How To Make Pastry

How to make pastry - its easy.  So many people say they can't make it, usually with the explanation of "I'm too heavy handed"  If this is you, you're probably overcomplicating the process.

I mean, well, flaky pastry, puff pastry and choux pastry, amonsgst others, that's a different matter, but ordinary shortcrust pastry is really not that difficult.

For basic shortcrust pastry you just need to remember to weigh your flour, then add half that weight of fat.  not oil - oils work differently because they contain little to no water.  It is best to use butter, soft butter (butter with oil added to make it spreadable) or lard; or, if you really must, you could also use a man made concoction such as margarine

And if you make it yourself rather than buying it ready made and ready rolled, then you are in charge of what goes into it.

Wholemeal flour is of course far better than white flour, but can turn out to be dry and course/gritty, and also it's difficult to make it palatable enough for sweet pies.  So I find it best to do a mix of half wholemeal and half white with the addition of some small seeds for extra goodness such as chia, sesame or linseeds and maybe a little ground linseed too.

but it's up to you. Making pastry with all white flour is a lot easier

How to make pastry - Instructions

The most common quantity of pastry to make at home is with 8oz flour and 4 oz fat.  That is very roughly 230g flour and 115g fat.  This will usually be enough for a lidded pie the size of a small dinner plate or for a fairly large thick crusted quiche or other open pie.  For a large tray bake you will likely need double this quantity

making pastry

So put your flour and fat into a large mixing bowl and chop it up small with a knife

You will then need to to something called "rubbing in" which is exactly what it says - you rub the fat into the flour. 

 Push your fingers into the flour and lift up a portion of fat and flour then rub your thumb along your fingertips from your little finger to your forefinger, rubbing the fat in as you go.  Let it all fall back into the bowl as  you do it.  keep repeating this until you have a crumb mixture (if you like and want to make fruit crumble, you just need to follow how to make pastry until you get to the crumb stage and don't add water - just sprinkle it over your fruit and bake.  You just need the addition of sugar)

Next step is to add cold water.  This can be tricky.  Just keep in mind that it is very easy to add to much, so add a spoonful at a time until yourare practised at it

Give a little stir each time you add more water until you are at stage where most, not all, of the mix has come together into a lump but there are still crumbs in the bowl.  

I usually find that this is just about right  - then very gently with your hands bring the mix together into one lump. 

 It is important once you start adding water that you don't handle the mix too much.  The less mixing pummeling and stirring you do, the better (unlike bread which is the complete oppostie).  

So don't do any kneading.

scatter plenty of flour onto your work surface to ensure the pastry doesnt stick

Shape the pastry into a ball and then flatten it a little

Sprinkle more flour on top and start to roll it out. 

Turn it around (but don't turn it over) frequently so that you will be rolling it in different directions and to make sure it's not sticking to your work surface.  If it does stick, loosen it with a palette knife and sprinkle more flour.

I used 1 pound of a mix of white and wholemeal flour for the pastry in the photos, with some added small seeds and ground linseed, and 8 ounces of fat.  This made enough for a large baking tray.

So next, place your pie dish or tray on top of the pastry to check it is the right size to fit

Remove the tray and place your rolling pin in the centre of the pastry and fold the pastry over it

Bring the botom half up over the pin too.  Now you can gently and safely lift it up without tearing it

 ....and place it over the tin

Do not stretch it to make it fit, but lift it up to push it into the sides and corners

Trim the edges with a knife.  Don't throw out these trimmings, they can be used for other things

If any parts don't quite fit, don't stretch the pastry. Instead, dampen the edge with water....

 .....take some of the pastry trimmings to cover the gap and press the dampened edges together

Smooth over the join and trim again

And that is how to make pastry.

Use the trimmings to make cheese twists if you like!



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