Pastry is used as the base for many baked foods, including pies and quiches. Pastry should be light and airy but also solid enough to support the weight of the filling. There are various types of pastry. However, the most common is shortcrust pastry.
Making the Dough
Put flour in a bow, cut butter into lumps and add to the flour. Spread the butter into the flour with fingertips. Add a pinch of salt.
Lift flour in your hand and let it fall back into the bowl, allowing air to get into the mixture. Keep mixing with fingers until the mixture has the consistency of breadcrumbs.
Add approximately 1 tablespoon of cold water. Sprinkle the water evenly throughout.
Bring the dough together, turning and folding it over so that it sticks together. Add more water if necessary or more flour if the dough is too runny. No flour or butter should be left in the bottom of the bowl.
Put the pastry in a polythene bag and leave in the refrigerator for half an hour. This "resting" time means the gluten will make the pastry more elastic when it comes to rolling it out. It can be kept as long as three days in a bag in the fridge.
Sprinkle flour over a flat surface and place the dough over it. Dust flour over it before rolling it out with a rolling pin. Keep dusting the rolling pin with flour to avoid sticking. Make sure the dough is evenly rolled out.
Cooking the Pastry
Fold the pastry over the rolling pin if it is to be used as a base for a tart, for instance, and then place it in a greased baking tin. Make sure it’s evenly spread out. Press the pastry into the sides with your fingers to line the tin. If there is any excess, trim it with a knife.
Prick the base with a fork to release air so that the pastry doesn't rise up from the bottom.
Brush the pastry with the beaten egg so that it retains a glazed appearance and remains crisp. Add the filling and, if required, another layer of pastry over the top, pressing down at the sides again. Brush the top layer with the egg.
Preheat the oven to around 190 ºC; however, this varies according to the particular recipe.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Check the pastry a few times while it’s in the oven.
The amount of butter used should be roughly half the amount of flour.
If while cooking, the pastry starts to rise up, prick it with a fork and push it back down with your hands.