Use cold ingredients, straight from the fridge. This will compensate for hot hands, if you have them.

Make sure you do not overwork the dough. By this I mean don’t knead or manipulate it too much. Doing so would activate the gluten in the flour and bind the pastry together making it tough, rather than the flaky, crumbly texture required. (It’s the opposite to what you do in making bread. For bread, you want the gluten to be activated.)

Possibly the most important thing about pastry is to chill it after making it, for at least 30 minutes. This allows the gluten in the flour to relax, which makes the pastry less resistant to being rolled, and thus less likely to shrink away from the tin.

Roll out the pastry to fit the tin. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get the pastry über-thin, and besides, working with thin pastry, if you’re not used to it, is a tricky business. Remember also to keep your worktop and rolling pin well floured, and move the pastry about to be extra sure it isn’t sticking anywhere. If you’re using flan rings, remember to have them ready on a baking sheet, as once you’ve lined them, you can’t move them from the baking sheet.

When the pastry is the desired thickness/ size, roll it around your rolling pin, then unroll it gently and loosely into the tin you are using. Be careful not to touch the sides of the tin with the rolling pin, as this will tear the pastry. Press the pastry down into the base and sides of the tin, and into the grooves if the tin is fluted, then fold the surplus pastry over the edge (this will allow you to slice it off when the case is baked, for an even, professional- looking finish).

When you have lined the tin, prick the base all over with a fork, then place in the freezer for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6 for a regular shortcrust pastry, or 180°C/Gas 4 for a rich sweet pastry. Place a baking sheet into the oven to heat up; this will help ensure a well- baked base. 


Remove the pastry case from the freezer, line it well with foil or baking paper, then fill it with baking beans (you can use – and reuse – ceramic beans, dried beans or uncooked rice). Place in the oven, on the baking sheet, and bake for 12–15 minutes. Then remove the beans and foil or paper lining, and return the case to the oven for a further 12–15 minutes. For perfect results, glaze the pastry with beaten egg white and bake for a final minute – this creates 

a waterproof layer. Now your pastry case is ready to fill and bake. You can blind- bake the pastry case in advance. Keep it, cooled, in an airtight container in a cool, dry place; it will keep under these conditions for 2–3 days. 


(c) Matt Russell

(c) Matt Russell


  • 1 gelatine leaf
  • 120g golden caster sugar 60ml water
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 60ml single cream


Soak the gelatine leaf in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. 

Heat the sugar, water and golden syrup in a small saucepan. Allow to boil for a minute or two, then remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Whisk in the cream, then return to a medium heat for a minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.

Take the gelatine leaf from the bowl, squeeze to remove excess water, add to the chocolate glaze and stir until dissolved. Pass the glaze through a sieve into a bowl. Store in the fridge until needed. Reheat very gently over a low heat to avoid burning. 




Ingredients (makes about 600g)

  • 220ml water
  • 80g butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • Generous pinch of sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 220g beaten egg 


In a medium saucepan, gently heat the water, butter, salt and sugar until just boiling and the butter has melted.

Pour in the flour and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the paste is smooth and comes away from the sides. This should be done over the heat, but make sure you keep the paste moving so it doesn’t burn. Decant into a cold bowl, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Add the beaten egg, a little at a time, and incorporate well. This does take a while, and the mixture may look split at first but, believe me, it will come together. You need to get the paste to ‘dropping’ consistency. That is, when you scoop up a large amount, it should drop back down into the bowl within 5 seconds.

When the pastry is ready, put it into a piping bag for use. It will not keep and should be used straightaway. 


Ingredients (makes about 800g)

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 40g cornflour
  • 500ml milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways, or 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 40g unsalted butter 


Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly paler in colour.

Add the cornflour and whisk well so there are no lumps of flour left. Place the bowl on a folded, dampened tea towel in readiness for the next stage.

Put the milk in a medium saucepan along with the vanilla and place over a medium-high heat until just before the milk boils. Pour half this milk into the bowl with the eggs, whisking continuously as you do so; the dampened tea towel helps stop the bowl sliding around.

When the milk is well incorporated into the eggs, pour it all back into the remaining milk in the saucepan and return to a medium-high heat, whisking constantly until the mixture is bubbling gently and is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, barely dripping off. This will take 34 minutes.

Remove from the heat, continue to whisk for a minute more, then add the butter, stirring until it is melted into the crème pâtissière. Remove the vanilla pod, if you used one. Pour the crème pâtissière into a bowl, allow to cool briefly, then cover the surface with cling film (to prevent a skin forming) and refrigerate until needed. Use within a week.

TIPIf you need to cool the crème pâtissière quickly, pour it on to a large plate to increase the surface area, then cover with cling film and put it in the fridge. 



Above recipe completely made, plus 250g unsalted butter, softened. Take the cooled, set crème pâtissière and beat it in a freestanding electric mixer with whisk attachment, or in a mixing bowl with handheld electric whisk. Slowly add the softened butter a little at a time, and continue whisking until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. 


Ingredients (makes about 600g)

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 250g salted butter, in 2cm cubes
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 125150ml cold water

Essential equipment

  • Rolling pin Pastry brush 


Put the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl and gently rub some of the butter through the flour – you still need large chunks of butter.

Stir the lemon juice into the water, then add to the flour, a little at a time, using your hands to bring the ingredients together. Tip out on to the worktop and lightly press and roll the pastry into a scraggy ball.

Flour the worktop and rolling pin. Roll the pastry out into a long thin rectangle – about 12cm/5 inches wide, and as long as it becomes when about 1cm thick. Brush excess flour from the pastry. Fold the two ends so they meet in the centre; brush excess flour off, then fold these doubled-up ends together like a book (this is called the ‘book fold’.) Turn the dough a quarter turn and roll it away from you into a long rectangle again. Fold again as above, then wrap in baking paper and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Remove from the fridge, repeat the rolling and book fold twice, making sure always to start with the folded edges of the pastry vertical, and to roll away from you. Then chill the pastry until you need to use it. 


Ingredients (makes about 500g)

  • 1 egg
  • 125g caster sugar (I like to use golden)
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g salted butter, in 1cm cubes

Essential equipment

  • Butter knife or pastry cutter 


Place the egg, sugar and extract in a mixing bowl, and whisk – I use a balloon whisk – for a minute, or until the sugar is dissolved into the egg.

Sift the flour into the mixture and stir in using a wooden spoon, until the mixture has a sandy texture – be sure to scrape around the bottom of the bowl so there are no clumps of flour.

Add the cubed butter, and cut in using a butter knife or a pastry cutter until the butter is well incorporated and the dough comes together. (This pastry gets too sticky too quickly to do this by hand, which is why you use a knife or cutter.) Remove from the bowl and knead gently for a few seconds. Wrap in baking paper and chill for at least 30 minutes before using. 


Ingredients (makes 450g)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g salted butter, in 1cm cubes
  • 1 egg
  • Cold water 


Place the flour and butter into a bowl, and swiftly but gently rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Beat the egg in a cup, then add to the flour along with a teaspoon of cold water. Using your hands, gently clump the mixture together. If necessary, add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture comes together well, then gently knead it, though only for a second.

Wrap in baking paper and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.

TIPIf you have a food processor, simply put the flour and butter in that with a blade attachment, and blitz. Add the egg and a little water and blitz, adding more water a teaspoon at a time if necessary, until the dough comes together into a ball. Remove and knead and continue as above.