Basic Pastry

The first time I made pastry I thought ‘Is that IT?’. So if you’re daunted by it, this is the page for you. And seeing as when you buy ready-made pastry they use a derivative of animal hair in it (yup, and you can bet it’s not on the label), we in our family are busy learning how to make all kinds of pastry, even the more complicated Bake-Off level of puff and so on.

But this is regular basic pastry for any sweet or savoury flan. I’m using plenty of pictures to show you each stage. It seems like a lot of writing but it’s just because I’m being thorough with the instructions. It actually takes about 8 minutes to mix, and 15 minutes to cook. The remaining prep time is the pastry resting in the fridge.

There are three rules and three only:

1.Don’t knead it. In fact don’t work it with your hands for a second longer than you need to make it glue together in a ball. Pastry is a fast thing.

2. Put an ice cube in the water you use. 

3. Don’t skip the two half-hour resting stages in the fridge.

Ingredients for a 10inch/25cm flan tin:

  • 5oz (150g) of plain flour
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 3oz (90g) of butter from the fridge.
  • 4 tablespoons water, added gradually.

You can use cheap margarine in a block, the kind that advertises itself as being for cakes and pastry, but I’d advise against anything in a tub as it’ll have lots of water in it.


  • Flan tin
  • Greaseproof paper or baking parchment
  • Pottery baking beans OR any dried peas/beans/lentils, the heavier the better.

Mix the butter into the salted flour using the tips of your fingers and thumbs and rubbing it so there are no massive lumps. As you can see from my second picture, I’ve not made it all like perfect sand – it doesn’t have to be. Dribble a tablespoon of the iced water into the flour and mix it lightly with a fork. You don’t want to add too much water or the pastry will be sticky and you’ll never roll it out. If you have an exact tablespoon measure then I find 4 is perfect, but be careful with the last one. Pastry basicsAs you can see from the first picture below, you want it matt, like broken-up plasticine, not sticky or wet. And I don’t over-mix it – once it looks like the first picture below I pick it up and press it lightly together into a ball, it doesn’t have to be neat, and wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge. Leave at least half an hour. Ot it will behave for a day or two if you’re not going to make your dish soon.Pastry next steps

When you want to cook it, take it out and let it come to room temperature for at least 15 mins or it’ll be too hard to roll. Shape it with the sides and the flats of your palms like plasticine into a disc like the middle picture below. Then, using a wooden rolling pin and some sprinkles of flour to stop it sticking, roll it flatter and flatter, turning it round like a clock to keep it circular, and turning it over every so often to make sure it’s not sticking like glue to the table. Don’t be scared to use as much flour as you need. If you can’t tell what colour it is any more, it’s a clue you’ve used too much….

Roll it until it’s larger than your tin with roughly enough extra to come up the sides. Roll it round the rolling pin to lift it and place it on the tin as centrally as you can. Pastry rollingGently ease it down into the corners and press it against the sides, trying not to rip it or poke a hole in it anywhere. If you do, just squidge it back together. Cut off the excess as below. Prick it all over with a fork. Put it in the fridge for half an hour while you pre-heat the oven. No need to wrap it in clingfilm this time.Pastry for cooking

Oven temp: 200° C or 190°fan. 

Cut a rough circle or square of greaseproof paper, remove the pastry from the fridge and arrange the beans inside it as above. It’s so the pastry doesn’t puff up in the oven and it’s called ‘baking blind’.

Cook for 10 minutes. Take the beans and paper out. It’ll look part-cooked (below left). Put it back in the oven for 5 mins. Now it’ll look more like the pic on the right. It’s done and ready to fill and cook with whatever sweet or savoury filling you want.

cooked pastry



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