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Sweet Pastry - Back to Basics 11

By special request, my very own sweet pastry recipe. This one is especially good for sweet pies and very simple, the trick with this one is all in the timing, so I am going to show you what to look for so your pies will be GORGEOUS! This one is for my dear friend Mel, who is a wonderful cook but has been struggling with a pastry that is less than user friendly, so here we go Mels, ready?

It has been a very musical week this week in the Cookie House, we have had Glen Campbell and Anne Murray, now we are going to reach right back into the archives and allow one of the great country artists to mentor us in our pastry making. In the words of the immortal Kenny Rogers, you gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em. With pastry, timing and temperature is everything.

This is my own sweet paste recipe I use for most things, if I am being fancy I use a pate sucre recipe but that is only if I am wanting to fuss. This pastry is pretty bomb proof, as we horse people like to say, and very delicious and good for bottoms and tops.

Sweet Pastry

900g plain flour

500g butter, diced (see pic)

300g caster sugar

3 eggs

1/3 cup water

Okay, first a word on flour. We have spoken in the past about hard flour for breads, for this sweet pastry we want a medium flour, you will feel the difference when you touch it, a good pastry flour is silken to the touch. I have a bakers flour here from Cummins Mills, a gorgeous flour, but really too soft for breads so I have relegated it to pastry flour, trust your senses, you can make a pastry with any grade of wheat flour really, but a little gluten will make your pastry easier to handle, too much gluten will impact on the tenderness of your crumb.

You want your butter cold, but not too cold. My little fridge in the Cookie House likes to turn my butter into rock hard butter bricks, so at this time of the year (it was -5 last night according to my jam thermometer) I take my butter out and let it sit for a couple of hours on the bench before I use it. In summer I would use it straight from the fridge, again, trust your senses.

Place your flour and caster sugar (caster sugar only, you can use normal sugar but its grittiness and its hygroscopic nature (absorbs moisture out of the air) will make your pastry harder to work with. Make life easy, use caster sugar. Where were we? Oh yes, we have our flour and caster sugar in the bowl of our mixer or food processor, or if you are really keen, a big bowl for hand mixing (I am never that keen, this old kenwood chef of mine is thirty years old and will probably still be chugging when my great granddaughter is making pies).

Dice your butter, you can actually buy butter diced, but it is really easy, just slice it one way, then the other to make little squares, like this-

Tumble that in with your flour and sugar and turn on your mixer or processor fairly low or it will try to chuck everything out on your bench, if you are doing it by hand rub the butter in with your fingertips, whichever way you choose to go, this is where you start humming Kenny’s The Gambler to yourself, you gotta know when to hold em, hold em til they look like this -

Know when to fold em, now combine your eggs and water and tip in, turn your speed up a little and fold those eggs in until it looks like this -

Know when to walk away, so now we walk away from our machinery and turn our pastry out onto our bench. Plenty of flour, knead it for a minute until it forms a nice round ball. It will be quite soft at this stage, that is good.

Know when to run. Thank you Kenny, that will be all for now. We wrap this up in a bit of glad wrap, pop it in the fridge and run off and do something else for a least thirty minutes while the gluten relaxes. If we were to roll out our pastry right now with the gluten all tight we are simply begging for our pastry to shrink. Remember, pastry is all about timing, and this one is really simple, but your timing needs to be bang on.

In half an hour or an hour we return to our pastry, if it has been longer than that it is going to be as hard as a rock and impossible to roll without cracking so we may need to leave it out on the bench for a while, but let’s assume it has been half an hour and you have a smiling, pliable pastry to work with. Cut about a quarter of it away and knead it into a happy round, the initial shape determines the shape of your rolled out bit, you start with a triangle, you are going to end up with a triangle, so start with a round if you are lining a round pie plate. Lots of flour on the bench, this is a sweet and sticky pastry.

And roll and rotate, roll and rotate until you have achieved your desired thickness and size.

And wa-la. Pies.

These are little cherry and apple crumble pies I make for Convalita Gourmet. We can do a nice family sized apple pie if you like. I will put it on the list.

This makes rather a lot of pastry, for one pie with a pastry bottom and top you could cut the ingredients by a third. Or make three or four.


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