerator for mixing into the dough and for refreshing yourself.

Handle the dough as little as possible. Your hands will quickly warm the dough, so use a-bench scraper instead whenever you can.


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