Ready to learn how to make pastry? Here I will cover the basics of pastry making, then we will move on to different types of pastry such as shortcrust, flaky, rough puff and choux.
One of the most important things when making pastry, is to keep everything cold! Cold ingredients, cold hands, cold surface and then, for good measure, a cold place to rest it before it is cooked.
Some people are lucky enough to be considered a natural at this skill, but the rest of us can learn some simple rules and produce light, tasty pastry every time.
There are three main ingredients in pastry making...flour, fat and a liquid, normally water.
Good results start with good ingredients. You need plain flour for this, not self raising!
For the flakier varieties such as puff or flaky pastry you can use a strong, bread flour which has a higher gluten content. This will help to make the dough even flakier.
Keep the wholemeal or wholewheat flours for shortcrust as the bran content will prevent flaky and puff pastry from forming flakes.
There are a number of types of fat that can be used, including a mixture of those below.
Margarine This gives good results, with flavour, colour, and some shortness.
Hard or block margarine is best as the soft kind can become oily and melt too quickly when you are rubbing it into the flour.
Another excellent choice, with a nice flavour which makes light, short pastry. However, the cost may prevent it being used on a regular basis.
This makes lovely short, crispy pastry, but it lacks colour.
Vegetable fats such as Trex, produce similar results to lard (without the animal fat) but produce a very pale result, with little flavour.
A mixture of fats
Ideally a mixture of lard (or shortening) with butter or margarine will make the best pastry. Remember it needs to be cold, so take it out of the fridge just before you use it.
Normally water is used as the liquid to bind the other ingredients into a dough. In the case of rich pastry an egg can serve the same purpose, however.
Again we need to use ice cold water, to prevent the fat in the mixture from beginning to melt. If this does happen, then the dough will be more difficult to handle, and the finished result may be too crumbly.
The rubbing in method is used here. You will often see the expression "until it looks like breadcrumbs" in recipe books. Basically, we don't want to produce a smooth mixture (such as for cake making), as we want to create tiny pockets of air in order to produce light, short pastry.
For the flakier varieties we want bigger "pockets" so we spread the fat on our dough to create these deliberately.
A light touch is necessary both when mixing the dough and when rolling it out. If you are heavy handed your results will be tough and hard, due to the gluten in the flour being developed. If you really want to thump something maybe you would be better making bread!
Once the "breadcrumb" stage is reached it is time to mix in the water with a cold palette knife. Do this briskly but gently.
Your dough will then benefit from being left in a cold place to rest for up to 30 minutes to allow the fat to solidify again. This will make it easier to roll out.
Use light strokes of the rolling pin, to avoid stretching the pastry. If it IS stretched it will shrink in the oven, and come away from the sides of the tin.
After taking the time to learn how to make pastry, don't spoil it by putting it in a cold oven!
Pre-heat the oven first. Then the fat will be quickly absorbed by the flour, and the water will turn to steam, both of which will create a light result.
If the fat runs out of the dough before it is absorbed, the pie crust will become tough and dry.
I hope this crash course in how to make pastry will help you to create mouthwatering dishes that everyone raves over.
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