Bake of the Week: Pastry

It may be National Cake Week but it’s all about the pastry tonight on The Great British Bake Off.

There are so many different types of pastry out there and so many sweet and savoury options to choose from. We find that a simple shortcrust pastry is the perfect place to start – it’s the ideal topping for an apple pie or a jam tart. Once you have mastered shortcrust, all other pastry will be a piece of cake!

You will need:

  • 4oz flour
  • 1oz margarine at room temperature
  • 1oz lard at room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • Cold water (amount depends on the mixture but you’ll need at least 2tbsp)

Preheat your oven to anything between 190-220C.

Using a sieve, sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, holding the sieve up high to give the flour as much airing as possible. Once this is done, cut the lard into small cubes and add them to the flour. Gently rub the lard into the flour with your fingertips, lifting your hands up high for more airing and being as quick as possible.

This is to keep the pastry mixture as cool as possible. If your ingredients and hands get too warm, the lard will become soft or oily, coating more flour than it should. This means that the flour won’t be able to absorb enough water and the pastry will be too crumbly.

Once the mixture is consistently crumbly, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water all over. Use a knife to start mixing, cutting and bringing the mixture together, adding more water if you feel it is needed.

Bring the mixture together using your hands to form a smooth ball of dough that leaves the bowl clean. If there are any pieces of pastry remaining add more water to the mixture.

Once you have your dough prepared, wrap in foil or polythene and leave it to rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

It’s now time to roll out the pastry!

Lightly dust a clean surface, rolling pin and pastry with flour.  Begin to roll the pastry firmly, turning frequently so that you are not always rolling in the same direction. Do not turn the pastry over.

When the pastry has been rolled to approximately 3-5mm in depth, transfer the pastry to a baking tin. The best way to do this is to place a rolling pin at either end of the pastry and lightly roll it round the pin. Carefully place the tip of the pastry over one edge of the tin and roll. Remember to leave an overhang of pastry on the edges of the tin.

To bake the pastry on its own in the oven before you add your filing of choice, prick the base all over with a fork. This is to release any trapped air. After 7-8 minutes open the oven to check how the pastry is. If it is puffing up, press it back down and prick once more.

Your pastry should be baked for at least 15 minutes or until the pastry is firm or golden brown.

And that’s how you make a basic shortcrust! All you need to do now is decide on the filling…