"Why are we so scared of pastry?," our friend Rebecca asks after hearing my spot on ABC Radio New England North West Food Journeys segment with Kelly Fuller and Anna Moulder.
I used the opportunity to share two recipes for shortcrust pastry that have never failed me, Sour Cream Pastry (shared previously in a recipe for Greens and Ricotta Torte), and Boiled Water Pastry (below). I felt confident recommending the recipes to pastry novices in the hope they could overcome their fear and soon be serving homemade pastry to friends and family.
It turned out that Kelly and Anna both suffered pastry angst and I challenged them to try the recipes. Our conversation about pie fillings, in particular chicken, leek and cashew pie, had me whipping up some Boiled Water Pastry as soon as I returned home.
A week later pastry was still on my mind and I set out to face my personal pastry demon, puff pastry. I saved recipe after recipe for puff pastry and put off giving it a go. There were plenty of excuses, "I don't have enough butter", "I don't have chilled water", "I don't have the right flour". With the ingredients at hand, a new marble top for my kitchen table, and Michelle Crawford's 'A Table in the Orchard' for inspiration I set to making Eccles Cakes with Easy Puff Pastry. Michelle regularly shares recipes on her Hugo and Elsa blog.
I sifted the flour and salt directly onto the marble, rubbed in the butter cubes and made a mound with a well for the chilled water before slowly combining the water. Then came the rolling out the pastry into a rectangle, folding the top and bottom third towards the centre, turning 90 degrees and repeating three more times. This process had always seemed so complex and now it was done. It just had to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Sensing (smelling?) that something interesting was unfolding in the kitchen, our youngest son arrived on the scene when it came time to roll out the pastry, "Can I help?". I admire his ease in the kitchen and his willingness to get his hands dirty. We roll out the pastry and cut circles to form casings around the fruit filling of currants, butter, sugar, zest and nutmeg. We slide the trays into the oven and wait for the result.
I am impressed. Biting into the Eccles Cakes the pastry has the fluffiness of puff pastry. It's better than any puff pastry I've ever bought. My fear of making puff pastry overcome, I am sure it will become part of my pastry repertoire. An old friend to revisit in autumn and winter, when I need pastry.
Boiled Water Pastry (source Donna Hay magazine)
Ingredients: 160g butter, 1 cup water, 3 1/4 cups plain flour sifted, 1 tsp salt, 2 eggs
Place butter and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil (don't walk away and let it boil over as I have done once). Place flour and salt in a bowl. Add eggs and hot butter mixture to the flour and mix with the knife until combined. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide pastry into three, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to 4mm thickness. I usually roll out pastry between sheets of plastic wrap or baking paper for ease of handling and transferring to a pie plate. Line pie dish with pastry and roll out pastry for lid. Refrigerate for one hour. Fill the pastry case with filling and brush rim with water. Place extra pastry on the pie to make lid. Trim excess pastry and press edges together using a fork or flute the edge using your thumbs. Cut a small vent hole in the centre of the pie. Bake in a moderate oven until golden (usually 30 minutes).