Flaky pastries

Flaky pastries

By
From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

These pastries are made by folding together layers of pastry dough with butter or other fats in between. When baked, the pastry puffs up into separate thin, crisp ‘leaves’. Important points for success:

Have ingredients, equipment and your hands cool before starting, so that the fat will remain in firm layers, separating the pastry layers. Chilling the pastry at intervals during preparation, as described in recipes, is also designed to keep fat layers firm.

There is a special way of rolling flaky pastries. First beat lightly and evenly with rolling pin from front to back of pastry, then roll out as follows: bring rolling pin down firmly on pastry, give a short, sharp back-and-forth roll, lift pin and repeat. The idea is to roll pastry thinner without pushing the fat about so that it breaks through the surface. Work your way from front to back of pastry with these short, quick rolls but stop just before you get to the back edge so that pastry is not pushed out of shape. If fat does break through, sprinkle it with flour and refrigerate pastry for 10 minutes before continuing.

Keep corners square and edges straight. Correct the shape by pulling corners out gently rather than pushing sides in.

Fold pastry exactly in three with edges level. Use a ruler as a guide and mark thirds with a fingertip on a long side before folding.

Whatever shape you want to make from flaky pastries, always roll them straight along or straight across, keeping the rectangular shape. Rounds, ovals, etc. must be cut from the pastry, not shaped by rolling. Cut cleanly with a sharp knife, and avoid edges when glazing, so that layers can separate as the pastry rises.

To line a flan ring: Place a flan ring on a baking tray, or use a loose-bottomed flan tin. If the pastry you are using contains sugar or egg, lightly grease sides and base – this is not necessary for plain pastry. Roll pastry out to a circle about 3 mm thick and about 4 cm bigger than the ring. Lift pastry over rolling pin, then lift and lay pastry over the ring using the rolling pin. Ease pastry carefully into the ring, then, with a floured forefinger or small ball of pastry, press pastry into the angle round the base. Use floured fingertips to press pastry firmly against the sides of the ring, holding a loose ring steady with the other hand while you do so.

Roll across the top of the ring with the rolling pin to trim off surplus pastry. Press pastry gently around the top edge to work it very slightly above the rim of the ring, then work round the top, gently thumbing the pastry a fraction away from the ring. Rest for 30 minutes before baking as recipe directs.

To release the baked shell or tart from a flan ring, slide it off the tray onto a serving plate and lift ring off. To release it from a loose-bottomed tin, place tin on a jar and allow sides to fall down. Slide tart off base onto a serving plate, or leave on base to serve.

To bake blind: Flan cases and tart shells are often baked ‘blind’, meaning without filling. A case or shell may be baked completely if filling is not to be cooked with it, or partially baked to colour and crisp the pastry before adding the filling and finishing the cooking. Care must be taken to see that an empty case or shell doesn’t puff up unevenly or buckle as it cooks. Oven temperatures used for baking blind vary with the type of pastry being used (see recipes).

To bake tartlet shells blind: Prick lightly all over base with a fork, bake for 6 minutes then check. If any have puffed up, press down gently with a spoon then finish baking.

To bake a larger case/shell blind: Line it with crumpled, light baking paper or tissue paper and fill with rice, crusts of bread or dried beans. For partial pre-baking, bake the shell for about 8 minutes or until sides are just coloured. Lift out paper with rice, crusts or beans, return case or shell to oven and bake for about 5 minutes more to dry and colour the base. Remove from oven, add filling and finish cooking. If sides of case or shell are over-browning, protect them with foil.

To pre-bake completely: Bake for 10–15 minutes after removing paper and rice, crusts or beans, until case or shell is golden. Remove from oven and cool before filling.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
see method for ingredients

Method

Note:

  • To moisture-proof a pastry case or shell which will have a juice filling, brush inside of cooked case or shell with lightly beaten egg or egg white or warm jam and place in hot oven for 2–3 minutes to set.
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