"Carved like an apple tart."

Pastry is a combination of fat and flour, and may be short, flaky, or puff pastry, according to the materials used and the method by which they are combined. The fat used is known by the general name of shortening. Butter and butter substitutes are sometimes used in combination to reduce expense. All shortenings should be as free as possible from water and from salt, and very sweet and fresh. The proportion of fat to flour varies according to the richness required, from less than half to nearly, and in the case of rich puff paste to quite, equal weights. Where the shortening is less than half the weight of flour, a small quantity of baking powder is used to give crispness and shortness to the crust, but pastry in which it is used should be eaten while quite fresh.

Good pastry is the pride of a good cook, but though its success depends to a great extent on skill and manipulation, it depends even more on the using of the right proportions in making and the correct heat in cooking; these points once mastered, the novice has gone a long way towards succeeding in the art of making pastry.

The principles underlying the making of light pastry are the introduction of cold air during the making, and the expansion of the air so introduced by the heat of the oven while the pastry is cooking.

The cook should aim to make the pastry light and short, or light and flaky according to the character of the pastry made.

Pastry requires a hot oven and a cool, light hand in the making. Baked pastry should be mixed as dry as possible; boiled pastry rather moist. The quantity of liquid necessary to mix the pastry varies according to the richness of the crust, plain pastry requiring more liquid than a crust rich with a larger proportion of fat.

In making pastry, the colder the hands of the maker, the water, and the room, the better. A marble slab is the best thing on which to make it: otherwise a hard board which is kept for pastry only should be used.

Use iced water for mixing, when possible. Pastry will be flakier if placed in the ice box for a short time before it is finally rolled out for use. The flour should be very dry and should be sifted with a little salt. Never knead pastry. Use the hands as little as possible. Mix with a knife unless otherwise specified.

The excellency of pastry depends very much upon its being properly baked. The best pastry that ever was mixed would be spoilt if the oven were not exactly right. If an oven is not hot enough, the pastry will shrink away from the edges of the dish and will be heavy. If the oven is too hot, the pastry will be burnt or will stiffen without rising.

Bake pastry in a moderate or quick oven. A good way to test the oven is to have in readiness some pieces of white kitchen paper and try the oven by putting in a piece of this paper every six minutes or so. If the oven is too hot, the paper will blacken or blaze up immediately; if it turns a deep brown, the oven is ready for patties, individual mince pies, etc. If it turns a cigar-brown, tartlets, vol-au-vent, etc., may be put in; if it simply becomes a light brown, the oven is fit for bread, pound cake, or meat pie; if it turns a very pale yellow, or hardly colors at all, it is a slow oven just fit for sponge cakes, etc., which require but little color and light baking. One of the surest ways of testing the heat of the oven is to bake a small piece of pastry before putting the pie or tartlet into it. Another way is to sprinkle a little flour upon the oven shelf. If it turns a bright brown in a few seconds, the oven is hot enough. If it turns black, the oven is too hot; if it remains pale in color, the oven is too slow.

The heat of the oven may be tested with a thermometer. For puff pastry the oven should register about 340° F. to begin with, and when the pastry is well risen the heat may be reduced to about 325° F. For meat pies about 300° F. will be hot enough, and for the plainer kinds of pastry the temperature may be still a little lower.

Puff pastry, when well made, is light and tender, and so delicate that it cannot be touched without crumbling or crushing. It should be thoroughly baked, and is therefore suitable for patties, the upper crust of pies, and tartlets. Pastry that is light, dry and flaky is more easily separated by the gastric fluids and is more digestible than that which is heavy.

Pastry which is to be boiled is lighter when made with suet than it is when butter or butter substitutes are used. Beef suet is generally used for this purpose, but mutton suet is more wholesome and can be chopped the more easily of the two. Measure four cups of flour, and four, six, eight, or ten ounces of suet may be used, according to the degree of richness required. The suet should be skinned, and the fibers and sinews should be removed; it should then be chopped until it is quite fine and rubbed into the flour; water or buttermilk should be added gradually to make a very stiff paste. The pastry should be rolled out once; it is then ready for use. The water used in mixing pastry should be added gradually and mixed thoroughly. If a large quantity is poured in at once the pastry may be made over moist, and then an undue proportion of flour will have to be added before the pastry can be rolled. It should be remembered that it is scarcely possible to give the exact measure of water that will be needed in making pastry, because some flours absorb more moisture than others. An experienced cook can tell in a moment by touching the pastry whether or not it is of the right consistency. All one can say to the inexperienced cook is that pastry should be smooth and stiff, but not too stiff. When properly mixed, the dough can be gathered into a ball, and used to wipe the mixing bowl out, like a cloth.

Never allow pastry to stick to the board, but lift it occasionally on the rolling pin and dust a very little flour underneath.

Avoid as much as possible rolling dry flour into the pastry, as it will give it a pasty and white appearance.

Pastry is sometimes glazed before being put into the oven. When a rich deep color is wanted on a pie, brush the pastry over with the beaten yolk of egg mixed with a little cold water. For a lighter brown use a whole egg beaten; or egg and milk, or milk alone, may be used on the plainer kinds of pastry. Sweet pastry is generally glazed with slightly beaten white of egg and sugar, or with milk or water and sugar.

The digestibility of pies has been called into question, but when properly made pies are as easily digested as anything else.