This is another addition to the Pittsburgh Cookie Table series, also totally appropriate for holiday baking time :) Don’t know what a Pittsburgh Cookie Table is or want a killer snickerdoodle recipe? Click here. Some other delicious cookie recipes in the series can be found here, here, here, here and here.
For those who don’t know – and I will say now that I am SO sorry if you are in this crowd – ladylocks are flaky pastry tubes covered in powdered sugar and filled with a creamy buttery icing. I briefly searched the internet looking for another name for them and I did not find one, only a minor conflict on whether it is ‘lady lock’ or ladylock. I think it looks better together, so that’s what I went with. And if you do happen to know if it has another name please feel free to share in the comments.
A few months ago I started buying ladylocks any time I was at a relatively decent bakery. I threw away a lot of really bad ladylocks. I ate a lot of mediocre ladylocks and a few good ones. Far too few for my liking. See, my mom used to make these by the hundreds for weddings and graduation parties, she was known for killer buttercream filling for them, so I have consumed more than my fair share of really good ladylocks. None of the ones I bought held a candle to the ones I remembered.
The ones I remembered were not crumbly puff pastry, they were a flaky light pastry tube that did NOT fall to pieces as soon as you took a bite, they held together like a good cookie should. The fillings ranged from the thick gaggy sweet powdered sugar shortening bomb to the even worse faux whipped ‘cream’ that actually contains no cream…or flavor apparently. Few had a decent buttercream, but none had the right pastry with the right filling. Little plastic containers of crushed flaky hope sprinkled with powdered disappointment. So sad.
Clearly the only solution was to get baking. So I called my mom and got her bag of round clothespins, easier than hunting from store to store to find the right ones, and hit the internet to see what They thought about the shells. Shocker – They had MANY thoughts on what makes a good ladylock shell. So I read about what a bunch of people thought about the topic them promptly tossed out most of it because the term ‘Quick Puff Pastry’ kept popping up and I’m sorry but there is no such thing. Even in their own recipes there was no such thing. Anyone who could type that with a straight face was no one I wanted to take cookie advice from. Puff pastry from scratch, even the alleged ‘quick’ method is not quick. Or easy. Mainly though it wasn’t right. Puff pastry could not create the cookie I remember; the dough is too flaky and delicate, too crumbly and susceptible to moisture, like when you were to fill it with buttercream.
So I went with my rememberings and decided to build a dough loosely based on a pie crust, that was mostly the texture and stability I wanted, but it needed to be less persnickety to work with and have a bit more structure. Knocked it out of the park with the first try then made it a few more times just to make sure because I was hesitant to believe that I nailed it off the cuff; at this point I have made these 5 times, all with the original recipe & once with all butter, all came out delicious and pretty and perfect-ish. And shockingly easy. Seriously.
I figure the easiest way to do this is to walk it through beginning to end and share the recipes and procedures as we go. As far as tools you will want around 50 old school round clothespins; you do not want the kind that have the metal thingies in them to pinch, you want to approximately 4″ long round peg-style ones. I found them at my moms after I went to Lowe’s and was told they don’t carry clothespins (really?) and that big yucky W place I can’t stand didn’t have them either. According to the internet they have them at Home Depot. You also need aluminum foil, a rolling pin, pizza cutter, non-stick spray & a cooling rack (ideally), a pastry bag to fill them is also quite handy (but a gallon baggie can be used in a pinch here, too) and a way to dust with powdered sugar – I use a small hand strainer.
Ladylock (Lady Lock) Dough makes about 52
This recipe is made using the Pie Dough Method of mixing, meaning the fat is cut into the dry ingredients, the liquids ingredients are combined then the 2 are folded together using as little mixing as possible so as to develop as little gluten as possible – over developing gluten makes this style of pastry tough and dense, not light & flaky. Another factor to this is temperature. You want the fats to stay cold, so freeze the shortening a few hours before making the dough and cube both the shortening and the butter as soon as you are ready to start. This dough needs to rest & chill before rolling; I went as long as overnight and as little as 2 hours with no noticeable differences in the end pastry.
Now generally I am anti-shortening, but after trying the recipe with all butter I can say the pastry is better when it is a mixture of both butter & shortening.
- 3 1/2 cups Flour
- 8oz Butter, cold & cubed
- 10 Tbsp Shortening, cold & cubed
- 1/4 cup Sugar
- pinch Salt
- 3/4 cup Cold Water
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla
I used the food processor, pulsing half of the flour & sugar with the cold cubed butter until it was the texture of coarse meal, repeated with the other half of the dry ingredients & cold shortening then combined the 2 mixtures in a big bowl. If you dont have a food processor cut the cold, cubed fat into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or forks until there are no large chunks of fat & everything is incorporated.
Mix together the water, egg yolk & vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients to pour the liquid into. Fold together with a rubber spatula until it comes together and forms a dough, about 12-15 turns. Form together to make a dough ball, divide into thirds and form each into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
I used round peg style clothespins covered in aluminum foil & sprayed with non-stick spray. The foil wrap job doesn’t need to be neat, I discovered after the first time I painstakingly wrapped some of them. It is more important to leave a piece that you can use to remove the mold easily. On this particular clothespin style the rounded top was a smidge wider so that was where we made the ‘handle’.
There are also stainless baking molds available in any number of sizes that I am sure are really very quite nice, but they are also quite expensive, especially compared to the cost of the clothespins. Being able to have so many, 50 or so, meant I could keep a pretty steady flow of these in & out of the oven making it a much faster project. I had a new tray ready to go in when one came out.
While the dough chills get your molds prepped – be that foil wrapping the clothespins or finding the molds. I bake these on parchment lined sheet trays, so get a couple of those set up, too.
Making the Ladylock Shells
I roll this dough in a 50/50 mix of flour & sugar mixed together. Get the oven turned on to 350 & have your prepped molds & pans ready.
Sprinkle your work surface liberally and start rolling. When you are done you want a piece of dough, roughly the shape of a rectangle, that can be trimmed to a rectangle that is 12″ wide and 1/8″ thick. On my first roll I get a 12″x14″ rectangle and they get bigger from there because I roll the scraps into each new disk of dough. If that seems like it might be too much dough to work with throw the scraps back in the fridge as you go, remold them into a disk when you have them all & roll out, same as the others.
Once you hit the width focus on the thickness, and thereby the length. You will be trimming off the outer edges, which tend to be thicker, but the dough should be uniformly thin, as close to 1/8″ as you can get and even.
Once you have it rolled to the right shape use the pizza wheel to square up the dough to a 12″ width and get ready to cut 1″ wide strips in the dough. I use my rolling pin, like in the pics above, as a guide, running the wheel up against the pin and rolling the pin in even 1″ increments across the dough. Toss any odd end pieces in the scrap pile.
Time to wrap the dough around your molds – if you haven’t sprayed them down yet please do so now. The dough must overlap as you are rolling it on to the molds, same us you would, say, a bandage. Wrap the dough once around the bottom of the pin then spiral upward.
Lay the shell on a parchment lined tray. Space them evenly apart, you can fit about 15 per half sheet tray. As they get done move them into the heated oven for 20 minutes. They shells are done when the pastry looks dry and and baked through. They may take on a little bit of color, but hardly any ideally.
With a 20 minutes bake time I had plenty of time to get the next tray(s) ready as they baked, had a nice flow into & out of the oven. When the shells are baked take them out of the oven and lest them sit for 1 minute. Literally. 1 minute. Then start unmolding them, placing the shells on a cooling rack. To unmold hold the shell delicately in your hand and gently pull the clothespins out, doing it while they are hot gives some flexibility to the dough. If you do not get them off the molds immediately you will have trouble getting them off in one piece; as the dough cools it gets crisp, crisp is not conducive to pulling out molds. It really doesn’t burn much, foil gives up heat fast. Let the shells cool completely before filling. Ahhh…the FILLING!
Buttery Buttercream to Fill Ladylocks!
There are eleventybillion different kinds of buttercream. There are Italian ones and meringue ones and French ones and American ones and and and…well you get my point. This is a riff on an American buttercream so its whipped butter with powdered sugar and some vanilla. Sounds easy…and it is…mostly. I call it a riff because it is far less sweet than a typical American decorators icing, more whipped for airy lightness and is perfect piped into these cookies. I use SALTED butter for this. If you use unsalted add a pinch while the butter whips.
The butter for this needs to be soft, not just room temp but softer, I leave it near the stove while I am baking. I use the whisk attachment for my mixer, too, to get as much air in there as possible.
- 12oz (3 sticks) Butter, soft
- 2 cups Powdered Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Vanilla
Whip the softened butter until it light, glossy and almost white in color; this takes time, be patient. When the butter is lightened up add the powdered sugar & vanilla. Mix on low until incorporated then whip on high until light, airy & fluffy. The buttercream should be a light creamy white in color and stiffly fluffy.
Fill a pastry bag, I fit mine with a narrow tube tip but snipping off the top of a disposable bag or gallon baggie also works fine. Fill each shell with a squeeze on each end being careful not to blop all out the ends. When they are filled lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar.
A flaky, lightly sweet, vanilla scented crust filled with a lighter than air buttery buttercream all dusted with powdered sugar. The perfect ladylock. Out of your kitchen. Whenever you want. Or, if it suits you better, out of my kitchen ~ just email me how many you want & for when :)
- The shells freeze well – but don’t fill them before you freeze for best results.Freeze in layers with parchment in between the layers in an airtight container.
- They freeze pretty well filled, but the pastry is a little moist after thawing, as would be expected, really. Same freezing instructions- layers, parchment, airtight.