Pasta frolla is a simple and buttery Italian pastry dough. It has a very tender, cookie-like texture, somewhat similar to shortbread. Pasta frolla is an incredibly forgiving dough, and comes together quickly, making it one of my favorites for spontaneous baking.
A simple and versatile enriched Italian pastry dough...
In this fairly basic version, I’ve added a bit of ground fennel and black pepper to complement the rich, juicy fruit in my Summer Plum Crostata recipe. The fennel also happens to work well with savory fillings, like tomato and sauteed greens, making this recipe even more versatile. However, the spices are completely optional. You should feel free to omit or choose your own combinations, depending on your mood. In winter months, for example, I may opt for a spoonful of warming allspice or my favorite cinnamon from Burlap & Barrel. (No, I’m not an affiliate, I just love that cinnamon!)
The secret to the tender crumb is in the flour...
Many Italian recipes I’ve seen call for 00 flour, which is milled to a much finer texture than American all-purpose. Doughs made from “tipo 00” require less water than the coarser counterparts. It makes a lot of sense to use a less thirsty flour in a pastry. Think about a traditional flaky pie crust recipe: 99.9% of them caution to use ONLY as much water as you need to bring the dough together. Too much water and your dough will become tough. A flour that needs less water overall is inherently your friend when in search of tender pastry. But for this recipe, which is meant to be one of the most easy and welcoming doughs in your arsenal, I wanted to look elsewhere for tricks to coax out a more tender crumb.
Delicate and buttery, without any special ingredients!
Cake flour seems an obvious choice for extra tenderness, but I don’t often have cake flour on hand. Because I wanted a truly easy and spontaneity-friendly dough, I went a step further and opted to use the well-loved trick of simply cutting all-purpose flour with a few tablespoons of cornstarch. And, as it happens, powdered sugar also contributes to the tenderness of the dough, thanks to its own starch content. Not only does the starch lack the tougher proteins of wheat flour, it holds onto moisture more readily. This helps to keep the dough softer and less crumbly.
Notes for Success:
Despite the sugar, this isn’t a super-sweet pastry dough. You can follow the amounts as-written and it will be just sweet enough for dessert while not unbalancing your savory bake. If you do want to reduce the sugar, decrease the amount by just 1 or 2 tablespoons.
Not only is this pastry dough a breeze to make, but it can easily be made in advance. If chilling more than 15-20 minutes before rolling out, it will firm up significantly. Just let it sit on your counter until pliable but not sticky. Sprinkle your rolling pin and the surface of the dough lightly with flour when rolling, or pop it back in the fridge to re-firm if it gets too warm. And, since this dough is so forgiving, don’t sweat it if your crust tears as you move it around—just press it back together and patch any holes with scraps. No one will be the wiser!
Italian Buttery Pastry Crust (Pasta Frolla)
- 128 grams (9 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
- 85 grams (¾ cup) powdered sugar
- ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- 2 teaspoons ground fennel seed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
- 1 large egg
- 219 grams (1¾ cup) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Make the dough:In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and powdered sugar on low until mostly combined, then increase to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, 30 seconds. Add the salt, pepper, fennel, and lemon zest and beat until incorporated, 30 seconds more. Next add the egg and continue to beat until completely smooth and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed, about 60 seconds. Add the flour and cornstarch. Mix on low just until combined, 30 seconds. Turn out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press into a disc about 1-inch thick. Wrap tightly and freeze until firmed, about 15 minutes.
- Storage:If not using immediately, cover the wrapped, chilled disc in foil or place in a zip-top bag with the air pressed out. The dough will store in the refrigerator about 1 week or in the freezer about 1 month. If freezing, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.
- When ready to bake:Place the chilled dough in the center of a large sheet of parchment (about the size of a large baking sheet), dust the top of the dough with flour, and roll into a 13-inch circle, about 1⁄4-inch thick. If your kitchen is warm, the dough may stick to the rolling pin. Simply dust both the dough and the pin with more flour, or chill a few minutes to re-firm. Trim and patch the dough to neaten the edges, leaving a tidy 12-inch circle. Transfer to tart or pie pan, or, for a free-form crostata, slide the dough and the parchment onto a baking sheet. Chill for 10 minutes to re-firm and proceed with your recipe. (I like to bake this dough at 400°F.)
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