Use the very best materials in making pastry; the shortening should be fresh, sweet and hard; the water cold (ice-water is best), the paste rolled on a cold board and all handled as little as possible. When the crust is made, it makes it much more flaky and puff much more to put it in a dish covered with a cloth and set in a very cold place for half an hour, or even an hour; in summer, it could be placed in the ice box.
A great improvement is made in pie crust by the addition of about a heaping teaspoonful of baking powder to a quart of flour, also brushing the paste as often as rolled out, and the pieces of butter placed thereon, with the white of an egg, assists it to rise in leaves or flakes. As this is the great beauty of puff paste, it is as well to try this method.
If currants are to be used in pies, they should be carefully picked over and washed in several waters, dried in a towel and dredged with flour before they are suitable for use.
Raisins, and all dried fruits for pies and cakes, should be seeded stoned and dredged with flour before using.
Almonds should be blanched by pouring boiling water upon them and then slipping the skin off with the fingers. In pounding them, always add a little rose or orange-water, with fine sugar, to prevent their becoming oily.
Great care is requisite in heating an oven for baking pastry. If you can hold your hand in the heated oven while you count twenty, the oven has just the proper temperature and it should be kept at this temperature as long as the pastry is in; this heat will bake to a light brown and will give the pastry a fresh and flaky appearance. If you suffer the heat to abate, the under crust will become heavy and clammy and the upper crust will fall in.
Another good way to ascertain when the oven is heated to the proper degree for puff paste: put a small piece of the paste in previous to baking the whole, and then the heat can thus be judged of.
Pie crust can be kept a week, and the last be better than the first, if put in a tightly covered dish and set in the ice chest in summer and in a cool place in winter, and thus you can make a fresh pie every day with little trouble.
In baking custard, pumpkin or squash pies, it is well, in order that the mixture may not be absorbed by the paste, to first partly bake the paste before adding it, and when stewed fruit is used the filling should be perfectly cool when put in, or it will make the bottom crust sodden.