Making pasty is one of the essential skills for so many recipes. I was fortunate to learn from a very talented pastry chef when I was 19, who won national awards for her pastry.
Here I will attempt to share my insights, debunk a couple of myths, and try to keep it as simple as possible.
It is really a matter of trial and error even once the basic method is learnt – I still learn things after 14 years of making it!
This is for a ruff-puff/shortcrust, which anyone who visited Fusion Cafe will know.
First the rules:
Use 100% butter and Organic plain flour for the best results.
Fingers is by far the best – a blender is fine, so long as you watch very carefully how much and when you blend.
Chilling for at least 30-40 mins is essential (if you are in a real hurry, put it in the freezer for 20 minutes, turning after 10)
You don’t need to butter the tin (loose bottom is best).
Blind baking is essential to avoid a soggy bottom.
Cold pastry > hot oven.
Pastry is the opposite to bread – you are trying to release as little gluten from the flour as possible (hence also using plain flour, which has a lower gluten content than strong flour).
This is why it’s best to rub in with the fingertips, use cold butter and water, and most importantly – work the pastry as little as possible once the water has been added.
The ratio is 1 to 2 butter to flour, with about a teaspoon of salt for every 500 grams of flour. For sweet pastry, substitute 10% of the flour for icing sugar, and use an egg yolk for every 250g of butter.
By hand: Chop the butter (make sure you use it cold) into roughly 1cm cubes, add the flour and salt.
Rub with your fingertips (don’t squeeze the mixture) until the flour has gone slightly yellow, but there are still small lumps and flakes of butter.
Blender: Pulse until there are small lumps of butter and the mix is just off white(it’s too far if it’s yellowish, sand-like and starting to form a ball/paste). Tip into a mixing bowl.
Both: Add cold water, a little at a time, and aim to toss the mixture – don’t press it at all. A good measure & technique is to have the bowl near to the cold tap, and measure double handfuls of water. For a basic mix of 1 pack (250g) butter and 500g flour, start with 3-4 handfuls.
It is vital that not too much water is added – unlike bread, you can’t go back (if it’s too wet, the only solution is to add more rubbed butter & flour).
You should have lumps of pastry, with a little floury mix still visible.
Don’t be tempted into making a round ball of pastry. The best way is to simply cover the pastry with cling film still in the bowl – press it down over the pastry – time in the fridge will bring the pastry together some more.
Rolling the pastry:
For an 11 inch tin you will need approximately 400-500 grams of pastry.
Flour the surface and roll – keeping to one/two vertical and the horizontal rolls will help keep the shape until it is around 1cm thick.
Have flour to hand to dust any bits that stick – you will feel as soon as it does – Continue, rolling pin from center to circumference when necessary to catch thicker bits and to keep a circular shape.
When it’s an even 2-3mm thick and can amply cover the size of the tin, fold it in half, and half again, and place in the tin with the pointed part in the middle. Carefully un-fold and gently adjust so the pastry hangs over at least 2cm all the way round (if there are small gaps you can patch them together).
Now, to prevent shrinkage, it’s very important that the pastry follows the tin right into the corner. So first, with a finger gently press the pastry into the corner where the base and side meets, working your way round the tin.
Now you have 2 options to trim the pastry. The classic method is to allow around 2cm of pastry to hang over the side ll the way round, and proceed to blind baking and cooking, trimming the cooked overlap with a knife.
The second option, which i used at Fusion, is to fold around half to 1 centimeter of pastry behind itself, so you effectively have a loop all the way round, which raises the height of the pastry and gives a rustic rounded finish. You can do the pressing, trimming and folding in one motion, but that’s best explained with a video…
Now you need to blind bake the shell. Here too there are a few options. Grease-proof paper or foil work best (grease-proof sticks less, foil holds the sides up better).
For weights, you can buy the ceramic beads, but you can just as effectively use some cheap dried beans, and re-use them many times. What’s important is that the weights press down in the corner, to prevent the sides falling in. You can also gently prick the pastry with a fork to help prevent it raising up as it bakes.
If you have time, chill the rolled shell in the fridge for half n hour, and make sure the oven is pre-heated, to around 190/200c or gas mrk 5/6.
After about 15 minutes check to see of the sides are cooked. If they are, remove the blind baking sheet and weights very carefully (sometimes the half-cooked pastry can stick a little to the paper/foil).
Brush with beaten egg and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, until the base is cooked.
Your base is now ready to be filled, whether it’s a quiche, tart or sweet tarte (you can make a ready cooked filling such as med veg, hummus & babaghanoush, in which case you need to cook the shell a little longer).
All of my recipes can now be found in the members section of the Organic Fusion Catering website.