Pasta frolla is the base for many beloved pastries in Italy. Different parts of the country have different traditions. In the north, frolla is usually made with butter, and from the center of Italy going south, bakers often use lard. Throughout Italy, pasta frolla is used for crostate (plural of crostata), from the crostata alla confettura, which is common all over Italy, to more regional specialties like pastiera in Naples (which is made with lard instead of butter), torta della nonna in Tuscany, many versions of crostate alla ricotta, and bocconotto, just to name a few…. The same dough is used to make frollini, cookies which, as you can intuitively guess, get their name from frolla. I’d love to introduce you to all these wonderful regional recipes.
To achieve a good pasta frolla with a melt-in-your-mouth texture, it’s important to keep in mind some basic rules:
- If the butter is too soft, the frolla will become tough.
- If the frolla is worked too much, the gluten in the flour will develop too much, making your dough tough.
- On the other hand, if the dough is not worked enough, it will not cook evenly.
Pasta frolla freezes very well. I like to keep some extra dough in the freezer ready to use. To defrost, remove from the freezer and refrigerate overnight.
500 g sifted all-purpose flour
300 g sweet butter, diced, then softened to room temperature
200 g confectioners sugar
80 g of egg yolks (4 to 6 egg yolks, depending on the size of the eggs)
5 g honey
½ teaspoon salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix together the butter, confectioners, sugar, and honey until incorporated. Don’t whip.
- In a small bowl, whisk the yolks together with the salt. Slowly incorporate into the butter mixture.
- Add the flour, and whisk just until no more flour is visible and a dough forms. Take a little bit of dough out with your hands; it should feel soft but not sticky.
- Lay out a sheet of parchment paper, and lightly dust with flour. Remove the dough from the bowl of the stand mixer, and roll out onto the parchment into a square of 1-inch thickness. Wrap the square of dough and chill for at least two hours, or overnight.
- Take the dough out of the refrigerator, and let it rest at room temperature until it is pliable enough to use.
If you are wondering why I have decided to give my recipe measurements in grams you can read more about it here.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of making pasta frolla, you can adapt your recipe depending on how you plan to use the dough or how much dough you need. Over time, we will explore different versions of the recipe but, for now, advanced bakers can use the following tips to experiment with adapting the recipe for their needs.
Tips and tricks
The classic Italian method for pasta frolla consists of first mixing the softened butter with sugar and aromatics (vanilla, lemon zest etc.) then adding the liquid in which the salt has been dissolved. Flour is added last. The most basic Italian recipe is the frolla Milano (originally from Milan), in which the proportion of butter to sugar to flour is 1:1:2, that is, the butter and sugar are in equal proportion, and the flour is double that amount. Liquids are usually 10% of the total combined weight of butter, sugar and flour (this is really a good example of why measuring your ingredients by weight is so handy. Everything becomes a matter of ratios, and it gets easier to adjust the recipes).
The pasta frolla can also be made using the “sanding” method, which consists of quickly working the cold diced butter into the flour using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer until the dough resembles wet sand. This can also be done by hand, mixing the butter and flour together between your thumbs and forefingers. By working the flour with the butter in this way, the flour particles get coated in a protective film of butterfat. This prevents the flour from absorbing too much water and activating the gluten proteins, which would result in a tough dough. A dough made this way will make a particularly crumbly pastry shell. This technique is especially good for baking in hot weather, when melting butter in the dough can result in a dough that is more difficult to handle.
To change the texture of the dough for different applications, you can make small adjustments to the types and amounts of ingredients. For example, using a higher proportion of sugar will make your frolla crunchier; a higher proportion of butter will make it flakier. For a more tender frolla, you can cut your flour with some potato starch (as a general rule I use 90% flour and 10% potato starch). A frolla made with just egg yolks will be more tender than a frolla made with whole eggs. For a tart that slices easily, you can add a tiny bit of baking powder to the recipe above. I generally use 1 teaspoon per 500 grams of flour.
When choosing between granulated sugar and powdered sugar, I like to use confectioners sugar. The confectioners sugar gets more evenly dispersed throughout the dough, giving the dough a finer texture. Adding honey to the dough gives it a uniform golden color. Depending on how you plan to use your dough, you may prefer to use granulated sugar. For example, if you plan to use the dough for the shell of a fruit tart, I recommend using whole eggs and granulated sugar rather than just the yolks and confectioners sugar. This will result in a sturdier shell that will stand up to the moisture of the cooked fruit. When using granulated sugar, make sure you allow the dough to rest overnight before rolling it out, which will make the dough much easier to work with.