I have to admit that I only use ready-made pastry to make pie and tarts. I alway find that making shortcrust pastry is too hard and time consuming. I don't even dare to dream of making my own puff pastry. Then things change when my mother-in-law spent Christmas with us last year and I saw her making a homemade turkey pie from step-by-step. Once when you have tried making your own pastry, you could get addicted to it and it is such a satisfying and rewarding experience. It tastes better and it costs less too!
I'm still a new learner from pastry making but I'd like to share some pastry making tips from my readings from cookbooks for future references.
Choosing equipment and utensils
- A food processor is a must if you have hot hands as it mixes fat and flour evenly. Make sure using "pulse"motion when adding liquids so that the dough will not be overworked and become tough.
- Good solid baking sheets that won't buckle in the oven is important. When choosing tart tins with removable bases, the heavier the better as the pastry will cook more evenly. China and glass dishes give the dreaded soggy bottom.
- Traditionally, fluted edges designated for sweet fillings and plain edges for savoury filling.
- A pie plates with a wide rim make a good crust for decorative edges.
- There are varies pans such as tarte tatin pan, springform tins, patty tins, tarlet tins, mini muffin tins and Yorkshire pudding tins for special baking needs. It's good to collect some of those in the pantry.
- A marble slab to keep the pastry cool to work with if you need one.
- Ceramic pie weights or dried beans, rice and pasta are needed for baking blind.
Tips for pastry making
- The utensils and ingredients should be cold. The butter should be hard and cut into medium sized cubes to blend with the flour in the processor until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- If mixing by hands, use only your finger tips and handle quickly and lightly to trap as much air as possible by lifting your hands high above the bowl and let the mixture fall back into the bowl through your finger tips.
- Keep pastry board and rolling pin lightly dusted with flour to prevent sticking. Brush off excess flour as too much flour is used making the pastry hard.
- Water used in mixing must be very cold. Pastry should be moist enough to handle without sticking to the hands.
- Roll pastry from centre outwards giving dough a half turn each time. Never roll dough back and forth as this stretches pastry.
- Rolling pastry directly on a piece of non-stick baking paper or cling wrap will help to prevent sticking. If the pastry becomes soft, wrap in baking paper and place in the fridge before rolling out.
- Use a sharp knife to trim pastry to get a clean edge. Don't roll it too thin if you're beginner, just cook it a bit longer when you bake it blind.
- There is no need to grease a tin before lining as there is sufficient fat in the pastry. You can sprinkle some flour at the base of the pan.
- To prevent pastry becoming soggy, brush bottom of pie case with egg white before baking. You can scatter some bread or cake crumbs over the base to absorb some moisture from the filling. Filling should be cooled before putting into the pan.
- Baking blind means to partially or fully bake a pastry shell before filling with a mixture to prevent soggy bottom. Line pastry with baking paper, weighted down with pie weight or dried beans to prevent it rising during cooking.
- Pastry needs a hot oven so always have your oven pre-heated. The contract between cold pastry and the hot oven causes air trapped in the dough to expand quickly, giving a crisp, light pastry. Do not open the oven door at least after 5 minutes the pastry has been put in.
- Use beaten egg yolk for glazing any savoury pastry and brush egg white and sprinkle sugar on top for sweet pastry.
- If in doubt, chill the pastry as it helps to make crispy pastry.
- Practise makes it perfect! Keep looking for good recipes!
Source:1. The CWA Cookbook - 70 years in the Kitchen
2. Tarts - sweet and savoury by Maxine Clark