With so many good, prepared pastries available in the supermarket, making your own can seem an unnecessary chore, but the taste comparison between home-made and shop-bought pastry reveals a vast and unmistakeable difference in both flavour and texture. The idea of making pastry seems daunting to many and, while varieties such as puff and choux pastry are more complicated, even the most novice chef can knock up a delicious shortcrust dough without too much ado.
Shortcrust is the easiest and most versatile pastry, making a great base for both savoury and sweet recipes. Some variations use egg instead of water to bind the dough for a richer texture and flavour, or add sugar for dessert dishes.
Some guidelines to remember when working with pastry are to keep the mixture, utensils and kitchen cool during preparation for a light and crisp texture and to use a light touch – overworked pastry is tough textured.
Recipe for a 300g shortcrust dough:
- 200g plain flour
- 100g butter, cubed
- Pinch of salt
- 2 or 3 tablespoons of cold water
Put all the dry ingredients into a large, clean bowl and rub them together between your fingertips until the mixture starts to resemble fine breadcrumbs. You can do this in a food processor if you prefer. Add the water gradually until it binds the mixture together. Wrap the lump of dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for 15 minutes before working with it.
Pastry cutters and other equipment
You will need various items to work your dough:
- Rolling pin
- Flour dredger
- Pastry cutters
- Sharp knife
You will need a clean, cool worktop and hands. Flour the worktop, rolling pin and your hands to avoid sticking and roll your pastry out evenly, giving it quarter turns regularly to maintain a consistent thickness. Press the dough when rolling rather stretching it for a lighter result.
At this stage if you are making a pie you will want to roll the pastry up gently on the rolling pin and unroll it over your prepared baking dish. If you are making tarts, tartlets or more creative shapes you will need to use pastry cutters. Press the pastry cutters firmly into the dough and lift off, without twisting the pastry cutters.
If you are inexperienced at working with pastry it’s best to build your confidence with simple recipes. You can’t go wrong with apple pie, jam tarts or a quiche, for example.