Baking Pastry: Hints and Tips

Puff Pastry

Cook’s Tips

• Allow frozen puff pastry to thaw out at room temperature for approximately 1 hour.

• Roll out puff pastry on a board which is only lightly floured. During rolling it is important to remember never to roll this type of pastry in one direction only, but in two directions, that is from top to bottom and from left to right. If rolled in one direction only it will not rise evenly during baking.

• Cut puff pastry with a very sharp knife, to prevent the edges sticking together. If using pastry cutters it is advisable to dip them in cold water before cutting out the pastry.

• When brushing puff pastry with egg yolk avoid the cut edges, or it will cause them to stick together and thus prevent the pastry layers from rising during baking.


• Puff pastry leftovers can be laid one upon the other, pressed firmly together and rolled out again. Small pieces and strips are suitable for decoration.

• Always place puff pastry on a baking tray or in a tin which has been lightly sprinkled with cold water, and leave to stand for 15 minutes before baking.

Shortcrust Pastry

If you follow the basic rules for making this pastry you can be sure of success. Shortcrust pastry is easy and quick to prepare, but extra time must be allowed for it to rest in the refrigerator before rolling out. If a sweet pastry is required sugar is added to the basic ingredients. Sugar adds to the crispness of the pastry and eggs can also be added to give a richer dough. The higher the fat content in relation to the flour the shorter will be the pastry.

Below are basic recipes and methods for both sweet and savoury shortcrust pastries.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

300 g I 10 oz plain flour

100g/3-½ oz castor sugar or icing sugar

200 g / 7 oz butter or margarine, cut into flakes

1 egg

Prepare and weigh exactly all the necessary ingredients. The fat for the pastry can be used straight from the refrigerator if it is cut into small flakes. Sift the flour to remove any lumps. Since the pastry contains enough fat of its own it is not necessary to grease the tin or baking tray.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Work the sugar and butter or margarine into the flour with the egg, and as quickly as possible knead all the ingredients together with the fingertips to obtain a smooth dough. Keep your fingers as cool as possible and on no account overwork the dough or it will become crumbly and tough. Form the prepared dough into a ball, wrap in foil or cling film and leave to stand for 2 hours in the refrigerator. (It is essential to wrap the dough to prevent it from drying out.) The higher the fat content in relation to the other ingredients, the longer the pastry should stand in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to moderately hot (200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6), and place the oven shelf in the correct position.

After removing the dough from the refrigerator, knead it gently. Sprinkle the board and rolling pin lightly with flour and roll out the pastry. Take care that too much flour is not incorporated into the dough when rolling or shaping it as this would alter the proportions and texture of the pastry. If the dough does become too soft you can return it to the refrigerator for 30 minutes, to firm up again. 

Flan and tartlet cases are sometimes baked ‘blind’. For this they should be pricked at close intervals with a fork before baking, to prevent the pastry rising or bubbles forming. The flan case is then lined with foil or greaseproof paper and filled with dried beans. The pastry is baked blind for 10-15 minutes and the beans are then removed. At this stage the pastry case can either be returned to the oven to finish cooking for a further 10-15 minutes, or a filling is added and then cooking is continued.

Freshly baked pastry breaks easily. It should therefore always be left to cool for a few minutes before being carefully turned out of the tin or lifted from the baking tray with a palette knife. On no account leave pastry in the baking tin or on the baking tray until completely cool, or the fat from the pastry will set and make it difficult to remove.

Shortcrust pastry can also be made by another method : sift the flour on to a pastry board, form a well in the centre and pour in the egg and sugar. Spread the flaked butter around the flour border and with hands as cool as possible work all the ingredients quickly to obtain a smooth dough. This method requires a certain amount of skill.

Preheat the oven to moderately hot (200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6). Knead the pastry lightly and roll out on a lightly floured board. Line tartlet, flan or patty tins with it, adding any filling and covering with lids if required. Seal the edges with a little beaten egg. Prick the lid several times with a fork or make a small hole, to allow steam to escape during baking. Brush the top with beaten egg yolk or milk and bake for the required time to cook the pastry and filling. The pastry case can also be baked blind, as for Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (above).

Choux Pastry

Choux pastry is prepared by a completely different method from other pastries. It is extremely important to measure all the ingredients accurately. Since choux pastry is unsweetened it is very versatile and can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes.

Savoury Shortcrust Pastry

200 g 17 oz plain flour

100g/32 oz butter or margarine, cut into flakes

1 small egg (size 4 )

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons water

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and form a well in the centre. Place the flaked butter or margarine, egg and salt in the well. Work all the ingredients quickly together with the fingertips, gradually adding the water to form a pastry dough. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film or foil and leave to chill for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.

Choux Pastry

Choux pastry is prepared by a completely different method from other pastries. It is extremely important to measure all the ingredients accurately. Since choux pastry is unsweetened it is very versatile and can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes.

Basic Choux Paste

190 g 1 7 oz plain flour

60g/2 oz butter

250 m118 fi oz water

pinch of salt 4 eggs

Prepare and weigh the ingredients. Sift the flour on to a folded sheet of greaseproof paper. Grease a large baking tray and preheat the oven to hot (220°C, 425°F, Gas Mark 7).

Over a low heat, melt the butter in the water with the salt. Quickly bring to the boil, turn off or remove from the heat and beat the sifted flour into the boiling liquid all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Return to the heat and cook for 1 minute, stirring all the time until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and beat gradually into the choux paste, making sure each addition is thoroughly incorporated before the next one. This can be done using an electric mixer or beating by hand with a wooden spoon. When the egg is completely incorporated the choux pastry should be soft, glistening and golden, and will fall in a thick stream from a spoon.

Place the choux pastry into a piping bag fitted with a plain or star nozzle. For cream puffs pipe small round shapes on to the baking tray, for éclairs pipe in 7.5-cm/3-inch lengths, and for tart bases pipe in circles. If you have no piping bag the choux pastry can be spooned on to the baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes then cool on a wire rack.

Cook’s Tips

• When initially melting the butter in the water, make sure the butter has melted completely before bringing quickly to the boil. Remove from or turn off the heat immediately to prevent evaporation of the liquid and add the flour all at once.

• Choux pastry tends to ‘grow’ during cooking, so leave sufficient space on the baking tray to allow for this.

• Immediately after baking, make a small hole in the choux buns or éclairs to allow the steam to escape.

• Use on the day of making as choux pastry tends to go soft very quickly.

• Choux pastry freezes well cooked or uncooked. Allow 1 hour to thaw, then crisp in a hot oven for a few minutes, or bake according to the recipe.

16. June 2011 by admin
Categories: Baking, Food, Pastries | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Baking Pastry: Hints and Tips


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