An Insight Into Pastry
Depending what you wish to use it for, there are many different types of pastry. Sweet or savoury, thick or thin, wheat free or not. It is all out there. These are the types of pastry I am most familiar with but there are more. Try searching the internet for pastries from different parts of the world.
All pastry is made from fat, flour and water. It is the type of fat or the way it is made that makes it different.
Suet pastry is used to make steamed puddings which can be sweet or savoury. It is used to line a pudding basin which is then filled to the brim and a pastry lid put on the top. It is made watertight then steamed over boiling water for a couple of hours. This is long cooking time and there is no shortcut but the result is well worth the wait. The pastry is not crisp like others, it is more of a dumpling texture that is quite thick but has the wonderful tendency to mop up any juices from the filling.
If you are feeling adventurous then Hot Water Pastry (also known as Hot Water Crust) is the one for you. This is one of the strongest pastries and is used to make hand raised pies such as pork pies.
Short Crust Pastry
Short crust pastry is the one most are associated with. Made with half fat to flour with a little water to combined the ingredients is it simple to make and easy to use. Like all pastry it can be used for sweet or savoury filling. Just make, chill and roll out to the size required. It can be baked blind if you want a really crispy base for a filling that does not need cooking or it can be baked with the filling inside. Make sure it is cooked all the way through – there is nothing worse than a soggy bottom!
If you need a pastry that has crispy layers then use flaky, rough puff or puff pastry. I always have a block of Puff pastry in the freezer and I confess that I use shop bought as the process of making it from scratch is rather time consuming. Bought Puff pastry, in my opinion, is a very good quality product these days.
One of my favourite pastries is Filo. In the words of Mary Berry, she made it at college but has never done so since. The shop bought one is excellent. This comes in very very thin sheets of pastry which you need to brush with melted butter or marge between each layer. You also need to work quickly as it will dry out. However, in my opinion, it is one of the best as it has crispy layers that are very thin so it is not so filling. One of my favourite makes is to line a dish with Filo allowing the leaves of pastry to flop over the sides. Mix equal quantities of Ricotta cheese and well squeezed chopped spinach. Add an egg, a generous grating of parmesan cheese and season to taste. Put the mixture into the lined dish and fold the flaps of Filo over the top remembering to butter between each layer as well as over the finished top. You do not have to be neat or precise. Bake in a moderate over for about 30 min or until the top is crisp and golden. Best served warm or is excellent cold.
My other favourite is Choux pastry because there is nothing better than a cream filled Choux bun with a drizzle of melted chocolate over the top. Melt the butter or marge in a saucepan then add the flour and beat like crazy over the heat until you have a stiff dough. It does not take long but you need a strong arm! Take off the heat and cool a little. Beat in the eggs and one at a time. Pipe or in my case dollop the mixture onto a baking sheet, cook until risen and crisp on the outside. Poke a hole in each bun as they come out of the oven to let the steam out then cool and fill. I like Crème Patisserie in mine which you can easily flavour – add cocoa powder for the chocolate ones or instant coffee powder . Why not try a combination of both! In the posh shops it is called Mocha.
The Instabaking Team