All paste should be made in a very cool place, as heat ren ders it heavy. It is far more difficult to get it light in summer than in winter. A marble slab is much better to roll it on than a paste-board. It will be improved in lightness by washing the butter in very cold water, and squeezing and pressing out all the salt, as salt is injurious to paste. In New York ami in the Eastern states, it is customary, in the dairies, to put more salt in what is called fresh butter, than in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. This butter, therefore, should always undergo the process of washing and squeezing before it is used for pastry or cakes. None but the very best butter should be taken for those purposes; as any unpleasant taste is always increased by baking. Potted butter never makes good paste. As pastry is by no means an article of absolute necessity, it is better not to have it at all, than to make it badly, and of inferior ingredients; few things being more unwholesome than hard, heavy dough. The flour for paste should always be superfine.
You may bake paste in deep dishes or in soup plates. For shells that are to be baked empty, and afterwards filled with stewed fruit or sweetmeats, deep plates of block tin with broad edges are best. If you use patty-pans, the more flat they are the better. Paste always rises higher and is more perfectly light and flaky, when unconfined at the sides while baking. That it may be easily taken out, the dishes or tins should be well buttered.
To make a nice plain paste, - sift three pints of superfine flour, by rubbing it through a sieve into a deep pan. Divide a pound of fresh butter into four quarters. Cut up one quarter into the flour, and rub it fine with your hands. Mix in, gradually, as much cold water as will make a tolerably stiff dough, and then knead it slightly. Use as little water as possible or the paste will be tough. Sprinkle a little flour on your paste-board, lay the lump of dough upon it, and knead it a very short time. Flour it, and roll it out into a very thin sheet, always rolling from you. Flour your rolling-pin to prevent its sticking. Take a second quarter of the butter, and with your thumb, spread it all over the sheet of paste. If your hand is warm, use a knife instead of your thumb; for if the butter oils, the paste will be heavy. When you have put on the layer of butter, sprinkle it with a very little flour, and with your hands roll up the paste as you would a sheet of paper. Then flatten it with a rolling-pin, and roll it out a second time into a thin sheet. Cover it with another layer of butter, as before, and again roll it up into a scroll. Flatten it again, put on the last layer of butter, flour it slightly, and again roll up the sheet. Then cut the scroll into as many pieces as you want sheets for your dishes or patty-pans. Roll out each piece almost an inch thick. Flour your dishes, lay the paste lightly on them, notch the edges, and bake it a light brown. The oven must be moderate. If it is too hot, the paste will bake before it has risen sufficiently. If too cold, it will scarcely rise at all, and will be white and clammy. When you begin to make paste in this manner, do not quit it till it is ready for the oven. It must always be baked in a close oven where no air can reach it.
The best rolling-pins, are those that are straight, and as thick at the ends as in the middle. They should be held by the handles, and the longer the handles the more convenient. The common rolling-pins that decrease in size towards the ends, are much less effective, and more tedious, as they can roll so little at a time; the extremities not pressing on the dough at all.
All pastry is best when fresh. After the first day it loses much of its lightness, and is therefore more unwholesome.