Pastry

Shortcrust pastry is a staple baking product and it’s so easy to make. It’s extremely versatile; once you have your basic dough you can combine it with any sweet or savoury filling as it works so well with all kinds of other foods. It’s easy to create a meal out of savoury baked pastry goods- just add salad or vegetables and a carbohydrate like rice or potatoes, and its especially good at being an ‘all season’ dish- add an egg-based filling for a light summery quiche, or add a pastry topping to a rich, warm wintery pie filling.

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Sweet shortcrust pastry

This is a recipe for a sweet shortcrust pastry. It works really well as a case to be used in fruit puddings, tarts and pies.

200g plain flour

25g semolina

25g caster sugar

100g butter (block butter works well)

1 egg yolk

3 tbsp cold water

1. Cut the butter into cubes. Rub the flour, semolina and sugar  into the cubed butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Beat the egg yolk and mix with the water, then slowly add pour this to the breadcrumb mix. and stir using a clean knife. Using your hands, mix and squash together until it begins to stick and becomes a smooth dough.

2. Form the dough into a ball, place in a bowl and cover in clingfilm. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Once chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Only roll one way and turn the pastry to prevent it from sticking. The pastry is fragile so be careful not to tear it. Roll it out to about 5mm thick.

4. Use the loose base of the tin to check the size of the pastry. It will need to be about 4cm bigger all the way around the base. Roll onto the rolling pin and use this to transport the pastry to the tin. Carefully ease it into the tin and press it down and into the edges. Trim excess pastry from the edges but leave about 2cm excess to accommodate for the shrinkage when baking.

5. Chill for a further 30 minutes in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 190°c/170°c Fan/ Gas Mark 5/375°F.

6. Line the case with a sheet of crumpled up greaseproof paper and pour in baking beans. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until it is beginning to look crisp.

7. Remove the greaseproof paper and beans (put them in a bowl to cool down) and cook the case for a further 15 minutes until the base of the case is a golden colour and feels crisp when tapped.

Savoury Shortcrust Pastry

For a savoury shortcrust pastry, for use in quiches or pies, follow the instructions above, substituting the 25g of semolina and 25g of sugar for 50g plain flour, and omitting the egg yolk. For a more traditional recipe, use 50g butter and 50g lard.

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Choux pastry is used to make all sorts of french patisserie style desserts, like profiteroles, eclairs, choux buns, croquembouches, religeuses, to name a few. If can seem tricky, but if you follow the recipe carefully it is actually very easy to master. Once you have the pastry, choose a filling and you can make all sorts of impressive desserts.

Choux Pastry

60g butter

150ml water

75g plain flour

2 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 220°c/426°f. Heat the butter and water in a pan until it starts to boil. Take it off the heat then quickly whisk in the flour (a balloon whisk works well). Cook for two minutes to cook out the flour. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Whisk in the eggs a little at a time, ensuring the mixture is smooth before adding the next bit.

Fill a piping bag with the pastry and pipe as required onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cook in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 190°c/375°f and cook for a further 15 minutes. If making profiteroles, buns, or eclairs, remove from the oven, pierce each with a knife or skewer, then cook for a final 5 minutes to dry out. Leave to cool on a wire rack.