Home' Nova West : August 2010 Contents AS SPRING APPROACHES, the weather
remains cool -- indeed in the West we can
have our coldest and wildest weather at
this time. And as the cold winds blow and
the rain buckets down, how good it is to
sit down to a delicious pie for dinner or
lunch. This is a good time for pastry -- all
that carbohydrate and fat will help fuel
your body as it works harder to keep you
warm. The cold temperature will also help
you make good pastry. Thus we come to
the mystery of shortcrust pastry -- it's
all about the cold! You need to keep
everything cold, because the last thing
you want is your fat (butter is best) to melt
and become one with the flour.
We start with the fundamentals -- fat,
flour and water. Pastry is traditionally made
with saturated fat, that is butter or lard, as
it holds a solid shape when cold. When
incorporated into the flour, that little piece
of solid fat will melt and as the gluten in
the flour sets around it, you are left with
the tiniest air pocket -- this is the flake (the
higher the butterfat content, the better the
pastry). It is possible to make pastry with oil
-- my preference is olive oil for savoury pastry
and solid coconut oil for dessert pastries as
both are stable fats in the presence of heat.
But today, we are using butter, yummy,
delicious, stable and nourishing butter.
Butter also "shortens" the gluten strands -- it
coats the flour as you rub it in and minimises
any development of gluten when you add
moisture, thus "shortening" the gluten.
How much fat to use? The bottom line
is, the more you use, the flakier and more
delicious the pastry will be. Puff pastry,
for example, is generally equal fat to flour.
Think about how you will be using the
pastry. If I'm only using it on the bottom
(in a quiche or tart), I use a smaller amount
of butter, 125gm approx. If making a top
(and thus being visual), you can use up
to 180 gm. Some people even use equal
butter to flour by weight. I find 125-150 gm
ample and always end up with a delicious
and flaky pastry.
The flour -- well, I prefer spelt but
you can use wheat instead. Just make
sure it's not a hard (high protein) wheat
variety, or you can end up with a brick.
100% wholemeal flour makes a superb,
nutty tasting pastry. You can lighten this
by using a mix of whole and unbleached
flours. If you come across Pharoh's or
Egyptian flour (that's a commercial name
for Kamut, a gluten grain), you can add a
small amount of that in place of the
wholemeal. It will give you a golden and
nutty tasting pastry.
Water hydrates the flour, but too much
will give you a tough pastry. You'll rarely use
the same amount twice, as it will depend
on which flour you use, the moisture in
the air and many other variables. You may
choose to add a little acid -- lemon juice or
apple cider vinegar -- this helps to stop the
flour oxidising and turning brown, and also
helps to relax the gluten. I don't use this
when making a butter or lard pastry, but do if
using olive oil or coconut oil.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
There are some golden rules when making
● Conditions must be kept cool: this
is absolutely the most critical thing to
consider when making shortcrust. The
sole aim is to keep the butter from
melting, and thus "becoming one" with the
flour. This is why it's traditional to make
and roll pastry on marble -- it is cool to the
touch. Use chilled butter, ice cold water
and as little contact with your hands as
possible. A pastry cutter is not expensive
and does a great job of cutting the flour
into the butter and keeping your hands
(and thus body warmth) out of the bowl.
You can also use a food processor to cut
the butter into the flour, but be very
careful to not overdo it.
● Never overwork the pastry: Good
pastry depends upon a gluten flour, and
the more you work, that is handle or play
with the pastry, the more you develop
the gluten, and the tougher the pastry
becomes. Never overwork rubbing the
butter into the flour, the major cause of
poor or tough pastry.
I'm going to talk less this month, and
ask you to have a good read of the recipe
because the rolling is just as important
-- another area where many people tend
to overwork their pastry. Finally, don't
be daunted, or let that pastry know
you are afraid of it. Follow the notes
above and you'll be fine. Just a final
tip -- you'll always get the best results
from very cold pastry, going into a hot
(200c conventional) oven. This sets the
fat and provides a better flake and lighter
pastry. With dryer fillings (Hunza Pie,
fruit pies) you can line the tin, fill it, top
it and then put it in the fridge or freezer
for a couple of minutes to firm. With
wetter fillings (meat or vegies suspended
in a sauce) you can line the tin, chill it,
have the top rolled and ready, fill the
lined tin, top it and get it into the oven. ●
© NOVA AUGUST 2010
PASTRY RECIPE TO LINE A 24/26CM TART TIN
Double recipe for pie (that is top and bottom).
For a sweeter pastry (useful for a variety of Fruit
Pies), add 2 tablespoons raw sugar, to the flour.
● 2 cups flour: wheat or spelt and can be:
100% wholemeal or 50% wholemeal & 50%
unbleached plain or
● 125 - 180 gm unsalted butter
● 90ml (4.5 tablespoons) -- 170 ml
(8.5-9 tablespoons) ice cold water
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles
large breadcrumbs. The chunks do need to be
small, but it is quite okay if some of them are a
little smaller than a kidney bean. If you have too
many large pieces though your pastry will be
tough. If using a food processor, pulse one or
two times, or until ready and turn out into a bowl.
Don't be tempted to add the water to the food
processor -- it is too easy to overwork the pastry.
Using a bread and butter knife, begin to mix the
cold water into the flour and butter. The idea is
to add a small amount of water, begin to cut and
mix it in with the knife. As you continue to add
the water, little bit by little bit, you are cutting
the wet bits into the dry bits, cutting, mixing and
stirring. You use only as much as you need.
Once all the mix looks moist, but not wet, bring it
together into a ball. Do not knead or play with
it. Flatten the ball, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
ROLLING THE PASTRY
Use a good quality, heavy, decent sized rolling
pin. Rolling out pastry is exactly like handling a
child -- it must know you have sure, confident
and "in charge" hands. When you first start to
roll the ball, don't be tempted to more than
one or two rolls.
Have a good size palette knife ready and here
goes. Make sure your rolling pin and surface are
lightly coated with flour. Roll once or twice, run
the palette knife underneath it. Move the pastry
firmly and quickly, re-dust the rolling area with
flour, re-dust the rolling pin if necessary and turn
the dough over. Continue to repeat this process,
though as the dough gets bigger you will
probably be able to give it 2-3 rolls each time. If
you do too many rolls at a time, the pastry will
stick to both the surface and the rolling pin. (bold
sentence)Once it has become larger, you may
need to fold it, to help move it on.
IF YOU FIND THE PASTRY STICKING: Most
often, the pastry will stick to rolling pin and
surface where the butter is beginning to melt.
If the pastry was very cold to start with and
you have worked quickly, this should not be a
problem. If this does happen though, (especially
in summer), simply pick it up, place it on a
tray and whack it in the freezer for a couple of
minutes to reset the butter. The other reason is
the pastry is too wet, so you'll need to sprinkle
it with a little flour and remember to adjust this
next time you make pastry.
Fold pastry and using your palette knife or
hands, move it to the tin and line. Make sure
your tin or dish is buttered. There you have the
perfect pie pastry!
See our website novamagazine.com.au
for more of Jude's fabulous wholefood recipes
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