Making and cooking pastry isn’t hard, but there are a few things to keep in mind so it works out perfectly every time. There’s nothing worse than going to the effort of making a nice batch of pastry, then missing a crucial step and ruining it. It’s made me crazy many a time! All pastry has some degree of shrinkage when it’s in the oven, but at least you can minimise it with my tips below. It looks like a lot of information but it’s simple stuff, and once you have it nailed, you have a lifetime ahead of cooking of perfect pastry!
Step one – make your pastry
Step two – rest it in the fridge.
You’ve made your pastry and although it’s very tempting to roll it out straight away, you must resist the urge, because it needs to rest.
Shape it in to a disc (for easier rolling later), wrap it up in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for no less than an hour. Why? You’ve just stretched the living daylights out of the gluten strands in the flour by processing/working the dough, and now they need time to shrink back down to their normal length. If you try and roll the pastry now, it will be like rolling elastic – it will stretch out then pull straight back again. If you try cooking it at this point, it will shrink down into a puddle in the bottom of your tin. Disaster.
Step three – roll it out
After it’s rested, you can roll it out. If it’s gone very hard in the fridge, you might need to leave it for 15 minutes or so, or until it comes to room temperature – trying to roll hard dough is near impossible and you will probably just crack it.
Place the dough on a clean floured benchtop, sprinkle a little flour on top (don’t use more any more flour than you need or you’ll dry your pastry out).
To help start the rolling process and get your pastry disc flatter, you might need to whack the rolling pin on it a few times in opposite directions to flatten it more.
Now start rolling. As you are rolling, you should be moving the actual pastry around on the bench, not moving the rolling pin in different directions and bending yourself awkwardly at all angles. So after every couple of outward strokes, move the pastry around a bit. Roll from the center of the dough to within 1 inch of the edge, rotate, and repeat.It if starts to stick, add a little more flour on the bottom.
You want your pastry to be slightly bigger than your dish so you don’t need to stretch it up the sides – you want overhang. It should be an even thickness by the time you finish – if the edges are thinner than the middle, the edges will overcook and the bottom will undercook. That’s also why you don’t roll right to the edge of the pastry.
Step four – Line the dish
To transfer the pastry to your baking dish, place the rolling pin at the far end of the pastry and flip the pastry backwards over it. Carefully drape the pastry over the dish, release it and gently coax the pastry in and down the sides. If you’re using a metal flan dish and buttery pastry, it can tear on the sharp edges, so you’ll have to work quickly. Press the pastry into the corners of the dish so it’s all flush.
Use the rolling pin to cut the pastry at the top of the tin.
Step 5 – Rest it again
Boring I know, but you’ve been stretching out those gluten strands again with all that rolling and pressing, so it needs at least another 30 minutes in the fridge at this point.
Step 6 – Blind bake it
Blind baking just means cooking the pastry without the filling in it, and it serves a number of purposes. Because you’re putting a filling in that’s probably wet, cooking the shell first means the pastry won’t go soggy. Also, it’s necessary if your pie filling takes less time to cook than the pastry itself. Or, you would blind bake a crust when the filling isn’t baked at all (like custard tarts).
- You need a hot oven (200c fan bake or 220 not fan bake) so you cook the pastry rather than just melt it.
- With a fork, prick holes about 10-15 times over the bottom of the pastry. This helps to stop the pastry puffing up, which can lead to cracks and all sorts of unpleasantness.
- Cut a piece of baking paper to fit your dish, going up the sides too.
- Pour in dry rice, dry lentils, dry beans or pie weights into the bottom. This too helps prevent the pastry puffing up. Cook in the oven for around 10-15 minutes until the sides are turning a light golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and remove the paper and rice. At this point, if you like, you can brush the bottom with a little beaten egg to help seal it if your filling is going to be very runny. Either way, you need to pop the dish back in the oven for another few minutes to dry out the bottom.
- Now you can add your filling and cook it according to the recipe. From this point, I wouldn’t recommend an oven temperature over 180c, because you’ll probably overcook the pastry.