Friday, September 7, 2012

Basics of Pastry Baking

How many times have you turned to pastry to set your mood right?
Umpteen, I’m sure. *wink wink*

How many times, while watching Masterchef Australia, have you wanted to enter the TV and grab that choux or strudel pastry from George or Gary and gorge on it?
Every-single-time, of course!

How many times have you shouted out loud and let the world know that pastry is your only true best friend?
No, you haven’t done that? Umm…Well, I haven’t either! Hmm…Who would do that? HA!

The thing with pastry, a name given to baked products, is that it is so simple in terms of the ingredients used and yet it can be (and is) moulded into some many varieties of deliciousness. Be it shortcrust, or phyllo, or puff, a well baked pastry will always bring a smile on your face when you first bite into its light, flaky texture.

 Homemade Puff Pastry

But for some, the love for all things floury and buttery does not begin at eating. A pastry has to be baked, the exacting process has to be laboured through, the aroma of the freshly baked has to fill the senses and only then can eating one’s labour of love can be a holistically joyous experience.

The Basics
If the thought of baking excites you as much as it scares you, then you have me for company. While it appears to be a romantic and oh-so-fantastique affair, baking is a tricky science that requires technique and skill. This truth I learned from my one too many baking disasters in the kitchen; so much so, that my otherwise supportive and calm mum demanded that I stop my culinary experiments asap!

 Pastry baking ingredients

So that you don’t have to endure the misfortunes that I did, here are some pastry baking basics to help you sail through smoothly.
  • Sift the flour to be used properly
  • You need to make sure all your ingredients – flour, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, baking powder (ingredients may vary depending on the recipe) – are chilled as this will help make your pastry tender. Also, the butter mustn’t be too hard; it needs to be just soft enough which will allow you to work it through the dough
  • Do not over-mix the ingredients. You have to handle the dough gently and mix all the ingredients just enough to combine them so that the mixture forms a non-sticky ball. Over-mixing will result in the formation of excess gluten which will make the pastry tough
  • You must be careful to add just the right amount of liquid – an excess will cause he pastry to become too hard and too less a quantity will result in a crumbly mixture
  • You need to chill the now ready pastry dough
  •  For your pastry to be perfect, you need to bake it at the right temperature

Along with these general tips, make sure you treat the recipe like your baking bible. Follow the measurements to the T and stick to the sequence. If you work with robotic precision coupled with human exuberance you are to be the boss of pastry baking in no time!

Hilonee Furia is a compulsive thinker, an American TV addict and a fiction fanatic. She believes travel helps widen perspectives and cupcakes help solve problems. She also happens to be a freelance writer and you can connect with her here.


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