Tips for working with pastry

Quite a number of the recipes in The Hungry Student Cookbooks use pastry. If you’ve never used pastry before, do not be intimidated.

Here are my top tips for working with pastry.

First, if the recipe calls for puff pastry, then simply, just buy it. It’s not expensive and is so much easier than making it yourself.

If you buy pastry, then, do try and get all-butter if you can. It’s so much nicer.

If you are making your own shortcrust pastry from scratch, here are some tips to help you get the best results:

1) Make sure you use butter, and that it is cold, and cut into small cubes before you start.
2) Ensure the water you use is ice-cold
3) Rub the butter into the flour well, so that it looks like wet sand. You want to break down the butter as much as possible and coat the grains of flour with butter
4) Add the water conservatively. Just a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. For the lightest, flakiest pastry, you want to add the least water possible. Too much water will make your pastry tough
5) If you have an electric mixer, then do use it to make pastry. I find it works well in a stand mixer or a processor. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. Start by stirring the water in with a knife, and then go in with your hands to mix, once the mixture becomes wetter.
6) Do not overwork the pastry. You want to mix the water in and bring the pastry to form a smooth ball as quickly as possible.
7) Always chill the pastry for 20 minutes before rolling out.
8) To best chill the pastry, roll it into a ball and flatten to form a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes. This means the pastry should chill through more evenly throughout.
9) Roll your pastry out between two pieces of clingfilm. This means it won’t stick to the counter and you won’t need to add more flour. Adding more flour when rolling out pastry can make it tougher.
10) If the recipe says to blind bake your pastry, then do. Make sure you prick the bottom of the pastry base, cover with baking paper and fill your shell with baking beans or pulses, to stop the pastry from puffing up.