GBBO - Pastry do’s and don’ts

It was pastry week in the GBBO tent this week, and we saw the contestants battle all kind of pastry dilemmas and triumphs. All I can say is thank goodness it didn’t look too hot in that tent, pastry is not a fan of the heat!

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with a packet of shop bought stuff, but making your own pastry really isn’t difficult, tastes amazing and handles much better. But for many making your own can be intimidating and a previous ‘fail’ can put you off doing your own again. I wanted to share with you some hints and tips to keep your pastry crisp and light.

Always make sure you use fresh soft plain flour and always sieve the flour into the mix, getting as much air as possible into the pastry is really important!

Any type of fat can be used to make pastry and the type of fat you use is your choice, however, I personally I think that you achieve the best taste from pure butter or a mixture of butter and lard.

The fat wants to be soft enough so that you can just about cut a knife through it. Too soft and the fat becomes too oily, making the pastry tricky to handle. Too cold, and you might find that you have to work the pastry a bit more and the heat of your hands will make the pastry oily.

Before adding, cut the fat into small chunks, then cut the fat into the flour with a knife; you want to keep your warm hands out of that mix for as long as possible! And when you do have to get your hands in there, try to just use your fingers, as they are the coolest part of your hands.

Oooops, I forgot to take the butter out of the fridge! Don’t worry, just whiz the chopped up fat and flour in a food processor until it forms a ‘sandy’ mixture.

A little bit of salt, makes everything taste sweeter!
My general rule is to always add a little bit of salt (or use salted butter), even to sweet bakes, as it actually enhances the flavour.

Keep Chilled
This primarily goes for you! Baking can be stressful!

But also try to make your kitchen as cool as possible and use the coldest water possible. You can even try and pop everything in the fridge before you start. The colder you keep all your ingredients and utensils, the less oil will be released into your mix and the nicer to handle (and eat) your pastry will be.

How much liquid?
All flours will absorb liquids differently, so exact amounts are not usually specified in recipes. And too much or too little can result in a tricky dough. Work by the principle of adding a little at a time, until your dough pulls cleanly away from the bowl.

Have a rest!
After all that pastry making, both you and the pastry will greatly benefit from a rest!

Whilst you have a well-deserved cuppa, the gluten in the flour can work its magic and allow the dough to become nice and elastic. Without that resting time, rolling out your pastry could potentially be a nightmare, so allow the pastry to have at least 30 minutes in the fridge before rolling it out.

Why Wilton Tins are the best for pastry - Fact!
Darker tins (just like those brilliant Wilton Tins) absorb heat and cook the crust really quickly. There will be no soggy bottoms with a Wilton tin!

Get that oven nice and hot
Pastry likes to be baked in a hot oven, allowing the dough to heat through and set quickly. This produces a nice crisp texture and golden brown exterior, and no soggy bottoms!

Another top tip is to bake the pastry on the lowest rack in the oven, that way the heat from the oven floor will cook that pastry case nicely.

Recipes for a shortcrust and a ‘rough puff.

Shortcrust is brilliant for encasing all sorts of sweet and savoury goodies.

‘Real’ puff pastry is pretty elaborate and time-consuming to make, and let’s face it, sometimes a quicker option is just what’s needed! My recipe below uses rough puff pastry, which still gives you about 70% of the rise of the ‘proper’ stuff, but with a lot less hassle.

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