How to Care for a Pastry Cloth and Everything Else You’ve Wanted to Know About Them!

“How do you clean your pastry cloths?”

This is such a basic question that I take it for granted that everyone will already know how to do it and might find me writing about it kind of…well, boring.

Rolled Crust on Orcas

A Pastry Cloth Makes Rolling Dough Easy

But, when I think about it, it is a question that comes up at just about every pie making workshop and demonstration I give and many thanks to food blogger and friend, Annalise Thomas of the blog Sweet Anna’s, for spurring me on to blog about it today. 

At nearly all workshops and demonstrations I use pastry cloths, either purchased ones or ones that I have made. (Yes, they are really easy to make and I’ll  share with you instructions on how to do that later in this post.)

What is a pastry cloth?

A pastry cloth is a piece of heavy durable fabric on which one can roll out doughs. My pastry cloths are made of unbleached cotton denim but in a pinch one could roll out on a cotton tablecloth if needed.

Most pastry cloths have neatly hemmed or serged edges but if you don’t mind some fraying or strings of unhemmed/unfinished edges you can just cut or rip a clean piece of heavy cotton fabric and you will be good to go.

Why use a pastry cloth?

I like using a pastry cloth for number of different reasons:

  • First off, I like to have something between my dough and the surface I am making it on.  When I roll out a beautiful dough directly on say wood or marble only to not be able to get it off the surface and into my pie pan, it is NOT a happy day! So, having something between dough and surface helps to move that dough quite easily.
    Making Pie with Ruth. (Photo by Chloe Kaplan)

    During This Session with Ruth Reichl, We Used Wax Paper. (Photo Credit: Chloe Kaplan)

    Yes, I do use other things; parchment paper, roulepats and silpats, plastic wrap, wax paper. All of them will do the job.

  • The second reason I like to use a pastry cloth is that the extra flour that I have dusted my dough with, goes through the weave of the cloth so I don’t have as much extra flour to brush off when the dough is rolled.
  • Thirdly, I like to store my pastry cloths in the freezer when not being used. This is one more way in pie making to keep everything chilled and for me “Keep Everything Chilled, Especially Yourself”  is Rule #1 in pie making and in life!
  • A pastry cloth is reusable. This gets big bonus points. My favorite cloth has become softer and smoother as I’ve used it over the years. Plus each time I pick it up to use, I love that so many pies have been rolled out on it!
  • Pastry cloths are great for kneading bread, too.

How to clean a pastry cloth?

Ah, now we get to the question at hand.

  1. Take a bench scraper or a knife and scrape the extra flour off of the pastry cloth.
  2. Take the cloth outside and shake the pastry cloth to remove even more flour. If you live in an urban environment like a NYC high-rise, you will want to omit this part. We don’t want to have either your neighbors below or pedestrians on the street showered with flour dust and dough bits! Right?
  3. Fold the cleaned off pastry cloth and place in a plastic bag in your freezer. It will be all chilled and ready for rolling out your next pie.
  4. About every fifth pie making session, or if you’ve spilled something like berry or cherry filling on it (and believe me I have had my share of spills!), wash on the cold cycle without soap. Add an extra rinse to make sure it is really clean.
  5. Then let it air dry. (Truth be told, sometimes it has found it’s way by accident into my dryer and this was NOT the end of the world!)
  6. Some pie makers do the entire scrape, shake, wash, and dry routine after every session and if that’s what pleases you, then by all means, that’s what you should do.

How to Make a DIY Pastry Cloth

  1. Buy 2/3 yard of unbleached or white cotton denim.
  2. Cut about a 20″square. Depending on how wide the fabric is you may have enough cloth to make a second pasty cloth to give to a friend.
  3. Roll under a 1/2 inch edge all the way around and stitch on your machine. If you are feeling fancy you can use some of those special stitches in a contrasting thread color for a personal touch. Or, if you have a serger, serge the edges very quickly.
  4. Thats it. You’ve made a pastry cloth!

P.S. You can find some pastry cloths at the Art of the Pie Store here.

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  1. Alane says

    I inherited my Mother’s pastry cloths. She didn’t put them in the freezer, but in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Is that wrong?

  2. Karen says

    No one who knows me will ever eat my pastry again when I confess that I’ve never washed my pastry cloth! Other than that and the freezer part, I do it the same as you, as my mom taught me. I was taught that, like a cast iron pan, washing with soap and water could ruin it, or at least require a lengthy re-seasoning. Do you have any advice about how to “season” a newly washed (or new) pastry cloth?

    • says

      I think the only way to re-season it is to use it again and again. As I teach so much and there are many using my cloths, I wash them occasionally as mentioned. But, if it were just the one cloth and me? Well, I would most likely not wash it either, Karen.

      • Tanya Gumkowski says

        I get a non-skid shelf liner from Wal-Mart…one that really holds tight to surfaces. I put my pastry cloth over that. No slipping and sliding and no flour all over my clothes.

          • Amanda says

            I was just kneading some dough on my cloth and it was sliding all over the place. It got me to thinking about how to make it nonslip. I wonder how well it would work to sew a piece of PUL on the backside, with the rubbery side out so it sticks to the table/counter. Is that pastry coth sacrilege? Or possibly dangerous for food use, even though it’s not directly touching the food, since it is a synthetic product not intended to be in contact with food?

          • says

            They’ve been around for so long and used in so many different ways that I really don’t think there’s any pastry cloth sacrilege. I knead bread directly on a wood counter. And, I don’t know anything about PUL but anything that is not intended to be in contact with food would be something to stay away from in my opinion. You might try draping a bit of it over the edge of the surface you are kneading on and securing it with your tummy. :)

  3. says

    I bake lots of pies for the local farmers’ market and I use a heavy, untreated canvas cloth for rolling out the crust. It works great. I don’t put the cloth in the freezer but that would be a good idea for summer time when the weather is hot and the dough tends to stick not only to the cloth but the rolling pin. Thanks for the info.

    • says

      Hi Stephanie- You’re welcome! Retail pastry cloths are all much the same with slight variations of weave and weight of cloth. A pastry cloth is “good” from the first use but keeps getting better and better with use.

  4. Anita says

    Whew, I was doing it right!

    I’ve found that I can remove grease spots — and even some minor fruit dribbles — by rubbing flour into them and scraping well from both sides (repeating as necessary).

    In addition to helping keep things cool, freezing also helps slow down rancidity of any fats or flours left in the weave.

  5. Annalise says

    THANK YOU Kate! This is exactly what I was looking for!! (Off to order a pastry cloth now! I am SO not crafty!) 😉

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