Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Today the topic is pastry. Yes, I have to admit I buy packs of the ready-made because I really am not a good pastry-cook. Promise you I have tried, many times. But then even chefs admit to buying puff and filo pastry. I do make choux pastry, which really is a doddle to make and can be baked when just made, or left to get cold. I have even frozen uncooked choux, to defrost and bake later.
As well as the above-mentioned choux pastry, other varieties are: short-pastry, sweet short pastry, flaky pastry, puff pastry, and filo (phyllo). Pastry can be made using oil instead of the more usual fat (butter, margarine or lard), and pastry can also be made with several of the gluten free flours. Any pastry that has a tendency to crumble is best pressed by hand into the baking dish, rather than being rolled.

For those that do prefer to make their own pastry, a short-pastry mix can be made by blitzing the flour and fat in a food processor, then bagging it up and keeping it in the freezer (or fridge for a shorter time), then all that has to be done is add water for the basic short-crust, or egg and sugar for the rich short-crust, or omit the water and add sugar (and oats if you wish) to the mix and use for a crumble topping.

Think balance, think cost. Think stodge. If it isn't (nutritionally) needed, then why bother to up the cost? So no need to serve potatoes AND pastry in the same dish, or chips with rice...
Flaky Pastry:
8 oz (225g) plain flour
6 oz (175g) butter, softened
approx 8 tblsp cold water
Divide the butter into four portions. Put the flour in a bowl and rub in one portion of butter until like fine breadcrumbs. Mix in enough water to make a soft dough. Knead gently on a floured board until smooth, then roll into an oblong, three times the length of its width. Spread or dot another portion of butter over the top two-thirds of the pastry, and fold the bottom half up, folding the top half over that. Seal the edges, wrap and chill for 15 minutes. Place the pastry on the board, fold side to the left, and repeat twice more, leaving it in the fridge for half an hour after the last folding. When needed, roll out fairly thinly (it will rise like puff pastry), use as required and bake in a hot oven, at least 200C, 4ooF, gas 6, or even slightly hotter. Should take about 15 minutes to bake, becoming golden.

Pate Sucree:
4 oz (100g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
2 egg yolks
Put the flour into a bowl, rub in the butter until like fine breadcrumbs, then add the rest of the ingredients, mixing until it holds together (if using a food processor get it to the crumb stage before adding the egg yolks). Knead gently until the mixture is smooth, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for half an hour.
Roll out onto a lightly floured surface and use as required. Chill pastry-lined tins that are waiting to be filled.
Normally baked at 190C, 375F, gas 5. Should take around 15 minutes to cook through depending upon thickness.

Gluten Free Pastry:
6 oz (175g) brown or white rice flour
6 oz (175g) maize (corn) meal
1 tsp salt
10 oz (200g) chilled butter, diced
8 oz (225g) cold mashed potato
Sieve together the flours and salt. Rub in the butter until like fine crumbs. Stir in the potato and mix well together to form a dough. Knead gently, wrap and chill for half an hour. Roll out between sheets of clingfilm and use to line chosen tin, pressing to fit into the corners. Chill before filling and baking, and bake at the normal pastry temperature of 200C etc, for 20 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden. Check the underside, this should also be golden, if not return to oven (cover top with foil) and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Frozen Banana 'Ice-Cream' Dessert: serves 4 (F)
4 firm, ripe bananas, peeled
juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 tblsp caster or icing sugar
5 fl.oz (150ml) thick plain yogurt
Put the bananas, fruit juices and sugar into a food processor and blitz until a smooth puree, spoon in the yogurt and give a quick blitz to combine (if no processor, just mash with a fork until fully blended). Pour into a container, cover and freeze until half-frozen (approx 3 hours).
Chop the semi-freddo into chunks and either beat with a wooden spoon, or preferably give a quick whizz in the processor until smooth. Return to the container, cover and freeze until firm. Allow 10 minutes at room temperature to allow mixture to soften enough to scoop and serve.
variation: after the first freezing and beating,stir a couple or so teaspoons of Nutella into the mixture to give a chocolate ripple effect. Instead of yogurt use whipped cream.