Diving into the heart of Italian baking last summer, I (re)discovered the joy of making Pasta Frolla, a quintessential sweet pastry dough that’s the foundation of Italy’s treasured desserts.
This simple recipe blends the rich texture of unsalted butter with the airy lightness of eggs, a dash of sugar, and lemon zest to create a versatile, tender base perfect for tarts, cookies, and pies.
Let’s bring the elegance and simplicity of Italy’s dessert tradition into our kitchens, one pastry at a time. Ready? Let’s jump right into it.
Basic Pasta FrollaCourse: PastryCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Medium
Pasta Frolla is a classic Italian sweet pastry dough known for its buttery, tender texture and delicate flavor.
This particular recipe blends the richness of unsalted butter with the lightness of eggs, the sweetness of sugar, and a hint of citrus from lemon zest, creating a versatile base perfect for tarts, cookies, and pies.
The ingredients are mixed to form a smooth, pliable dough that's chilled to enhance its flavor and texture. Once baked, it offers a delightfully crumbly and slightly crisp foundation, complementing a variety of fillings from rich custards to fresh fruit.
A staple in Italian baking, Pasta Frolla embodies the simple elegance of Italy's dessert tradition, making it a beloved choice for everyday treats and special occasions.
NOTE: The quantities below yield a 12-inch crostata crust, an 8-inch crust with lattice decorations, or c. 40 small cookies.
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
13/4 cup flour
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
grated zest of half a lemon
- Method #1: Mixing by hand
- Combine Ingredients: Pour all your ingredients into a mixing bowl.
- Mix with Hands: Use your hands to blend everything, pressing the butter chunks between your fingertips.
- Knead on Surface: Once the mixture starts to stick together, transfer it to a clean countertop and knead briefly.
- Wrap in Plastic: Encase the dough in plastic wrap, pressing it firmly to ensure no loose bits.
- Flatten and Chill: Lightly flatten the dough and refrigerate.
- Method #2: Processor Mixing Method
- Add Ingredients to Processor: Place all ingredients in a food processor.
- Pulse: Pulse until the dough begins to form a ball.
- Wrap in Plastic: Transfer the dough onto plastic wrap and press it together to ensure it's cohesive.
- Flatten and Chill: Lightly flatten the dough and place it in the refrigerator.
- Method #3: Mixer Method
- Set Up Mixer: Attach the paddle attachment to your mixer.
- Combine Ingredients in Bowl: Add all ingredients to the mixer bowl.
- Mix: Mix until the ingredients start to clump together into a ball.
- Wrap in Plastic: Follow the same procedure for wrapping and pressing the dough as in the hand mixing method.
- Flatten and Chill: Slightly flatten the dough and chill it.
- Temperature Matters: Keep your butter cold until you're ready to use it. This is crucial for flaky dough, as the cold bits of butter create steam pockets during baking, leading to that desirable texture.
- Do Not Overwork the Dough: Whether you're kneading by hand or using a mixer, work the dough just enough to bring it together. Overworking can develop the gluten in the flour, making the dough tough instead of tender.
- Consistency is Key: If your dough seems too crumbly or dry, add a tiny bit of cold water, one teaspoon at a time, until it reaches the right consistency. Conversely, if it's too wet, add a little flour to help absorb the excess moisture.
- Resting Time: Chilling the dough is not just a formality. It relaxes the gluten strands, making the dough easier to roll out and helping to keep its shape during baking. It also ensures the fat is firm, which contributes to the flakiness.
- Flattening Before Chilling: Flattening the dough into a disk before refrigerating speeds up chilling time and makes it easier to roll out evenly.
- Plastic Wrap Alternative: If you're looking for an eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap, consider using a reusable silicone bag or beeswax wraps. They're great for wrapping dough and are better for the environment.
- Clean Work Surface: Before transferring your dough to knead or roll out, ensure your work surface is clean and lightly floured. This prevents sticking and makes handling the dough easier.
Pasta Frolla FAQ
Can I make the dough ahead of time and store it for later use?
Absolutely! Pasta Frolla dough can be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Just wrap it tightly in plastic or place it in an airtight container before chilling or freezing.
My dough is too crumbly and won’t come together. What did I do wrong?
If your dough is too crumbly, it may need more moisture. Try adding a teaspoon of cold water at a time until the dough holds together when pressed. Be careful not to add too much water, which can make the dough sticky.
Can I substitute margarine for butter in this recipe?
While margarine can technically be used as a substitute for butter, it will affect the flavor and texture of the dough. Butter is preferred for its rich flavor and superior texture, so I recommend sticking with it if possible.
How thin should I roll out the dough for tarts or pies?
Aim for a thickness of about 1/8 inch (3 mm) when rolling out the dough for tarts or pies. This thickness allows for a sturdy yet tender crust that won’t become too thin or brittle during baking.
Can I use this dough for savory recipes as well?
Absolutely! While Pasta Frolla is traditionally used for sweet desserts, it can also be adapted for savory recipes. Simply omit the sugar and lemon zest, and you’ll have a versatile dough perfect for savory tarts, quiches, or hand pies.
How do I prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and work surface?
To prevent sticking, lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour before rolling out the dough. If the dough becomes too soft or sticky while rolling, you can place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up slightly.
My baked crust turned out too pale. How can I achieve a golden brown color?
For a golden brown crust, brush the surface of the dough with a beaten egg or cream before baking. This will give it a beautiful, shiny finish and enhance its color during baking.
Can I use this dough to make cookies?
Absolutely! Pasta Frolla dough makes delicious cookies with a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Simply roll out the dough, cut it into your desired shapes, and bake until lightly golden around the edges. Enjoy as is or decorate with icing or powdered sugar for added sweetness.
Can I make the dough in advance and freeze it?
Yes, Pasta Frolla dough freezes well. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container before freezing. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
What is the best way to store baked pastries made with Pasta Frolla dough?
Baked pastries made with Pasta Frolla dough can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. For longer storage, they can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months.
My dough is too sticky to work with. What should I do?
If your dough is too sticky, try chilling it in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes to firm up slightly. To prevent sticking, you can lightly dust your hands and work surfaces with flour.
Can I add flavorings or extracts to the dough, such as almond or vanilla?
Absolutely! Feel free to customize the flavor of your Pasta Frolla dough by adding extracts or flavorings such as almond, vanilla, or even orange or almond zest for a unique twist. Just adjust the amount to taste.