I am doing a tutorial today on sweet Pastry where we are making Tarte au Citron, which is one of my favourites. Pastry is one of those bakes that fills some people with dread. I get lots of people saying to me, ‘ I can’t bake pastry’, so hopefully today I will help someone say with pride ‘I made that’ instead.
There are lots of shop bought, ready made pastries that you can buy when you are in a rush, but nothing beats making your own buttery pastry. It is real comfort food. However, if trying shop bought pastries gets you baking that’s a good start.
That being said Filo pastry is much easier and very good quality to buy.
Developing the confidence to try home baking is the start. Knowing how to get out of trouble is the next thing. I have put together some pastry tips today for my learners that are quite useful.
What makes good pastry?
Have belief you can do it and have a go, you will get great satisfaction from taking your first step to making the perfect pie or tart!
The rule of thumb is half fat to flour, and have some patience, perseverance and practice.
Buy good ingredients, well sourced and organic if you can.
There is some science behind pastry so in order to make good pastry with a good crust you need to inhibit the development of gluten and not work it too hard. Gluten is created when flour bonds with water and is then manipulated through stretching.
- Softer flours create less gluten, so cake flour is good for sweet pastry but adding some strong bread flour is good for flaky pastry.
- Water is absorbed less easily into flour when the ingredients are colder and that is why cold temperatures are an advantage when making pastry.
- When making puff pastry cold butter provides a barrier, an air pocket between the layers, helping with the flakiness.
- It seems obvious but use a large bowl when making pastry, as this will give the pastry being made more air and space.
- Always sieve the flour and salt. Homepride do pre sieved flour, which is handy.
- So cold hands work for you when making pastry. Keep all the utensils cold too. If you are not using a mixer, rub in the fats and flours lifting your hands as much as possible to introduce air and coldness.
- In short crust pastry, fats are added not just for a nice buttery flavor but also to STOP the gluten’s development. The fat coats the flour and bonds and stops too much gluten creation. That is why we always rub in our butter to the flour before adding the liquids.
- When using very cold fats you can soften it slightly with a knife or grate it in but never use warmed up fats in flour for pastry, it will affect it by making it sticky. Grating the fats also helps with a flakier crust for pie crusts.
- Flaky and Puff pastry are not the easiest to master, but in time you can master it and make superior pastry. In flaky or puff pastry extra butter is added in chunks and not worked into the flour. We want those buttery layers in this pastry.
- Sugar added to sweet short crust pastry when added to the flour before the water helps protect the flour from the water and again reduces glutens. It also adds a sweet flavour. adding lemon, orange or lime rinds adds a nice flavour too.
- Add the cold water gradually, you can add, but not take away! Add a little water if the dough looks lumpy but no longer crumbly. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour, cutting up the pastry and tossing the pieces in the flour and pushing it then back together. Extra kneading from incorporation a big blob of flour will make the resulting pastry tough, as you have activated too much gluten.
- Add one egg yolk to the water if you want a richer shortcrust pastry.
- If you want a crispier texture use milk instead of water.
- Be careful working the dough, treat it with respect and be gentle. Don’t Overwork it!
- So remember when rolling out pastry dough to work it very little, roll away from you, NOT back and forth, so you don’t over roll it. When rolling out the pastry lift the rolling pin from time to time, this helps keep the dough light. Keep moving the pastry a little on the work surface to make sure it is not sticking to it.
- However, with puff pastry you do roll more and fold because you are multiplying the layers. Keep a note on the number of turns you give your puff pastry by making an indentation in the top of the dough.
- REST the pastry now, at least for 30 minutes, the glutens are having chill out time now and it will hold its shape when blind baking.
- If it is too stiff when coming out of the fridge just whack it with the rolling pin a couple of times, it will shock it !
- Blind bake it now. Soggy bottoms are a no no! Properly cooking the pastry helps seal it. Lay baking paper over the tart case and fill with rice, baking weights or pulses. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees C. Pre heating is very important.
A quick guide to how much pastry you need is:
200g of flour= 300g of pastry and will cover a 18cm/ 7″ pie
300g of flour=450g pastry and will cover a 23cm/9″ pie dish.
Love food hate waste, don’t throw away the scraps of pastry make little jam tarts for the family, that’s fun for the children to make with you.
Alternatively, freeze pastry not used and use it again in the next month. Freezing ahead is good if you know you have a party coming up also.