PASTRY MAKING TIPS

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. 

Blind-baking

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.