Century-Old Nun’s Pastry Dough

People often wonder what makes our pastry so flaky and tender. Wonder no more! This is the recipe used by La congrégation des Sœurs grises in Quebec, and was passed on to my family in Montreal, the Desjardins, to me, and now—with my pleasure—it’s being passed on to you. It amazes me how a recipe can survive so long, but there’s a simple explanation. Love. When I’m making the pastry for our buttertarts, I often visualize myself living in a monastery and imagining the peace and tranquility the lifestyle instills. This may seem odd to some but the pastry turns out perfect every time. Coincidence? You decide.

(Recipe makes 1 head of dough.)


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • Rind and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 lb lard (we recommend Tenderflake)
  • 1 egg, separated


Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and lemon rind (reserving the juice), and stir with a whisk. Cut the lard into small cubes. Use a pastry knife to chop the lard and flour together into smaller pea-sized pieces until the mix resembles a light, floury crumble.

Separate the egg white into a bowl for whisking and the yolk into a measuring jug. Add lemon juice to egg yolk and top with ice-cold water to the 1-cup line and stir well. Whisk the egg white until foamy and white.

Make a well in the flour mixture.

Add the egg yolk, lemon juice, and water mixture to the flour mixture and gently fold 7–12 times by hand. While the mix is still a bit floury, add in the whipped egg white and gently press, fold, and press again until all the flour combines into a paste-like ball.

Divide two-thirds of the pastry into one ball, and the remaining one-third into another before wrapping and chilling.

If you’d like a visual demonstration, you can watch Marty prepare this recipe in the video below.

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