February 2, 2009

Rachel Allen’s Sweet Pastry

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

This pastry is really easy to make, especially if you use a food processor, but you can also make it by hand.


Ingredients for the pastry (these quantities makes enough for two 8-inch tarts, so you can freeze one portion raw for another time):
  • 250g (9oz) plain flour
  • 125 (4.5oz) butter, diced and softened*
  • 75g (3oz) caster sugar
  • ½ – 1 egg, beaten

Directions for the pastry:
  1. In the food processor place the flour, butter and sugar and whizz up for a few seconds.
  2. Add half the beaten egg and continue whizzing. You might need to add a little more egg, but don’t add too much – it should just come together (I used a whole egg).
  3. Tip the mixture onto a board* and with your hands flatten out the ball of dough till it is about 3 cm thick.
  4. Wrap it in cling film and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Putting it on a metal baking tray will speed up the chilling process (it will keep well for a couple of days in the fridge, or it will freeze).
* My butter wasn’t very soft as I made this tart on the day that it heavily snowed so it was really cold in the house! I’m sure this is why the mixture didn’t come together into a ball in the processor (it stayed like breadcrumbs) so I had to bring it together on the board which took a few minutes.
 
To roll the pastry:
  1. Take the pastry out of the fridge (and split into two portions if doing two tarts).
  2. Place one portion of the pastry and place it between 2 sheets of cling film bigger than your tart tin.
  3. Using a rolling pin, roll out a circle no thicker than ¼ cm.
  4. Removing just the top layer of cling film, place the pastry upside down (cling film side facing up) in the clean tart tin.
  5. Press the pastry into the edges, cling film still attached and, using your thumb, ‘cut’ the pastry on the edge of the tin.
  6. Remove the cling film and pop the pastry in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before baking blind.
To bake blind:
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C*
  2. Line the pastry with greaseproof/parchment paper, leaving plenty to come up the sides.
  3. Fill with baking beans, or dried pulses (I used a mixture of red lentils and rice).
  4. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the pastry feels dry to the touch (you can prepare the filling whilst you’re waiting).
  5. Remove the paper and beans. At this stage you can brush the base with a little left-over beaten egg (I didn’t do this as I didn’t have any left-over egg).
  6. Return the pastry base to the oven for another 5 minutes.

COOK'S NOTES:
  • I accidentally cooked the pastry at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C as that is what I’d set the oven temperature to for my Blueberry Pear Crumble Topped Tart and it worked out fine.
  • Pastry freezes perfectly when it's raw, so it's handy to have some in the freezer. If the pastry is completely frozen going into the oven, and is not in any way too wet, you can actually cook it without the paper and beans. But if the pastry is not frozen, or is too wet (i.e. with too much egg), it will fall down the sides of the tin while it is cooking.
  • The reason for baking the pastry blind is to prevent the tart from getting a soggy base - so when making a tart with a 'custard' filling (as in eggs and milk or cream), it's essential. But for other tarts such as a Chocolate and Pear Tart, baking blind doesn't seem to be necessary.

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