Professional cooks use butter for pastry. Puff paste should never be attempted with lard or a half mixture of it. If lard or clarified beef suet is used, the pastry of an indiffèrent cook will be improved by adding a little baking-powder to the flour and rolling the paste very thin.
It is not difficult to make puff paste. In winter, when it is freezing outdoors, or in summer, when a refrigerator with ice in it is at hand, it is very little more trouble to make puff paste than any other kind. The simple rolling of the dough to form layers requires very little practice. The only secret left, after using cold water and butter cold enough not to pen-etrate the dough, is to have it almost at a freezing-point, or at least thoroughly chilled, as it is put into a hot oven.
As hundreds of different dishes can be made with pastry, and as Carême has devoted a good-sized volume to the sub-ject, I will copy his receipt for puff paste. It is not modest, perhaps, to put my own first; but it is for the benefit of more ordinary cooks, who will never take extra trouble to make a thing perfect.
I mean Yankee pies. Our English cousins, when speaking of pies, mean only meat-pies, calling our pies tarts. When the paste is fitted over the pie-plate, cut round the edge of it with a sharp knife dipped in flour. Now cut a long curved strip, about three-quarters of an inch wide, wet slightly the top of the paste on the pie-plate near the edge (not the edge), and fit the strip around the pie, the edges coming together. Fill the pie, and place in the oven as soon as possible.
Rub a half pound of fresh lard into a pound of flour; use just enough of very cold water to bind it together; roll it out rather thin, and spread butter over the surface; now fold the paste, turning it twice; roll it out again, dredging the board (a marble slab is preferable) with flour; spread on more butter as before, and fold it again. The same process is continued a third time, using in all a quarter of a pound of butter, which should at first be divided into three equal parts.*
Ingredients: One pound of flour, half a pound of lard, two tea-spoonfuls of yeast-powder, and a little cold water.
First mix well the yeast-powder into the sifted flour; then rub in very carelessly and lightly the lard, distributing it in rather coarse pieces. Now pour in enough cold water to bind it together loosely, using the separated fingers of the right hand to turn the flour lightly, while the water is being poured in with the left hand; roll it out in its rough state; prepare the dish, and bake or boil immediately.
Select fine apples; pare them, and take out the cores without breaking them. Boil several whole in a stew-pan with a little lemon-juice, a very little of the yellow part of the peel, some sugar, and enough water to cover them, until nearly done. Quarter other apples; put them also on the fire with a little water, lemon-peel, lemon-juice, and sugar; boil these to a kind of marmalade; add some butter and peach marmalade, and rub it through a colander. Have some pie-plates covered with puff paste; fill the bottom with the marmalade, and put in four small apples (whole) to each pie, filling the cavities between with peach marmalade. Put two strips of crust (half an inch wide) across the pie, which will divide the apples. Bake in a quick oven. This is especially good served with cream.
* Four cupfuls of sifted flour are a pound; one cupful of lard or butter is half a pound.