Pastry comes in many forms and can be a tricky thing to work with, here are some of Hannah's tried and tested tips and recipes.
I attribute my obsession with food entirely to my folks. My dad is an old-school chef who is great at chucking a whole bunch of things into a pot and producing heaven on a plate a few hours later.
My mother is a perfectionist so it’s only natural that she specialises in dainty pastries and desserts that take precision, patience and skill.
My style of cooking leans heavily towards that of my dad, which means I’m often disheartened at any attempts at baking. Pastry is my Achilles heel so I’ve made it my mission to learn all I can from my mom. Here are a few of her priceless gems on making shortcrust, sweet and puff pastry, plus Taste’s favourite ways of using them.
Shortcrust is best for pies because of its delicate crumble and buttery flavour. Here’s a great recipe for perfect shortcrust pastry Remember that a breadcrumb-like consistency is key – shortcrust should never be soggy or too crisp.
Woolworths’ new shortcrust pastry kit is a brilliant standby option. After baking, I fill the pastry shells with orange curd and dust with icing sugar. My friends can’t tell the difference between the real deal and the quick fix.
Shortcrust is great for tomato quiches and works like magic for Cornish pasties. These Three Cheese and Spinach Pies are fantastic road-trip fodder as they can be eaten cold and everyone gets their very own. Of course, they’re amazing straight from the oven, too – just take care not to burn the roof of your mouth.
Milk tart is one of my biggest weaknesses and now that I have the option of using readymade shortcrust pastry, this Milk Tart recipe has become a monthly staple in my kitchen.
- Do not overwork shortcrust pastry or it will lose its crumble.
- Freeze shortcrust pastry tightly wrapped in clingfilm straight after making.
- Ensure your hands are cool when working with the pastry to prevent sticking.
- My mom swears by Stork Bake margarine instead of butter – she says it doesn't get warm as quickly. She also insists on making her pastry the day before using it.
- According to my dad, your tart case should not be stretched too tightly because pastry shrinks during baking.
A mix of flour, eggs, sugar and fat (usually butter), sweet pastry is thicker than shortcrust and the addition of the eggs (instead of water) gives it a crumblier texture.
According to my mom, sweet pastry is harder to make than shortcrust because it toughens far quicker. This easy-to-follow recipe for franigpane apple tart with apricot glaze is the perfect use for sweet pastry
Alternatively, here’s a gorgeous traditional French Fruit Flan – perfect for a showstopping tea.
I always keep a packet of Woolies’ sweet pastry tart cases in my cupboard for easy entertaining. Fill them with vanilla mascarpone and seasonal fruit or a mix of lemon curd and whipped cream and serve with a shot of espresso.
- Roll out sweet pastry between two sheets of clingfilm to prevent it from sticking to your rolling pin or work surface.
- Before baking, pop sweet pastry cases into the freezer for 10 minutes to ensure great results.
- Since sweet pastry is used mainly for fruit tarts, it’s best to blind bake the case before filling it with the fruit and then baking again.
- Store sweet pastry well covered in the freezer.
Mixing fat with flour, then rolling it out, spreading with more fat and repeatedly folding and greasing creates the airy layers that gives puff pastry its distinctive crisp and airy texture.
When baked, the water in the pastry turns to steam which expands in the gaps between the pastry causing them to rise.
Making puff pastry is tricky, but not impossible. Here are some puff pastry pointers.
Of course, you can always buy your puff pastry ready made. Woolworths sells a fantastic all-butter puff pastry that just needs to be thawed an hour or so before using.
Puff pastry works well with countless creative fillings, here are a few ideas
Abigail taught me to wrap a wheel of pumpkin (in season in winter) in a blanket of puff pastry before baking it with sage and indulgent blue cheese. It’s a super-easy Pumpkin Tart and a must-try for any dinner-party host. Give it a go!
- It’s important to work with cold pastry so that the layers retain their moisture and puff up nicely in the oven.
- Thaw frozen ready-made puff pastry thoroughly before use. It should still be cold but shouldn’t crack when you unroll it.
- Take care not to roll it out too thinly as the layers won’t expand if they’re compressed too tightly.
- Lightly brush beaten egg over the pastry just before baking to lend it a glossy, golden crust.
- Gently score a puff pastry tart case to create “wells” – the pastry won’t puff where it has been tightly condensed.
That's it! Pastry can be tough but it's also very rewarding, take the time to make a few mistakes until you get it spot on.
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