Pastry: Short and Sweet

I can’t actually believe how long it’s been since my previous post. Man, where has the summer gone?! I wish I could say I’ve spent the past few months abroad, on an exciting and exotic trip, with no time to blog; sadly that’s not the case. However, I did move into a new house, which meant that for several weeks I was rather stranded with very little signal and no internet. Other than that momentous event, the last few months have been very much dominated by work, work and more work. Though I did go on a little tour of Eastern Europe for 9 days, travelling to Budapest and then into Slovenia; so it’s not all ‘woe is me ‘ or anything!

But I am officially back on the band wagon, back in the saddle, back in business if you prefer! Fresh faced and with a whole new perspective. You see, over the last six months I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to college to gain some cooking qualifications. After a lot of contemplation, a lot of pro’s and con’s, I decided that one more year living at home is not going to kill me (though we shall see about that!) and that I should take the time to focus on the things that I love; cooking. So I am now a part time student studying a Level 2 in ‘Professional Cookery’ and a Level 3 in ‘Patisserie and Confectionery’. Oh and I’m still working 35+ hour weeks. So at the minute my life is entirely food orientated; eat, cook, sleep, cook, eat, sleep. It’s a viscous little cycle, but an exciting one to say the least! So every week I am learning and perfecting my cooking skills, both in college and again at work, and what better way to reiterate this knowledge than to share some recipes, my thoughts and the results with you lovely folk.

Looking rather smug in my scull cap...

Looking rather smug in my scull cap…

The focus on the Patisserie course over these first weeks has been on Short and Sweet pastry, something which I have quite a bit of experience in from work. Now I don’t mean to brag, but my Pastry skills are pretty damn good. My boss usually leaves me in charge of making quiches and frangipane tarts. So naturally these last couple of sessions at college haven’t been too testing, however I have still learnt a few new tricks- and let’s face it, practice does indeed make perfect.

Here are a few tips (old and new) for making pastry:

  • The golden rule of pastry: try to handle it as little as possible. Though this sounds pretty simple, it can be quite difficult, especially when dealing with sweet pastry, in all its delicateness. The less you handle the pastry the shorter it is.
  • If you have cold hands then you are in for a winner, as it prevents the butter in the pastry from melting, keeping it lovely and short. If, however, you are cursed with good circulation, then keep your hands cool by running them under cold water every now and then.
  • Make sure your pastry is well rested. Whether you roll out and line your tart cases first, or you wrap your ball of dough and leave it as it is, your pastry must have time to rest and chillax before baking. I would recommend at least 30 minutes.
  • When it comes to rolling out your pastry, it is best to use strong flour, rather than the go-to soft flour. This is a tip which I’ve learnt at college; apparently strong flour is finer and therefore it doesn’t clump together and go lumpy like soft flour can, so you’re less likely to roll lumps of flour into your beautiful pastry. If you don’t believe me then get a handful of strong and soft flour in each hand; squeeze your hands tight and let go, and see the results for yourself.
  • Lining your cases and flan rings can be an intricate job. The best trick is to fold your pastry over your rolling pin, so that it can be transported over to your ring. Another tip here is to reverse your pastry; this way the side you have been rolling to perfection will be on the outside of your ring, for all the world to admire, and then the floury surface from underneath is turned inside ready to be filled and disguised.
  • Before baking, press your pastry neatly around your case so that there is a little centimetre risen above the tin- you can even use a piece of scrap pastry to do this so you don’t make any holes with your finger nails. This extra little bit of height will ensure that your pastry doesn’t shrink away into the bottom of your tin. But make sure it does not lip over the side; run your finger nail around the top to detach the pastry so that it will be easy to retrieve from the tin when baked.
  • Flan rings; for those of you who use bottomless flan rings, rather than crimped tart cases, I have an extra tip so that you can perfect your pastry. At college we are advised to line the ring, as following the steps above, but to then push the ring against the pastry so that it creates a 90 degree angle. This I find has been the most helpful tip, one which is so simple, but so easily forgotten. It creates the most amazing finished result; squared off corners, vertical sides, with no curves to be seen. Happy days!!
Pretty patterns for pastry

Pretty patterns for pastry

SWEET PASTRY

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 egg
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 125g marg/butter (at college we have to use margarine for budgeting purposes; but I would normally use butter!)
  • 200g soft flour
  • pinch of salt

METHOD:

  1. Simply rub the butter and the flour together to form a delicate crumb texture.
  2. Whisk the egg and sugar together in a bowl until you can no longer feel the sugary granules. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and gently mix together to form a dough.
  3. Rest in the fridge until needed.

SHORT CRUST PASTRY

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 200g soft flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g white fat
  • 50g butter
  • 2-3 tbsp of cold water

METHOD:

  1. Rub the fat into the flour until a crumbly texture forms. Add the water and combine into a ball of dough. Rest in the fridge until needed.

Once you have the knack for making pastry you’ll be on to a winner! It’s so easy to make a batch up in advance, to freeze it raw, or even blind bake it off and freeze it so its ready to be filled with delicious fillings. Of course, I’ve learnt a few different hot and cold pastry recipes over the last two weeks, and will no doubt be learning a few more as the year passes; so if you pop by again I’ll have some of these delicious recipes written up, published, and waiting for you!

Oh, and P.S.

Apologies for the lack of photography in this post! I haven’t been taking a huge amount of photographs in my classes, simply because its hard to photograph things well on a stainless steel surface, and by the time I’ve made it home my bakes are usually looking a bit travel-worn. But I will feature a couple of shots in my next recipes!

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