Tag Archives: pastry

Pasties

Given they’re in the news I thought it only fair to add my tuppence worth. I’m not going to mention the C-word, to avoid contention from the Glorious Southwest, so will merely propose the generic pasty, which can look like this…

…or like this…

…but hold the same amount of filling, and taste the same. To make eight of them, I used the following:

For the pastry, 450g plain flour, and between 130g and 200g of fat (I had 80g lard left over, so used that plus 80g butter), ½tsp salt, and enough cold water to bring it all together, probably around 200mL. You could add an egg, and some recipes inexplicably suggest baking powder. The less fat, the less flaky the pastry, so I’ll leave it up to you.

Whilst the pastry is resting, get cracking on the filling. I used 300g of braising steak – any lean cut will do – chopped finely with all the hard gristle and fat removed. Salt and pepper this, and then toss the pieces in a tablespoon of plain flour to coat, and set to one side.

You’ll need about twice that weight in veg, a mix of aromatics and roots. On this occasion I used the traditional combo of 300g potato, 150g swede, and a large onion. All of these need to be sliced or diced quite finely, so they’ll cook all the way through. Mix up the veg and pop into a separate bowl from the meat.

Now, rescue the pastry from the fridge, and divide into six or seven pieces. You want to roll each piece into an eight inch disc, using either your keen eye or a small plate as a template. I normally end up with enough offcuts to then form an eighth disc.

Fill each pasty, either by putting a layer of veg in the middle, meat on top, and then bringing the sides up so the seam is on top, or, by putting a layer of veg in a semicircle on one side, topping with meat, and then more veg, before folding the top over. Make sure your filling reaches into the corners. Either way, brush the edges with water to seal, and crimp like mad. Glaze with milk or a beaten egg, if you’re feeling fancy.

Place on baking trays lined with parchment, and use a sharp knife to poke a small hole in each to let out the steam. In my fan oven they get 15 mins at 220°C, 15 more at 180°C, and the final 15 at 150°C.


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Art of the Tart

This is a rough and simple tart; not as refined as a quiche. The addition of egg to the pastry makes it remarkably forgiving. No blind baking, rolling, or faffing required.

For my 10″ diameter, 1½” deep pie dish, I use:

  • 220g plain flour
  • 110g butter, cold and cut up into small cubes
  • pinch salt
  • one egg
  • some milk

In a large mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour and salt until the consistency of breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and mix it in with a palette knife, or failing that, a spoon. You may be able to coax it into a ball with your hands, but more than likely you’ll need to mix in a tablespoon of milk; maybe more. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

The basis of the filling is three eggs and 250mL double cream. For a richer consistency, you can replace one egg with two yolks. This produces a fluffy, but set consistency, for a more wobbly version, increase the cream.

Today, I’ve got some pancetta (10 wafer thin rashers, about 70g) so I fry that gently until crisp, and set aside. No need to drain on paper towels, as the fat is flavoured with the spices in the cure, and we want it to infuse the rest of the filling.

Push the pastry into the pie dish with your hands. (I don’t need to butter my ceramic dish, your mileage may vary.) You could roll it, but there’s really no need. If it tears, just patch it. If you end up with more on one side of the dish than the other, just rip some off and patch. As I said, it forgives much, although if you work it too hard, and it’s a hot day, the butter will start to melt, so whack it back in the fridge if this happens.

Today I spread the pancetta in the bottom of the pastry case, and beat together the remaining ingredients, with some salt, pepper, nutmeg, and some grated grana. Any kind of Italian hard cheese will do.

Into the oven at 150°C for an hour. The case looks underfull.

…and then the filling puffs up, alarmingly…

…before relaxing at the end. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. You’ll see that the pastry shrinks away from the sides of the dish, so easy to rescue.

Variations

This is only the beginning. You could:

  • peel and slice 750g of brown onions, and gently gently gently fry them in butter for an hour or so, with salt, pepper, and maybe a clove – allow to cool and pour over the cream/eggs
  • do the same with some leeks, and add some goat’s cheese to the mix
  • replace the goat’s cheese with some salmon, smoked or otherwise
  • add some steamed (and vigorously squeezed) spinach to the fray

Profiteroles

Following on from the success of the Great Choux Experiment, the puffs were used for profiteroles.

They survived perfectly well overnight, sealed in a tupperware box, at room temperature. They were a trifle soggy, so, since the oven was already about other business at 150C, I popped them in on the cooling rack for about five mins, which crisped them nicely.

I then beat the living daylights out of 500mL double cream, 25mL brandy, and a tablespoon of icing sugar (sifted) and with a great deal of swearing and cussing, piped that inside.

After that, all that needed to be done was drown them in Chocolate and Armagnac Sauce, and much joy and happiness ensued.

Choux Pastry

I know English, I learn him from a book.

– Manuel, Fawlty Towers

It’s all very well reading about how to do something, but some things just need to be experienced. Today’s attempt at choux pastry proved that. (My parents used to get terribly stressed about making this stuff, and I was banished from the kitchen, so never got to witness the process. And nobody else’s parents ever made choux pastry, or if they did, they kept very quiet about it.)

Docteur de Pomiane’s recipe sounds charming enough, so I decided to use it, although the measurements were in Imperial and as usual, not entirely clear whether things were by weight or volume. A quick cross reference with the usual sources suggested that all was in order.

It started off encouragingly enough, the butter/water/sugar being brought to the boil. (Chop the butter into chunks, so it melts about the same time as the water boils.)

Removed from heat, flour added, vigorous stirring et cetera. Pomiane does warn that it will look like an unappetising mess at this stage.

As predicted, the pastry detaches from the saucepan and comes together in a ball.

And then, it’s time for the eggs. I crack the first one over the pastry and – whoops! – my faithful heavy bottomed saucepan is still hot enough to instantly cook it. So essentially I have a giant ball of roux mixed with a poached egg. FAIL.

On the next attempt, the glistening ball of paste was deposited into a mixing bowl, and repeatedly tested with the little finger (Pomiane’s favourite cooking implement) until it had reached a bearable temperature. The eggs get incorporated after that. I follow his advice about four eggs possibly being too many, so beat the final egg, and add about half, by which time the pastry has gone from the sticking-on-the-spoon state to the reluctantly-falling-off-the-spoon state, without having turned into liquid.

On the baking tray, they do spread out a little too wide, but puff encouragingly. Perhaps I need to stop at three and a quarter eggs next time.

They’re turned onto the cooling rack and a little hole bored in the bottom of each to let the steam out. Looks like the larger ones didn’t cook and puff as well as the smallers ones, so that’s another lesson for next time.

Quantities

Here are the metric amounts that I translated from Pomiane. I’d approach these amounts with caution, ’til I double check in the cold harsh light of day.

  • 250mL water (3/8 of a pint)
  • 100g butter (3oz)
  • 25g caster sugar (1/2 oz)
  • pinch salt
  • 125g plain flour (4 oz)
  • 4 eggs (Pomiane reckons add the first three whole, and only beat the last one, I think I’d be inclined to beat all of ’em)

Here’s what Delia reckons:

  • 150mL water
  • 60g strong (i.e. bread making) flour (this will have more gluten, so should result in a stickier pastry, I guess)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 level teaspoon sugar

She makes a great deal of “shooting” the flour into the butter/water mix, whereas Pomiane just says add gradually whilst stirring. (Rapid addition of flour also appears in Je sais cuisiner.) She also has the oven at 200 for the first ten minutes and 220 for the next 15. She fails to mention the risk of the eggs cooking upon being added.