When Butter Met Flour: An Expert Pastry-Making Guide For the Perfect Crust

When Butter Met Flour: An Expert Pastry-Making Guide For the Perfect Crust

16 minute read

Sweet or savory, hot and flaky buttery bliss. Pastry is one of those delectable foods that everyone loves. We can capture almost any flavorful filling between sheets of decadent pastry to surprise and delight our family, friends, or customers. Sour, sugared berries. Rich, creamy custard. Hearty chicken stew. Key lime––oh my. 

The possibilities are endless, and if you’re squirming to hone up your pastry-making skills to serve up a smattering of pies this summer, then this guide is a must-read.

You probably know that pastry is one of the more difficult baking endeavors any cook encounters. There's a reason why pastry chefs are in a niche of their own! In most cases, a great pie crust or pastry has much less to do with the actual baking part of the process, and more to do with preparation involving high-quality ingredients and skilled technique.

But don't be daunted. If you're new to pastry making, welcome! We believe everyone can learn to make an excellent pie crust with the right knowledge and hands-on practice. We're going to cover a lot of information in this guide, and we recommend reading it from start to finish. 

Before we get into how to make pastry, we need to know what type of pastry we want to make. So, we'll review the five main types of pastry first.

Return to this guide as frequently as necessary to review and follow the step-by-step process as you make pastry. You can link quickly to the desired section from the list below:



What is Classified as Pastry?

Mixing Pastry

The Skinny on Fat

The Best Flour for Making Pastry


Flaky Pastry

Puff Pastry

Phyllo Pastry

Shortcrust Pastry

Choux Pastry



What Is Classified As Pastry?

All types of pastries use three standard ingredients: flour, water, and fat, usually butter or lard, but in some cases, oil. Some pastries require an egg for leavening. It's incredible how just three ingredients can result in such a spectrum of texture, taste, and structure. From light and flaky to dense and tender to a drier crumbly quality that makes a perfect peach pie. The one major difference is the ratio of one ingredient to another. 

All pastries require those three ingredients and intentional hands-on mixing. The chosen fat––butter or lard (see below)––is cut into small chunks and coaxed into the flour with the fingertips using a gentle rubbing motion. Then just enough water is sprinkled in during the mixing to create sufficient moisture to bind the fat to the flour. 


Favorite Pastry-based Treats

Turnovers, croissants, brioche, tarts, pies, danishes, strudel, cream horns, baklava, cream puffs, eclairs, sticky buns, bear claws, mille-feuilles. Can you think of any more?

Mixing Pastry

A key point in the mixing process is the introduction of water––it must be intentional. The flour and fat must unite before water is added to result in that classic irregular particulate structure. The fat acts as a kind of armored coating for the flour to prevent it from over hydration, which would result in a difficult-to-work-with dough and a soggy, lifeless crust. 

A second critical component of mixing has to do with handling. You want to manipulate the flour and fat well enough to coat the flour but without only to a point. Overworking the dough promotes binding and increases the dough's elasticity, taking away from the flaky, crumbly structure. Minimal handling is one of the secret strategies of pastry making. 

The Skinny On Fat

Should you use shortening or butter to make pastry? Your grandmother may swear by shortening, but we have a soft spot for butter. It produces a richer, more authentic flavor than oil-based shortenings that withstand a higher baking temperature. Many people prefer shortening for the texture and more polished appearance it produces, but it just doesn't taste as good or as real as butter, and it fails to melt in the mouth the way butter does. 

Butter must be handled with care, which makes working with it a bit finicky but oh so worth it in the end. The ideal temperature is between 15°C and 20°C (59-68°F), which is just below room temperature. A knife should cut through it easily without collapsing its structure. Some pastries, such as puff pastry, call for cold butter.


Want Perfect Pastry Butter? Use a Butter Crock

Consider keeping your butter in a French butter crock, also known as a French butter keeper, to maintain its freshness at room temperature. Butter keepers with water prevent the butter from spoiling without requiring refrigerator storage.

The Best Flour For Making Pastry

When up against all-purpose flour, pastry flour is the winner. It falls somewhere between all-purpose (AP) flour and cake flour. Pastry flour contains slightly less protein than AP so it achieves the delicate, non-elastic structure that makes pastry so delectable while maintaining a tender texture. 

If you're in a pinch and AP flour is all you have, you can manipulate the consistency by adding cornstarch. Simply measure one cup of AP flour less two tablespoons, and add two tablespoons of cornstarch. This combination has less protein than straight-up AP flour and produces a more tender pastry.

SECTION 2: Five Different Types Of Pastry


Quality: Light and flaky

Also known as "rough puff pastry," flaky pastry is one of the more versatile pastries and our choice for sausage rolls and savory meat and vegetable pies with gravy. It has similar qualities to puff pastry but is actually quite distinct in how it's made. The resulting structure is different too due to less fat and fewer layers. Chilling the dough during and after making it helps to hold the fat and prevent it from melting when exposed to high cooking temperatures. The result is a light, though slightly more substantial crust with full butter flavor. Flaky pastry is also a good choice for making Eccles cakes and jam puffs.

How to Make Flaky Pastry

Total time: 1-1.5 hours, including chill time

Yield: 10 servings (1 sheet of pastry approx. 3-4 mm thick)

Required Tools

  • Flour sieve

  • Large mixing bowl

  • Blunt butter knife

  • Rolling pin


¾ cup (175 g) of butter at room temperature*

1 ¾ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour (sieved)

A pinch of salt*

¼ - ½ cup (100 ml) of cold water

2 tablespoons of  sugar (for sweet recipes)

*A French butter keeper preserves butter freshness at room temperature

*Omit salt if using salted butter



  1. Mix flour, salt, and sugar (if you include it) in a large mixing bowl.

  2. Divide the butter into 4 even portions.

  3. Add one portion of the butter to the flour. Using a blunt butter knife, cut/press the butter into the flour while sprinkling water in small amounts, just enough to bind and form a dough.

  4. Place the dough on a flour-dusted surface and roll into a rectangular shape. Sprinkle flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Continue rolling until the dough is about 4 mm thick.

  5. Remove excess flour from the dough’s surface.

  6. Divide another portion of butter into 1 cm dots and drop them, evenly spaced, across the dough’s surface, except for the bottom third. 

  7. Starting with the bottom edge, fold the pastry into three portions: bottom third to the center and the top down to a partial overlap.

  8. Press the edges, rotate it halfway, and roll until the sheet is 4 mm thick (like in step 4).

  9. Repeat steps 6–8 two times, make one last three-part fold, cover with plastic, and chill for 30 minutes.

  10. If you’re making a pie, set your oven to 400°F (200°C). Cooking time will be about 20–35 minutes, depending on the filling.

  11. If you’re cooking the pastry on its own, set your oven to 450°F (230°C) and cook for 8–10 minutes.

NOTE BEFORE YOU COOK: Brush the top (not the sides) with milk to encourage browning.


butter puff pastry


Quality: Airy and flaky

Butter between layers of dough between layers of butter creates a divine structure with an unrivaled rise. It’s no wonder puff pastry is known as the king of pastries. As the buttered dough bakes, air trapped between its layers swells and causes the dough to rise and puff up and out. The result is a beautiful airy crust that maintains its delicate structure while delivering a satisfying chew that simultaneously melts in your mouth. Puff pastry makes an exquisite tart base or pie topper.

How to Make Puff Pastry

Total time: 40 minutes + 3 hours rest time

Yield: 8 servings


Required Tools

  • Large mixing bowl

  • Whisk

  • Rolling pin



2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1 ¼ cups (283.5 gr) of unsalted butter, cold

½ cup cold water



  1. Whisk together flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.

  2. Cut the butter into ¼ inch slices and gently toss in flour mixture.

  3. Gradually add the water and stir until a thick dough forms.

  4. Press the dough into a ball, then flatten it and wrap in plastic.

  5. Chill for one hour in the fridge.

  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle shape.

  7. Fold the dough in thirds, rotate it 90 degrees, roll, and fold again. This process of rolling, folding, and rotating is called a “turn.” Perform 6 complete turns for an excellent puff pastry.

  8. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.

butter phyllo pastry


Quality: Light, thin, and fragile

Surely you’ve had the glorious taste experience of sinking your teeth into a fresh spanakopita or layers of sticky sweet baklava. Both are constructed with several layers of this delicate pastry––phyllo or filo. Unlike other more substantial pastries, phyllo has a very low fat content. It contains just flour, water, salt, and some olive oil. The result is a paper-thin waif-like pastry that layers well and tears easily; it requires careful handling! 

Once you have the hang of it, this pastry can perform culinary gymnastics––roll it, layer it, stuff it, or pinch it––creativity reigns! Phyllo dries out easily so ensure you’ve adequately arranged everything you need for the process to reduce exposure time. Once you’ve created your phyllo-fantastica, whatever it may be, brush it with melted butter before baking to achieve a golden, crispy surface rich with flavor. 


How to Make Phyllo Pastry

Total time: 30-60 minutes

Yield: 12 sheets


Required Tools

  • Large mixing bowl

  • A dowel



4 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1 ⅓ cups of tepid water

¼ cup of high-quality olive oil



  1. Sift flour into a mixing bowl.

  2. Add salt, water, and oil.

  3. Gently stir until a soft dough forms, and knead in the bowl for about 10 minutes. As you knead, the dough should lose its sticky quality.

  4. Wrap in plastic and rest at room temperature for 1 hour (if you don’t plan to use it all the same day, wrap and store any unused portion in the fridge for up to a week).

  5. Divide room-temperature pastry into 12 equal portions and shape into smooth rounds. Cover with a cloth.

  6. Working with one at a time, shape each round into a square.

  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll it out to a 6-inch square and dust with flour.

  8. Place the dowel at one end of the pastry and, while pressing firmly, roll the pastry over the dowel.

  9. Unroll the pastry, flour the work surface and pastry, and starting from the opposite end, roll the pastry again with firm pressure.

  10. Gently unroll. The second rolling should result in a sheet of 10 x 12 inches.

  11. Drape the pastry sheet over the backs of your hands and gently stretch it out to a sheet of about 14 x 18 inches.

  12. Place the sheet on a cloth, cover with wax paper, and fold the cloth over the top.

  13. Repeat this process with each dough round and layer one sheet on top of another with wax paper between each one.

  14. Use immediately to prevent spoiling.


Quality: Slightly dense and crumbly

This is your standard pie pastry and one of the easiest doughs to prepare. It’s made with twice as much flour as fat, by weight, and does not require a leavening agent. Shortcrust requires just enough water to bind the flour and fat. Gentle kneading combines ingredients and works it into a pliable dough that requires refrigeration before rolling out into a pie crust. Use it as a base for quiches, tarts, sweet or savory pies, and flans. Because of its bulkier quality, it accommodates both wet or dry fillings.  

How to Make Shortcrust Pastry

Total time: 10 minutes + chill time

Yield: 325 grams  - to line and cover an 18 cm (7") pie

Required Tools

  • Large mixing bowl



1 ¾ cups (225 g) of flour

100 g of butter, diced

A pinch of salt*

2-3 tablespoons of cold water


*Omit salt if using salted butter



  1. Sift flour into a large bowl.

  2. Add the diced butter and rub into the flour until the mixture becomes crumbly.

  3. If you’re using unsalted butter, sprinkle a pinch of salt.

  4. Mix in 2–3 tablespoons of water, just enough to bind to a firm dough.

  5. On a floured surface, gently knead the dough.

  6. Wrap in plastic and chill while preparing desired filling.


Quality: Light and doughy

This is the stuff that eclairs and cream puffs are made of. They contribute to a complete life experience! Both use choux (pronounced "shoo"). This fine French pastry is leavened and richer tasting with the addition of egg and milk, which creates a more substantial structure that can house such delights as piped cream for  profiteroles––a cream-filled, chocolate-smothered dessert. Choux is twice-baked, once in a saucepan and later in a preheated oven, with a few steps in-between. Like most pastries, choux takes some practice to master but once you've developed the technique, decadence is literally at your fingertips whenever you want it. Follow the steps below, ensuring not to deviate from or short-cut any instructions. Precision is the word of the day here.

NOTE: Do not remove choux from the oven until it’s thoroughly cooked, indicated by its firmness, or it may collapse.

How to Make Choux Pastry

Total time: 40 minutes

Yield: 18-20 puffs


Required Tools:

  • Large wooden spoon

  • Medium saucepan

  • Parchment paper

  • Baking sheet

  • Pastry bag with a large round tip



1 cup (8 fluid oz or 225 ml) of milk

½ cup (4 oz or 115 g) of butter

¼ teaspoon salt*

1 cup (5 oz or 142 g) of all-purpose flour

4 eggs, at room temperature


*Omit the salt if you’re using salted butter



  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (it’s critical that your oven reaches this temperature for proper cooking).

  2. Grease and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (greasing first secures the paper to the pan).

  3. In a saucepan, combine the milk, butter, and salt, and cook over medium heat.

  4. When the butter has melted, add the flour and beat the mixture until it forms a dough.

  5. Reduce heat to low and cook the dough for about two minutes, until it starts to coat the bottom of the pan.

  6. Remove from heat and allow the dough to cool slightly.

  7. Add the eggs and stir until well-blended to a thick paste.

  8. Fill the pastry bag with the mixture.

  9. Pipe the pastry into rounds 1 ½ inch wide and 1 inch high.

  10. Wet your fingertip and gently press on the peak of each puff.

  11. Using your fingers, lightly flick some water around the puffs. This step creates moisture to form steam when cooking, helping the choux puffs to rise.

  12. Bake for 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat but leave the puffs in for an additional 10 minutes.

  13. Remove and allow the puffs to cool before adding filling or toppings.

  14. Store covered up to 3 days in the fridge.

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Should I always use salt when I make pastry?

It depends on the type of pastry you’re making. The general recommendation is that it’s not necessary because it strengthens the texture of the dough. However, for that reason, you may wish to include a pinch of salt. Salt fortifies the gluten structure and modulates rising when exposed to heat. It may help prevent it from collapsing after it rises. If you’re using salted butter, then extra salt is probably not necessary.

Can I substitute butter for ghee?

You can swap butter for ghee in most recipes that require butter except pastry. The water in unclarified butter is essential for a richer, flakier crust. Alternatively, use ghee in your pastry but add a bit of extra water to your pastry recipe and use 25% less ghee.

Can pastry be frozen?

Yes, you can freeze pastry for up to two weeks. Any longer and the dough starts to lose its flavor. The prepare it properly, form it into a disc shape first to make it easier to roll out later. Wrap it in plastic and put in an air-tight container or sealed plastic bag before storing in the freezer. For effective thawing, transfer the dough from freezer to fridge the night before you plan to use it. Roll it out chilled.

Mix the dough and form into a disc so it's easier to roll out later. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store in an air-tight container or re-sealable plastic bag in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. If you store it any longer, the dough may begin to lose its flavour.


Priority Chef: Quality You Can Trust

At Priority Chef, we think that food prep and cooking should be a fun and rewarding endeavor, but that’s only possible with the right tools. That’s why we’re focused on creating functional, high-quality kitchenware that you and your family will rely on for years. 

We design, source, craft, and rigorously test each of our products to ensure the highest quality and convenience. We guarantee (based on experience) that a Priority Chef French Butter Keeper will keep your butter fresh and ready for pastry making endeavors. 

Happy turning, shaping, and savoring tender pastries from our family to yours!

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