Spread the butter cubes on a plate and freeze for about 15 minutes. They should be very cold but not rock hard.
Mixer method: Combine the flour, salt, and butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Mix on low speed until the butter cubes are smashed up a bit and the chunks are about half their original size; don’t worry if the chunks aren’t uniform. With the mixer running, slowly pour about half the ice water into the flour and butter and mix just until the dough barely holds together; it will look quite shaggy. Take a big pinch and give it a squeeze. If it all holds together nicely and there’s barely any loose flour in the bowl, no need for more water. If it feels dry and powdery, add more water a few drops at a time; depending on your flour, you may need to add a bit more than the 1/4 cup.
Hand method: Toss the flour, salt, and butter in a wide bowl and cut the butter into smaller pieces with a dough scraper (also called a bench scraper) or a table knife. Pinch and press the mixture with your fingers to encourage the butter to form flattened pieces. Gradually add about half the ice water as you toss the flour mixture with a fork to evenly distribute the liquid. Don’t add all the liquid until you’re sure you need it. Test by taking a big pinch and giving it a squeeze. If it all holds together nicely and there’s barely any loose flour in the bowl, no need for more water. If it feels dry and powdery, add more water just a few drops at a time; depending on your flour, you may need to add a bit more than the 1/4 cup.
For both methods: Dump the dough onto a floured counter and shape it into a mound. Using the heel of your hand, press the mound to flatten a bit, pushing away from you slightly to smear the pieces of butter into the flour. With a dough scraper (bench scraper), scoop up an edge of the mound, fold it on top of itself, and continue pressing and smearing. You’re basically kneading the dough to make it more workable but you’re keeping larger layers of butter intact, which will make the dough very flaky. Continue 5 or 6 more rounds of pressing, smearing, and folding, until the dough no longer feels shaggy and is smooth but not sticky. If the dough is soft at this point, wrap in plastic and chill for 20 to 40 minutes. You can make the dough ahead and freeze it well wrapped for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.
Excerpted from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Laura Dart and A.J. Meeker.
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