Making Pastry

There is definitely an art to making pastry – it seems that you either have it or not. My mother-in-laws pastry is fantastic, I have never come across pastry more delicious – it seems to just melt in your mouth. Asking her how she makes it, she says that there are a few essentials that must be observed if pastry is to be successful.
!  The kitchen, utensils and working surfaces must be cool. Pastry doesn’t like warmth.
!  The measurements in any recipe must be adhered to as any deviation will change the outcome.
! The pastry should be made quickly – it doesn’t like being man handled.
! Pastry seems to be better when it is left to chill for about an hour before cooking.


There are different types of pastry, the most popular are detailed below:









Shortcrust Pastry
This type of pastry is usually used for sweet and savoury pies. It uses the rub-in method of making. Plain flour is best for this type of pastry and the ratio between the flour and fat is 2:1. Traditionally lard is used as the fat but corn oil can be used instead which gives a flakier and lighter pastry. Butter can be used also which will give the pastry a richer, yellowy colour.
This recipe makes enough pastry for a 9” flan ring:

225/8oz Plain Flour

2.5ml/1/2 tsp salt

50g/2oz lard

50g/2oz butter or magarine

2-3 tablespoons cold water

See some of our recipes using shortcrust pastry – try out our Pecan Pie or our  Quiche Au Roquefort



Some pastry needs to be cooked before it’s filling is added. This is called BAKING BLIND. It just means that the pastry is cooked beforehand. As there is no weight to hold the pastry down (ie, no filling)
Baking beans are used in order to prevent the pastry from rising. These Baking Beans are usually ceramic.
A piece of greaseproof paper in laid over the pastry and the baking beans are spread evenly over the pastry surface. The pastry is then cooked, left to cool and the beans removed.

Tip! To prevent your quiche base becoming soggy, try brushing the pastry with lemon juice and bake blind for 3 minutes or so before putting the filling in and baking thoroughly.

One Stage Pastry
This pastry uses all margarine instead of lard as the fat. There is no salt added and the quantity of flour is 225g/8oz to 125g/5oz margarine bound together with about 2 tablespoons of water. The water and the margarine are put into a bowl with 2 tablespoons of sifted flour. This mixture is then ‘creamed’ using a fork. When the mixture is combined, the remaining flour is added gradually to make a soft dough.
Enriched or Sweet Pastry
Caster sugar and egg is added to make a very indulgent rich pastry which is suitable for sweet fillings.
Try this out:

225g/5oz plain flour

2.5g/1/2tsp salt

75g/3oz unsalted butter or margarine

1 egg yolk

22.5ml/11/2 tbsp caster sugar

3-4 tbsp water

Cut up the butter or margarine and put it into a large mixing bowl. Add the sifted flour and salt. Rub the flour and fat together using your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg yolk sugar and half the water. Pour this into the flour mixture and stir to combine until it becomes a dough. Add a little more water if necessary.

Turn out onto a lightly floured cool work surface and knead very gently.

Cheese Pastry

This, again, is a variation of shortcrust pastry where Cheddar Cheese is added to the mixture.

Has this ever happened to you?
Hard or tough pastry? Possibly due to too much liquid or too little fat. It may be that it has been overhandled and not been rubbed in well enough.
Does your pastry ever shrink? It could be due to excess stretching when rolling out!
Soggy Pastry? The filling may be too moist! Always let your pastry dry out before adding the filling as this forms a skin which will help prevent the filling from seeping during cooking.
Your pie looks like the top of a volcano sunk in the middle! Maybe the oven temperature wasn’t warm enough or there was too much liquid in the filling!
Biscuit Crust
Yum Yum! This sort of ‘pastry’ uses digestive biscuits, butter and sugar which essentially are the ingredients for an uncooked cheesecake base. It is uncooked, the butter simply being melted and stirred into finely crushed biscuits. Sugar is added as required but sometimes the sweetness of the biscuits is suffice.
Suet Crust Pastry
Quite old fashioned these days, but this was a traditional pastry that has been used for steamed or boiled puddings for donkeys years. It can be either savoury (steak and kidney pudding) or sweet (jam roly poly) This type of pastry uses suet which is available in most supermarkets. Suet is usually made from beef fat but you can get some vegetarian suet in some stores.
Hot Water Crust Pastry
This is a crisp pastry that is used for raised savoury meat pies. This type of pastry is made with heat – in a warm bowl. The suet is melted in a saucepan over a low heat and then added to the flour and egg mixture. When moulded into a dough, it is then left put on a warm plate, covered and left in a warm place for about 20 minutes. It is important to keep it warm throughout the process as this will help with the ‘rise’. The dough is then ‘moulded’ over an inverted jar (a jam jar is very often used) and allowed to cool. It is then eased out of the jar and the filling inserted. The lid is rolled out and put on, sealing it firmly and a slit is inserted in the top of the pastry lid to enable steam to escape during cooking. It should be wrapped in tin foil whilst cooking to prevent it from collapsing.
Choux Pastry
This type of French pastry is used for chocolate éclairs, choux buns and profiteroles delicious! Completely different in method from other pastries, as it is made in a saucepan and uses heat and air to make it rise. This makes the pastry treble in size whilst cooking and leaves a ‘hollow’ in the centre –hey presto a cavity just waiting to be filled with cream!

The butter, milk and water are melted in a saucepan and then heated rapidly so that it bubbles. As is it removed from the heat, the flour and salt are shot in and stirred to combine. It should be shiny and come away from the sides easily. It’s important not to over beat it as the fat will separate. When the pastry is cooled, the beaten eggs are added gradually. It will look shiny and be able to hold it’s own weight.

It is then transferred to a piping bag with nozzle  and piped onto a greased baking tray remembering that the pastry will treble in size whilst cooking.
Flaky Pastry

Hmmmmm – yet another method and type of pastry. Flaky pastry is used for crusts such as cream horns and sausage rolls and uses the principle of trapping fat and air between the layers of dough. When baked, the air expands and lifts the pastry into several layers.

This type of pastry doesn’t like too much man handling so a light and gentle touch is really important.

The temperature and consistency of the fat and dough should be the same – the fat should be pliable.

The pastry should be chilled whilst making and before baking as this will prevent the fat from melting out during baking and spoiling the texture.

The pastry should never be stretched or rolled too much as the air will be rolled out – not good!

The top of the pastry should be brushed with beaten egg.

It should be made in a cool atmosphere.
Puff Pastry

Whoah! This is probably one of the most professional and finest pastries in the world, but not for the faint hearted!! It contains huge amounts of butter but is fantastic as a treat.

This type of pastry is used when the maximum rise and flakiness is required, as in vol-au-vents and croissants.

Sifted flour and salt is put in a bowl along with small pieces of butter. It is rubbed in with the fingertips. Iced water and lemon juice are added and the mixture is made into a pliable dough using a palette knife. This dough is then kneaded gently on a floured work surface.

It is then shaped into a rough ball and a cross is cut through to half its depth. The ‘flaps’ are then rolled out with a rolling pin until they are about ¼ of the thickness of the centre. The remaining butter is then added to the centre of the pastry and it is rolled out again.
It is then wrapped in a cloth, covered and left in a cool place for about 20 minutes. It is then rolled out 5 more times, folded and left for 20 minutes at each roll. It then gets 30 minutes chilling before being shaped and baked. They say that good puff pastry should rise at least 6 times in height. It’s baked at about 220C/425F/Gas7.
Tip!  Run the baking tray under ice cold water before placing the puff pastry onto it to bake. Amazingly, this will create steam in the oven and will really help to pastry to rise!
There are some basic tools associated with BAKING:

Mixing Bowls– these should be light and easy to use with a rubber stay put mat on the bottom

Palette Knife– a useful item to help with mixing pastry into dough and for levelling off the tops of mixtures.
Pastry Cutters– useful for lining baking tins and for making individual pies.
Measuring Scoops– easy for scooping out larger quantities of flour, sugar etc.
Tartlet Tins– an invaluable item for making individual tarts. Loose bottomed, they are easy to remove the tart when cooked
Rolling Pin– an invaluable kitchen tool which is used primarily for pastry rolling, but has many other uses!

Pastry Brush– a useful item for glazing and brushing the tops of pastries

Dredgers – these are fantastic items for helping with covering work surfaces with light dustings of flour, sugar or salt. 

Baking Beans– these are used when pastry is cooked ‘blind’. This means that the pastry is cooked at first without any filling. In order for the pastry not to rise, baking beans  are used to weigh the pastry down. A small piece of greaseproof paper is put on the top of the pastry and it is then covered with the ceramic beans. Care should be taken as the beans get extremely hot themselves when the pastry is baked in the oven.

Food Piping Bag – excellent for piping pastry like choux .
Spatula – an essential utensil for spooning out mixing bowls, mixing and levelling off the tops of mixtures.
Baking Tray – there are many types and qualities of baking trays around. Essentially, you need one that is sturdy enough not to twist when it is heated in the oven. Generally, the cheaper ones will do this and you may find your choux buns stuck to the roof of the oven! A double baking sheet will prevent this as they are stronger and more robust.
Cooling Tray - useful to have and essential for cake making as the air can get underneath the cake whilst cooling, therefore, preventing a soggy bottom!
Cake Tins – Spring Form Cake Tins  are great as they expand when the cake is to be removed. Always choose a good quality cake tin – it will pay dividends!
Loaf Tins – Loads available on the market, but better quality ones will give you the best return as they are stronger and tend not to twist under extreme pressure.
Icing Set– an ingenious device for decorating cakes and desserts.
Fancy Baking Pans – these are available in many shapes and forms, from heart shaped individual tins  for that romantic gesture to teddy bear moulds for children!
Muffin Pans – Tins with individual hollows in for making either cakes or muffins, or individual Yorkshire puddings.

When making authentic naan bread try warming your flour gently in the microwave first!

The longer you knead the dough, the longer it should be left to develop!
Don’t throw old bread away, but simply brush it with olive oil and bake it in the oven for a quick and easy Italian style crostini

If your bread is stale or dry, just wrap it in foil and leave it in a warm oven for about 15 minutes.

Wrap garlic bread in foil when baking to stop it going soggy!
Plunge stale rolls into cold water quickly and then bake them in a low oven for about 10 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how they come back to life!
A bay leaf inserted into your flour bag will stop weavles and mites attacking it!
Use left over mashed potato in pastry dishes. It adds a great flavour and texture. is operated by G.E.T. Internet Services. All products advertised on this website are sourced and supplied by third parties including Amazon and Google. Any purchases you make will be directly through these third party websites.