This pastry is used in both the Mascarpone Cheesecakes as well as the Chocolate Cherry Tart both from Pastry, by French chef Richard Bertinet.
2 eggs plus 1 yolk
12.4 ounces all-purpose flour
Pinch of sea salt
4.4 ounces butter, straight from the refrigerator
4.4 ounces sugar
Measure out all your ingredients before you start, and break your egg(s) into a small bowl—there is no need to beat it (them). If making sweet pastry, separate the remaining egg yolk(s). Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
Now for the cold butter. What I do is take it straight from the refrigerator and put it between two pieces of waxed paper or butter wrappers (I always keep butter wrappers to use for this, as well as for greasing pans and rings), then bash it firmly with a rolling pin.
The idea is to soften the butter while still keeping it cold. I end up with a thin, cold slab about ⅜ inch thick that bends like plasticine. Put the whole slab into the bowl of flour—there is no need to chop it up.
Cover the butter well with flour and tear it into large pieces.
Now it’s time to flake the flour and butter together—this is where you want a really light touch. With both hands, scoop up the flour-covered butter and flick your thumbs over the surface, pushing away from you, as if you are dealing a deck of cards.
You need just a soft, skimming motion—no pressing or squeezing—and the butter will quickly start to break into smaller pieces. Keep plunging your hands into the bowl, and continue with the light flicking action, making sure all the pieces of butter remain coated with flour so they don’t become sticky.
The important thing now is to stop mixing when the shards of butter are the size of your little fingernail. There is an idea that you have to keep rubbing in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, but you don’t need to take it that far. When people come to my classes, I find they can’t resist putting their hands back into the bowl to rub it just a little bit more, but if you want a light pastry, it is really important not to overwork it. If the mixture starts to get sticky now, imagine how much worse it will be when you start to add the liquid at the next stage. If you are making sweet pastry, add the sugar at this point, mixing it in evenly.
Pour the egg(s), and the extra yolk if making sweet pastry, into the flour mixture, add the water (salted pastry only), and mix everything together.
You can mix with a spoon, but I prefer to use one of the little plastic scrapers that I use for bread making. Because it is bendy, it’s very easy to scrape around the sides of the bowl and pull the mixture into the center until it forms a very rough dough that shouldn’t be at all sticky.
While it is still in the bowl, press down on the dough with both thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees and press down and turn again. Repeat this a few times.
With the help of your spoon or scraper, turn the pastry onto a work surface.
Work the dough as you did when it was in the bowl: holding the dough with both hands, press down gently with your thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees, press down with your thumbs again and turn. Repeat this about four or five times.
Now fold the pastry over itself and press down with your fingertips. Provided the dough isn’t sticky, you shouldn’t need to flour the surface. But if you do, make sure you give it only a really light dusting, not handfuls, as this extra flour will all go into your pastry and make it heavier.
Repeat the folding and pressing down with your fingertips a couple of times until the dough is like plasticine and looks homogeneous.
Finally, pick up the piece of pastry and tap each side on the work surface to square it off, so that when you come to roll it, you are starting off with a good shape rather than raggedy edges.
Sweet pastry variations:
Chocolate pastry: Add 0.7 ounce unsweetened cocoa powder with the flour.
Almond pastry: Use only 8.9 ounces flour and add 3.5 ounces ground almonds with the flour.
Hazelnut and almond pastry: Use only 9.7 ounces flour and add 1 ounce hazelnuts, 1.7 ounces sliced almonds, and 3.5 ounces ground almonds with the flour.
Pistachio pastry: Use only 8.9 ounces flour and add 3.5 ounces ground pistachios with the flour.
Lemon pastry: Add the grated zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 1/2 lemon when you add the eggs.