All your pastry questions answered

There's nothing more delicious than a perfectly cooked pastry. But how do you avoid a soggy bottom, or leaky sides? We've answered the most common pastry questions. 

How do I keep things cool?

Pastry rolling

When rubbing fat into flour for shortcrust pastry, it’s vital that you keep everything cool.

Chill your mixing bowl for about 30 minutes beforehand and use iced water to make your dough. A marble slab is excellent for rolling out pastry as the surface remains cold.

Alternatively, you could purchase an inexpensive pastry blender, which will work to rub the fat in for you.

 

Should I use butter, margarine or lard?

Butter will give pastries a fine flavour and crisp texture. For rich pastries, such as puff or pâte sucrée, where flavour is important, it is always best to use butter.

Firm margarine can be used to make plain types of pastry, such as shortcrust. Use it straight from the fridge for easy handling.

Lard or vegetable fat gives shortness to pastry but not much flavour so a mixture of equal quantities of butter and lard is often preferred.

 

How do I stop my pies from going soggy?

Soggy pie

There are several possible causes of a soggy pie bottom. One is that oven temperatures vary and the only way to be sure your oven is the correct temperature is to use an oven thermometer.

A pie that is soggy on the inside may not have been cooked for long enough, or the precooked filling may not have cooled sufficiently before being covered with the pastry.

Too much liquid in your filling can wet the pastry lid. Fruits combined with sugar require only a little water, as they will naturally exude juice during cooking.

If you are layering fruit with sugar, make sure the last layer is fruit before the pastry lid is added: if the sugar comes directly into contact with the pastry it will make it less soggy.

A hole or cross cut in the top of the pie allows steam to escape from a covered pie and keeps the pastry crisp.

 

Is it possible to make a healthy pastry?

Yes, you can make a flan case using light, mild olive oil. This pastry is not as short as a traditional shortcrust and will have a firm texture that needs careful handling.

  1. Sift 225g (8oz) plain flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt and make a well in the centre. Whisk 5 tablespoons of light, mild olive oil and 4 tablespoons of water in another bowl until blended.
  2. Gradually add the oil to the flour, mixing until it forms a firm dough. Knead quickly until smooth and use to line a 28cm flan tin and bake it blind.
  3. Should a slight crack appear during baking, brush it over with a little lightly beaten egg white and return to a hot oven for 1 or 2 mintues to dry out. This helps seal the crack and prevent the filling seeping out.

 

Is it really worth the effort of making homemade puff pastry when you can buy it prepared?

Homemade puff pastry

Making puff pastry takes time and practise, but once you have the skills, it can be fitted in with other cooking and will seem like less of a chore.

Is it worth the effort? That’s for you to decide. Homemade pastry will taste rich, light and buttery because it will usually be made with equal quantities of butter and flour.

Chilled or frozen puff pastry tastes less rich but is convenient to store, easy to use and gives good results.

 

Here’s our recipe for the perfect shortcrust pastry