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I'll be making a quantity of savoury shortcrust pastry, using the classic 2:1 flour to butter ratio which will be used to make Cornish pasties. This will be for a total of 900g of pastry. The recipe calls for making the pastry, rolling it into a ball and refrigerating for at least 30 minutes prior to use.

Is there an upper-bound for how far ahead I can prepare the pastry and would that impact how I use it, i.e. If I'm keeping the pastry refrigerated for longer than the at least 30 minutes, would I need to add the take out of the refrigerator 45 minutes ahead of use step that's often seen with shop-bought block pastry?

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    Not enough for an answer: if kept frozen it may begin to oxidise (ie, go rancid) after several months.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Commented Apr 9 at 10:02

3 Answers 3

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In my experience, the most important determiner of when to remove the pastry from the fridge is how well it handles when rolling out. if it's too cold it will crack, if it's to warm it will be sticky. Warming for 15-20 min seems all right for me after a night in the fridge. (for pies)

For baking, the dough temperature is less important since it will warm up during rolling and filling anyway, unless you chill the prepared pasties again before baking.

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    +1. When I make short pastry, it's almost always for a pie, so I usually lay it out in the dish before chilling it. If somebody has to shape the dough after chilling, the cracking you point out becomes quite important, so I think your answer is closer than mine in this situation.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Apr 9 at 6:51
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Another thing to try is to chill the dough not in a ball, but in a disc. Not as thin as you intend to bake it, but by flattening it into a 10-20mm disc, I have found that it's easier to shape the pastry without it cracking. This has the advantage of the dough chilling and warming up more uniformly. It will have a much larger surface area, so make sure to wrap it carefully in clingfilm, or it will dry out.

I know people who systematically freeze pastry dough and keep it in the freezer for months. Their pastries were never spectacular, but I don't blame that on the freezing of the dough. (Admittedly that was typically with a dough with much less butter.)

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The upper limit is given by food safety restrictions, which is, in absence of more specific rules, 3-5 days of fridge storage. For longer storaage, you have to freeze it.

There isn't an all-encompasing "take out X minutes ahead" rule. Rather, your pastry will behave differently during baking depending on how thoroughly it was cooled. The time needed for baking will change a lot depending on the initial temperature when you start baking. This is even more complex for something like Cornish pastry where you don't have a blind baking phase which you can extend or shorten as needed.

So, you will have to experiment how your specific combination of recipe, oven, and raw-pastry-temperature, to see how the pastries bake. You can then adjust for problems - e.g. if you notice that the pastry filling soaks through when baked from very cold, you can try the "take out ahead" step to see if the shorter baking time will prevent the problem.

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