Follow our easy guide for everything you need to know to become a pastry expert – the healthy way.
The art of pastry making
- Pastry success relies on accurate measuring, correct proportions of fat to flour and careful handling.
- Measure out all ingredients first.
- For healthier pastry, use a lower-fat table spread for baking.
- Plain white flour works best for light, crisp results. Self-raising flour produces a soft, spongy pastry.
- Always preheat the oven to the temperature stated in the recipe.
- Prepare pans with non-stick cooking spray, so you use less oil.
- Metal loose-bottomed pans make for easy removal of flans.
- Keep your hands, work surface, equipment and ingredients cool.
- Wrap pastry and rest in fridge before baking to avoid shrinkage.
- When adding liquid, use a jug with just enough chilled water to bind the dough. Too much liquid makes pastry tough; too little makes it crumbly and hard to handle.
Rolling out pastry
- Use a rolling pin on a cool surface, both lightly dusted with flour. Never dust the pastry.
- Always roll away from you using light, firm strokes. Rotate pastry frequently to keep shape and thickness even. Avoid over-rolling: pastry will shrink during cooking.
Tasty tart fillings
- Once you have cooked your pastry cases, try these filling ideas. Serve at room temperature.
- For a sweet treat, add Greek yoghurt and honey. Top with frozen blueberries (thawed) and drizzle with reduced-sugar jam.
- Mix sliced seasonal fruit, pineapple and kiwifruit and toss in reduced-sugar apricot jam.
- Toss cooked diced chicken, thinly sliced spring onion, cherry tomatoes and sweet corn in a mixture of 1 tablespoon curry paste, 200g natural yoghurt and 2 tablespoons fruit chutney.
- Mix chopped sun-dried tomatoes with chopped capsicum and some roughly torn fresh basil leaves. Fill the base of the pastry case with some light soft cheese in a flavour of your choice and top with the mixed vegetables.
Three steps to perfect shortcrust pastry
1. Rubbing in
For shortcrust pastry, the fat (table spread) is ‘rubbed’ into the flour. Cut the fat into small pieces and add to the flour. Mix briefly with a round-bladed knife to coat fat pieces with flour. Use fingertips (not palms) to pick up and rub a small amount of the mixture together to break down into tiny pieces. Do as lightly and quickly as possible until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Adding liquid
Pour liquid over the surface of the crumb mixture and use a round-bladed knife to combine evenly; uneven addition may cause blistering once the pastry is cooked. You may need a little more or less than the recipe quantity because flour absorbency varies. Once the dough begins to hold together, shape into a ball, kneading lightly for a few minutes. The dough is now ready to use.
This means to bake or partially bake the case without its filling, to prevent a soggy base. Prick the base with a fork and line with baking paper. Fill with pastry weights, dried beans or rice. Bake for 10–15 minutes or until set. Remove paper and weights. Bake for 5 minutes until light golden and firm for a partially cooked case or 10–15 minutes until crisp and golden.