Pastry comes in many shapes and sizes and is the key ingredient in many of our favourite treats, especially at this time of year when we’re heading out for picnics and hosting parties. Whether you want to make your own or buy-in for bakes, here are the basics of pastry.
The secret to a successful bake involving pastry is to pay close attention to the recipe. You will need to include accurate ratios – so weigh everything!
One of the more versatile pastry types is the shortcrust pastry. Endlessly versatile, you can find shortcrust on both sweet and savoury bakes and has a lovely, crumbly, melt in the mouth texture. It is one of the easier pastries to make yourself – just make sure not to handle the dough too much and to keep your ingredients as cool as possible.
How to make:
Sift 225g plain flour into a large bowl, add 100g diced butter and rub in with your fingertips until it resembled breadcrumbs. Add 2-3 tbsp cold water and mix to form a dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface before wrapping in clingfim and chilling for up to 20 minutes. Once chilled, roll out to your desired shape and add to the recipe.
More indulgent than the shortcrust, making your own puff pastry is more time consuming, as it requires a lot more work. This pastry is lighter, crispier and is characterised by its flaky nature and it works amazingly as a pie lid.
How to make:
Sift 250g strong plain flour into a large bowl. Roughly break 250g butter into small chunks, add them to the bowl and rub together loosely. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add 150ml of cold water, mixing until you have a rough dough. Cover with clingfim and leave to rest for 20 minutes in the fridge. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently, form a smooth rectangle. Roll the dough in one direction, you should still see streaks of butter. Fold the top third down to the centre, then the bottom third up and over that. Give the dough a quarter turn and then roll out again. Fold again and cover with clingfilm. Chill for at least 20 minutes before rolling out ready for use.
Rough puff pastry
If you like puff pastry but you don’t have the time or the inclination, give this one a try. Rough puff is easier and quicker to make but resembles puff pastry and tastes much the same.
How to make:
Sift 225g plain flour into a large bowl, stir in 175g cubed butter and using a round ended knife, work the mixture together so the butter is coated in flour. Gradually add 100 ml of ice cold water and mix together using the knife and once a dough has formed, use your hands to bring it together, careful not to overwork. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for half an hour before rolling out on a lightly floured surface, fold the bottom third up to the middle and then fold the top third back over that. Wrap in clingfim and chill for 15 minutes. Repeat twice. The pastry is ready when it is no longer streaky. Chill for a further 20 minutes before using in your recipe.
Traditionally used in middle eastern cooking, this paper-thin pastry is generally served scrunched on top of the filling to form a lid. Whether you’re making your own or buying a pre-made version, make sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t dry out – just place between damp tea towels.
How to make:
Add 300g bread flour to a mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and add 5 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp red wine vinegar. Combine the ingredients for 10-15 minutes. Add 130g water to start and mix until all the flour absorbs the water, add more until you get a soft, malleable dough. Cut the dough into balls and coat lightly with olive oil before wrapping in clingfilm and leaving aside for an hour. Place each ball of dough on a floured surface and roll until it becomes a thin sheet, turn a half turn and keep rolling. Keep damp until ready to use.
The pastry of eclairs, unlike the other types of pastry, this one has a high water content, which causes the dough to steam and puff up as it bakes. This is how the inside gets all fluffy and perfect for adding cream! Some of the most popular recipes with choux pastry include eclairs and buns.
How to make:
Add 170g cubed butter into a saucepan with 450ml water. Sieve 200g of flour into a bowl and set aside. Bring the butter and water to a boil, simmer until the butter has melted then tip in the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and is free of lumps. Tip into the bowl and spread into a paste up the sides to help it cool. Depending on what you’re making will depend on the shape you will need, pre-heat your oven to 200c and cut two pieces of baking parchment and using a ruler, mark out the size and shape of your pastry. Fit a piping bag with a large round piping nozzle and when the flour paste has started to cool, add five beaten eggs bit by bit, mixing after each one until you have a smooth batter. Transfer the mixture to your piping bag and pipe the pastry onto the sheet using the lines as a guide. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Once baked, leave to cool before adding filling and decoration.
Did you know you can freeze pastry? It will keep for up to two months if frozen, alternatively, you can keep in the fridge for up to three days.