Monday, May 09, 2011

Pastry

How many of us feel hamstrung when it comes to producing something that involves pastry? I have to say as I've gotten older and more experienced in the kitchen, my pastry skills seem to have diminished. To the point where I've basically given up and just buy frozen ready-rolled pastry.

But when I saw Maggie Beer demonstrate her approach to pastry last Friday night, I felt I could give it another go. It's worth noting that I don't have a food processor. It's the one thing in my kitchen that is missing - mainly because I have no where to put one. And to be honest, in the past I've been let down by food processors. But that's a story for another post! This recipe is made using my trusty Kitchen Aid.

Ingredients
250g plain flour
200g salt-reduced butter
5-6 tblsp milk

1. Place the flour and chopped butter in the bowl of your Kitchen Aid. Using the dough hook attachment, begin mixing the flour and butter together until it resembles lumpy bread crumbs. Make sure the butter is at room temperature. You'll need to use fourth or sixth gear to draw in the butter and flour at the sides of the bowl.
2. Add milk one tablespoon at a time - I only used 5 tablespoons of milk in this recipe. Maggie Beer used 160g sour cream for liquid in her recipe, but I don't see the need to add additional fat to the pastry. I've used milk, but you could also use iced water for an even more low fat option. Run the Kitchen Aid on first gear to lightly combine. Do not over mix! The mixture still needs to be lumpy and crumbly. As Maggie said, if you can still see lumps of butter, that's good.
3. Tip the mixture out onto a floured surface. Begin drawing the mixture together into a square shape, pressing it from the sides and the top to make it level all round. Do not knead the dough! Once it's sticking together, wrap it in Gladwrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. Re-flour the bench then begin rolling the pastry out with a rolling pin. Try very hard to keep it in the square shape. Make sure you roll it so it's the same thickness all over.
5. Roughly cut the pastry into the shape you need it, leaving about an inch and a half extra. Maggie said this pastry shrinks and you just have to accept it. The extra will hopefully compensate for shrinkage. Line your baking tin witht he pastry - I used a teflon coated fluted tart tin which didn't need greasing. Sit the excess up straight if you can, then cover and put in the fridge to rest. Try and leave it 30 minutes if you can (I went and washed my hair to stop myself from getting it out too soon).
6. By now you should have your oven pre-heated to 180 degrees celsius (you know the drill). Dock the base of the pastry with a fork, ensuring it's got a good amount of holes to stop it from puffing up or bubbling. Line the pastry with a piece of baking paper, then fill it with pastry weights or beans or rice ready for blind baking.
7. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and inspect the excess pastry around the edges of the tin. Mine had flopped over and looked unsightly so I took my rolling pin and literally rolled the top edge of the tin to sever the excess. This left a really neat edge on the tart. I was going to throw the excess away, but instead I left it on the tray to keep cooking.
8. Fill the tart with whatever you're putting in there (or nothing if you're putting cold filling in later) and return it to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Notes: I filled my tart with ricotta and spinach filling (the same as I use in filo triangles). I found the bottom of the tart hadn't been cooked enough in the blind baking, so it was still soft on the bottom of the tart. This is easily remedied with extra time at the blind baking stage.

The excess bits of pastry I left to cook were the revelation! They were caramel-brown, buttery and flakey!! I have honestly never cooked such good pastry in my life! This has left me with a few ideas for this recipe - namely cooking the tart shell then painting it with melted chocolate and filling it with lemon curd. I might do this by the end of the week, since I have loads of beautiful lemons in the fridge right now.

Thanks Maggie Beer for this amazing way of doing pastry. It really was fool proof. Just follow the instructions to the letter and it will work!

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