Saturday, January 15, 2011

Basic shortcrust pastry

Shortcrust pastry is remarkably quick and easy to make, and when made properly, so much more delicious that bought.  I have scoured numerous recipes to find one that I preferred.  I wanted one that was simple - the fewer ingredients the better.

So this is the recipe I most use.  It's the most basic of the basic, and can be modified to suit your needs pretty easily by adding sugar for a sweet pastry, and other elements such as cinnamon, ground ginger or parmesan cheese.  But honestly, I tend to use it plain most often.  With a mixer, it takes two minutes to throw together. The key is to make it ahead of time: two hours at minimum but preferably overnight, and it can be frozen for weeks.

There are innumerable handy tips that can improve the quality of your pastry, and I wont pretend to be an expert and cite them all here.  Instead, I recommend checking this handy shortcrust pastry guide.  The one critical tip I will impart is: use chilled ingredients, the colder the better.  Using butter straight from the fridge is one of the reasons I use a mixer rather than rubbing it into the flour by hand, which would frankly be very tedious.  It also minimises the amount of body heat I transfer to the dough, because you want to handle the dough as little as possible.

  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • a few tablespoons of iced water*
Put the flour, salt and butter in your mixer. Mix briefly until the contents resemble fine breadcrumbs, then tip the whole lot out onto the bench. Form it into a ball, pushing it together so that it holds, and remembering to handle it as little as possible.

Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and put in the fridge or freezer, depending on when you wish to use it.

When you're ready to use the pastry, roll out the ball into a disk or rectangle, and line your tin or dish with it.  Prick the bottom all over with a fork, line with baking paper and add pie weights or dry rice or legumes and pre-bake in a hot oven (about 200 C) for about ten minutes.  Then go ahead and make your pie or tart according to your recipe.

*NB I made a double dough today, some for now and some for later, which is reflected in the photos.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Breakfast pie

This weekend I'm going away with my family for three days of sailing.  It's going to be sunny, gorgeous and relaxing.  There's also going to be six hungry people and one teeny tiny galley.  So I pondered what to bring that would be wholesome and nourishing and delicious and easy to prepare.  The first thing I thought of was Egg and Bacon Pie!  But there will be vegetarians in our midst, so I removed the bacon and added other things to make: Breakfast Pie!

You could make this pie with anything you want. As long as it has eggs.

  • Puff pastry
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 punnet of grape tomatoes
  • Baby spinach, a handful, chopped
  • Grated tasty cheese (approx 150g or as much as you want)
  • salt and pepper to season
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
I decided to prepare my tomatoes before putting them in my pie to make them extra tomatoey, tangy and succulent.  Chop them in half, drizzle olive oil and balsamic over them and season with salt and pepper.  Put them in the oven at about 140 C for about 20 minutes or until they are just starting to burn a little and get sticky on the bottom. 

Next, prepare your pie pan.  Take two sheets of pastry out of the oven and let them defrost, then preheat the oven to 200 Celcius (or 220 C if your oven isn't fan forced).  Grease your pie pan and lay a sheet of pasty across it.  Using a fork, prick tiny wholes in the bottom of the pastry to help the base get crispy when it bakes.

Mix your ingredients.  Start by lightly whisking nine eggs.  Add the spinach, tomatoes, cheese and salt and pepper to taste and toss through. 

Pour this mixture into your pie base and sit the chimney in the middle. Cut a slit in the other sheet of pastry to fit over your pie chimney, if you're using one.  Press the edges of the pastry together with your thumbs and trim the excess pastry. Then, and this is very important, cut some kind of daggy decoration out of the pastry remainders.  Mine says "PIE"!

Brush the top of your pie with egg wash and put it in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Once it's cooled, simply slice and serve.

You could put anything you fancy in this pie.  I tend to think along lines you might associate with omelettes.  I had meant to add olives, but when the time for mixing ingredients came, I simply forgot.  Fetta would work well if you prefer it to tasty cheese, and capsicum and mushrooms would be perfect.  Carnivores should dabble with bacon or sucuk.