For the first “basics” post of 2016, I’m introducing you to pasta frolla, an Italian sweet pastry dough. This is not a difficult dough to master, but I’ve held off writing a blog post about it because it’s taken me a while to find a recipe that has the proper proportions of flour, butter, and sugar. It wasn’t until I bought a copy of Carol Field’s The Italian Baker that I found a recipe that yielded a perfect batch of sweet pastry dough every time, and it has become my go-to cookbook for Italian baking knowledge.
Like all butter pie dough and cream cheese pastry dough, I like to make pasta frolla in the food processor because it comes together quickly, with just a few simple steps. If your food processor comes with a dough blade, use it when making dough as it’s designed specifically for the job. However, if you only have the steel blade, your dough will turn out just as well.
Pasta frolla is a dough that is used only for sweet recipes. It’s often used as the crust for tarts, but it’s also a great dough to cut into shapes for cookies. Once baked, its texture is both tender and flaky. The milk solids from the butter contribute not only to the texture of pasta frolla, but also to its rich, delicious flavor. Traditionally, pasta frolla is scented with freshly grated lemon zest which lightly scents the dough. The flour used to make pasta frolla is important. Because it is a delicate dessert dough, a low-protein flour will ensure the finished dough stays tender and delicate. If you can find it, Italian 00 (zero-zero) flour is a great choice, but white pastry flour and all-purpose flour also work well. I have used all three with success. Eggs are the only liquid used to bind the dough together. Some bakers use only egg yolks and others will use a combination of yolks and whole eggs. Eggs are high in fat and have a relatively low water content, although they provide just enough moisture to bind the dough together. The less water there is in a dough, the less gluten forms, resulting in a tender dough. When the moisture from the eggs isn’t enough to bind the dough together, scant drops of ice water can be used. To sweeten the dough, granulated or powdered sugar both work well. While the baker can vary the types of ingredients, the ratios of each ingredient remain firm: two parts flour, one part butter and one part sugar.
Like most doughs, pasta frolla benefits from a rest in the refrigerator, a few hours at a minimum, but ideally overnight, so some advance planning is necessary if you’re making a dessert with this dough. Because of its delicate texture and high butter content, pasta frolla can be fiddly to roll out. Flouring the board and rolling pin well, but not excessively, will keep the dough from sticking (which it loves to do). Rolling out the dough on a cool surface, such as a marble board, will help keep the dough cool. Handling it as little as possible with your hands will also keep it from warming too much. I find it helps to place the rolled out dough (or cut out cookies) on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill it before fitting it into the tart pan and baking it off. Don’t be discouraged if the dough splits or cracks when rolling or cutting the dough, as it’s easy to patch.
I’ve made a visual tutorial collage showing how to make the dough using the food processor method.Print
Adapted from The Italian Baker by Carol Field
- 2½ cups (300 grams) white pastry flour or all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (100 grams) powdered sugar or granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 14 tablespoons (200 grams) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
- Zest from one small lemon
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Place the flour, sugar and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade (or dough blade) and pulse a few times to combine.
- Place the butter pieces and lemon zest on top of the flour mixture.
- Pulse the ingredients together until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Mix the egg, egg yolk, and lemon juice together in a small bowl.
- With the machine running, pour the egg and lemon juice mixture through the feed tube into the flour mixture and pulse the ingredients until the dough just starts to come together and pull away from the sides of the work bowl. Do not process until the dough forms a ball or else it will be too tough.
- Transfer the dough onto a floured board.
- Working quickly, bring the dough together, adding a small amount of cold water to the dough if it is too dry.
- Form the dough into a ball and pat it into a disk.
- Turn the dough a few times to shape it evenly.
- Wrap the disk of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours or preferably overnight.
- Use the dough within 1 day of making it in any recipe that calls for pasta frolla.
- Because there are raw eggs in this dough, put some flour in a small bowl and use it to flour your board and rolling pin. This way, you will not cross-contaminate the entire bag of flour.