Ever wondered how to avoid pastry shrinkage when baking mince pies or other pastry lined tart cases?
Helpful Hints and Tips for Pastry Making
- Unlike bread which likes everything nice and warm, pastry likes everything cold!
- Make sure your kitchen is at least cool but preferably cold (yes we know it’s winter but every good pastry chef knows you have to suffer for the sake of your pastry!) And don’t forget most ovens and especially Agas will give off heat so if the oven’s switched on ready for baking, try not to make your pastry standing right next to the oven, or open the back door to offset the temperature.
- There is some debate as to whether you will only make a good pastry chef if you have cold hands, personally I don't think it's a problem as long as everything else is cold and you work quickly, but if you've tried everything else and you think warm hands are to blame you can chill them down by holding them under cold running water, then dry them before working your pastry.
- Even before you start making your pastry, take out the tins you will be using and brush them with melted butter. Place the tins into the fridge for at least half an hour to allow the butter to set onto the tin. Follow this step even if you are using pastry you’ve made ahead.
- Make your pastry and pat it into a thick disc, it will be easier to roll out from a disc than if you roll it into a ball.
- Then, despite what most recipes say, wrap it in greaseproof paper, not Clingfilm, to rest it in the fridge for at least an hour or preferably overnight. Clingfilm will only encourage the pastry to sweat, the pastry will be warm when you finish mixing it from all the activity and if you place it into the fridge wrapped in Clingfilm it will form condensation on the surface of the pastry.
- Once your pastry is chilled, leave your buttered tins in the fridge to remain as cold as possible while you roll out your pastry.
- If you’re making small tarts or pies (like mince pies) and you’re not confident with pastry, don’t try rolling it out all in one go; it is more difficult for the inexperienced pastry chef and your pastry will become warm while you get frustrated. Cut your chilled pastry into smaller portions and roll them out one at a time filling two or three of your mince pie impressions at a time. Use a round cutter to cut the pastry into the right size for the indentations.
- Place the cut pastry into the indentations and then gently lift the tin and tap it back down onto the work surface to release any air trapped between the pastry and the tin and settle the pastry into the indentation.
- Gently press the pastry into the indentations (not so hard that you leave fingerprints!) If you have long nails you can use a small piece of pastry rolled into a ball to gently press the pastry into the tins to avoid leaving nail marks. Make sure the pastry reaches right to the lip of the tin. If you’ve cut the pastry rounds too small and it’s below the rim of the indentation, just roll it up and start again using a larger cutter. If you start off with the pastry too low in the tin you’re on a hiding to nothing.
- If your pastry does become too warm (because the kitchen’s too warm or just because it takes you longer than expected) it will become too soft and difficult to roll out. Don’t despair – it’s not ruined! Just put the whole lot back in the fridge and let it chill down again and check that the kitchen hasn’t become too hot.
- Once you’ve lined all your indentations or tins, put the whole lot back in the fridge again while you walk the dog or pick the kids up from school. This allows the pastry to cool down again after all that rolling and adhere to the chilled butter on the tins.
- Continue with your recipe for the next step.
So…keep everything cold, let it rest between steps, work in small batches.
Buono come il pane. Like to eat. Love to bake.
Making Pastry Ahead
If you want to make your pastry ahead, chill it first in greaseproof paper as described above, then once it’s nicely chilled you can then wrap the whole lot in Clingfilm leaving the greaseproof paper on underneath. It will then keep in the fridge for 2-3 days or you can keep it in the freezer. Many pastry chefs believe pastry is even better after it’s been frozen. It’s also a good idea to add a squeeze of lemon juice when mixing your pastry as this will stop it discolouring and going grey.