Does the idea of making your own pastry send chills down your spine? Maybe it's not that dramatic but may still give you the hmm...could they tell if I just bought it kind of vibes? Fear not, I have my favourite tips and tricks for simple pastry recipes that will have you baking gorgeous creations like a pro in no time.
1. The crust is tough and not flaky - the process of rubbing fat into the flour coats the gluten and "shortens" it which creates the flaky, crumbly texture. Too little fat can prevent a lovely crumb texture but at the same time watch for too much fat which will over shorten the pastry making it dry and falling apart. When rolling out pastry also take care to not use too much flour as this again will change the ratio of butter to flour with excess use.
2. Crust isn't evenly brown or even burnt in spots- the pastry wasn't rolled evenly. Even width when rolling creates even cooking. Obviously slightly different widths of a mm or 2 shouldnt effect the cooking process but if one side is paper thin and one quite thick expect the thin side to cook or even burn before the other side is cooked through. When rolling pastry for the first time, take your time to apply even pressure and roll from the middle outwards to create an even width. Don't over work the pastry and if you have achieved a desired width in one area just move to the thicker side and roll that until even.
3. The crust has shrunk - the pastry has been overworked, the pastry was hot before cooking, there is not enough butter or it wasn't rested long enough before cooking. When making pastry, always make sure you don't skimp of the butter weight. It may look like a lot but it is neccesary for making dleicate pastry. Cold butter, cold utensils and cool hands are a must when making pastry. Take your butter straight from the fridge, chill the bowl you are working with and use your fingertips not palms when handling or keep it to a minimum. If it is a hot day, try nad chill a board to roll your pastry out on unless you have a stone bench in which case place pastry directly on this. Resting the pastry relaxes the gluten which allows it to keep it's shape. Don't try and rush the pastry making process - if in a hurry use store bought. You can make the pastry the night before just allow it to sit out of the fridge for about 10 minutes before rolling
4. Pastry falls apart or is hard to roll - Have you measured your ingredients properly? Excess fat can shorten the flour too much making it lose structure and become hard to roll. In this cse and a little water only 1 teaspoon at a time until it comes together again and let it rest before rolling out again
5. The bottom crust is soggy - This could be due to a few factors - uncooked thick pastry prior to filling, cracks in the pastry leading to filling leak, oven temperatures in accurate or wrong placement in the oven. If you are making a tart with a custard style filling, always blind bake your pastry before baking. When lining your pie dish make sure any visible holes are pushed together and cracks sealed with a little egg wash before filling. If you always seem to have soggy crusts despite these tips checking your oven temperature with a oven themomter may reveal any hot spots or changes in temp that are causing the unven cooking. With all baking, aim for middle oven placement to allow for even hot air circulation to bake your pastry
6. The crust edge is burnt or cooked before the rest of the pie/tart - If you find your edges always cook first, create a collar out of aluminium foil and cover the edges of the crust leaving the middle expose and continue to cook until done.
Rubbing in - the process of incorporating butter into flour. Can be done with finger tips or a food processor
Resting - the process of allowing pastry to sit or "rest" in a cool area (i.e. fridge) to relax the gluten to create a flakier pastry
Cake Flour: A fine, white flour made from soft wheat suitable for sponges and other light baking
Bread flour: A higher protein flour used for breads and dough
Docking: The action of piercing a dough lined shell before baking with a fork or other instrument to allow steam to escape and prevent bubbles and blistering on surface
Docking: Piercing or perforating pastry dough before baking in order to allow steam to escape and to avoid blistering
Blind Baking: The process of pre-baking a pie crust by lining the pastry with baking paper and weighing down with pie weights or raw rice and cooking for 8-10 minutes to seal the pastry and prevent soggy or raw bottom crusts
Still not confident about pastry making? Book a class with me and mention this article for 15% off!