No matter what time of year it is, it’s always time for pastry! Berry tarts, a delicate pastry with custard cream, or a lattice apple pie – all are favorites with my family. And to make a delicious pastry treat, you need the perfect dough.
But this is where things can sometimes go wrong. For me, pastry sometimes cracks when rolling out the dough. Is it too much flour or not enough shortening? Or maybe the dough is too cold or didn’t rest long enough.
Let’s take a look at why pastry cracks when rolled. And some tips you can use the next time you’re making pastry to keep the dough from cracking as you’re rolling.
1 – Follow the Recipe!
Pastry dough doesn’t have a lot of ingredients – flour, fat, a bit of salt, and ice water if you’re making a shortcrust pastry dough. Or flour, fat, sugar, and egg if you’re making a sweet pastry dough.
No matter what type of dough you’re making, always follow the recipe. Dough needs the right ratio of ingredients, so it rolls out precisely without cracks and bakes to perfection. Measure exactly and never over or under measure or you risk something going wrong with the recipe.
2 – Use the Right Flour
I’ve learned that it’s best not to substitute different types of flour in pastry dough recipes. Some pastry dough recipes will call for pastry flour, while others will use all-purpose flour. Other flour options are a pastry flour blend or whole wheat flour. Each of these flours differs in the way they absorb water.
If a recipe calls for all-purpose flour, substituting with a pastry flour blend is going to throw off the fat and water ratio. You can try to adjust – if the dough feels too sticky you can add more flour, or if it feels too dry you can add more water. But baking by adding more of one ingredient or less of another can lead to dough that just doesn’t roll out smoothly without cracks.
3 – Refrigerate Before Rolling
One way to prevent cracks is to chill the pastry dough before rolling. After making the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 to 30 minutes before rolling out.
4 – Shaping Dough Before Chilling
Another trick for avoiding cracks is to form the dough into a disk shape before chilling. If you’re chilling dough in a ball before rolling, and you’re still getting cracks, chilling as a flattened round disk can help to shape the dough before you start rolling.
5 – Warming up Pastry Dough
Don’t let the dough chill for longer than 30 minutes, otherwise it will crumble and crack. If you start rolling, and cracks appear, let the dough warm up for 5 minutes before trying again.
But it’s a fine line here – don’t let the dough warm up too much, or fat layers will start to melt into one another, and your dough won’t be nice and flakey.
6 – Resting Time
Some recipes require that your pastry dough be rested for a few hours. If the recipe calls for it, don’t miss this step. During the resting time, the flour in the dough moistens throughout so that gluten forms. When flour doesn’t have time to hydrate, your dough may crack when being rolled.
7 – Keep Dough Moist
If dough is difficult to roll and starts to crack, it may be too dry. Adding some moisture may help. Start by adding a few sprinkles of cold water and work into the dough, handling it as little as possible.
When the dough is evenly moist, carefully start to roll it out. If it’s still cracking a bit around the edges, let it warm up for 2 to 3 minutes. Any longer and the dough will become too warm.
8 – Butter and Shortening
If your favorite dough recipe keeps cracking around the edges, take a look at the ingredients. If the recipe is using just butter, try adding a portion of shortening to the mix the next time you bake.
For 1 cup of butter, substitute shortening for ¼ of the cup. The addition of shortening can prevent those annoying small cracks.
9 – The Right Rolling Pin
Having the right rolling pin can make all the difference when it comes to cracked dough. Invest in a French-style rolling pin – the kind with no handles.
Using a rolling pin with handles causes uneven rolling as you put more weight on one side. This uneven rolling can cause the dough to stretch out more in area and start to crack.
French rolling pins give you more control when rolling, leaving you with dough that’s the right thickness…without any cracks!
10 – Roll Dough in the Right Direction
Pastry dough often cracks if not rolled in the right direction – away from you. Start by rolling away from you in the center of the dough. Continue rolling away from the center, rotating the dough a bit with each turn. This prevents cracks from forming…and also leaves you with a perfectly nice circle of dough for your pastry or pie crust.
11 – Use Minimal Flour When Rolling
A common mistake when rolling pastry dough is to use too much flour to keep the dough from sticking. If dough is too sticky when you start to roll, adding flour to the rolling surface can quickly cause the dough to crack if you use too much.
Use as little flour as possible – any more than a teaspoon and not only will the dough crack as you roll, it will also bake up dry and crumbly.
12 – Marble Rolling Surface
A great investment if you make a lot of pies and other pastries is a marble pastry board. The marble surface is perfect for rolling dough – the marble stone keeps the dough just a bit cooler than room temperature, preventing dough from forming cracks.
13 – Roll Between Parchment Paper
A trick I often use when making pastry, is to roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper. If I start rolling the dough, and cracks are forming, I get out the paper.
Rolling gently, from the center out, the parchment paper keeps the dough moist and even, so cracks are avoided.
Fixes for When Pastry Cracks
Sometimes, no matter what you do, dough is going to crack when rolled. Here are a few fixes for cracked pastry dough:
1 – Pinching
When cracks start to form, gently pinch them together to try and mend. Be careful not to stretch the dough or it will start to pull apart.
2 – Mending Cracks with More Dough
If the crack is too large to pinch together, you can try mending. Pull off a piece of pastry from the edge. Place it over the crack and gently press into place. Then carefully continue rolling.
3 – Start Over
There’s many a time when I’ve just decided to start over. No matter what I do, cracks form. Roll the dough back up into a ball. Carefully knead in a bit of cold water. Then wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. And begin again! By starting over I’ve been able to rescue dough, so it rolls out perfectly on the second attempt without cracks.
When you know why pastry cracks when it’s rolled, and what you can do to prevent these cracks, you guarantee that your pies and pastries will come out perfect every time. Sweet or savory, you’re now ready to start making pastry dough for your next strawberry tart, banana cream pie, or Quiche Lorraine!