This is part of a semi-regular series of posts tackling how to make some of the things that we often end up buying pre-made. Things that we think of as basic ingredients, that aren’t ‘ingredients’ at all but are actually processed in some way for us. Things like bread, jam, butter, ketchup, baked beans and pickled ginger. Not everything is cheaper to make than buy, yet when you make it yourself, you know what’s in it.
Pastry is a bit more of a basic than my pickled ginger post from last week. Well, I feel like it is, but actually how many people really make their own pastry these days? It’s so easily available in shops, after all.
I am one of these few people who make my own, not just because I have a bizarre compulsion to make every single thing from scratch (though I kind of do), but also because homemade pastry is very good and much cheaper than the bought stuff.
There are even two pastry recipes in this week’s post for you – shortcrust and rough puff. Shortcrust is the most basic of pastries. I’ve noticed that it’s the most common type that people make themselves – probably because it’s so easy and quick to make. You can even make it in your food processor (good if you have warm hands) but I haven’t tried. To make it sweet, add a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar to the mix – you can add eggs as well, I believe, but I’ve not got exact instructions.
I don’t know many people who make their own puff pastry because it is a bit more of a faff. I’ve never made puff pastry the ‘proper’ way, though I would like to try it sometime, but I have made ‘rough puff’, a simplified version that gives excellent results.
With both these pastries, you can use butter or baking fat, or a combination of both, whichever you prefer (you can also replace half of the fat with lard but I’ve never done this). Baking fat works very well in shortcrust, where all-butter can be a bit rich. Butter is better for puff, but as baking fat is cheaper, that’s what I used last time, in the interest of experimentation. What I found was it wasn’t quite as nice as the buttery one hot but it was lovely when it cooled down, weirdly. So basically the choice is yours but unless I had guests or only had butter in, I’d tend to the cheaper option so that’s what I’ve costed below.
Shortcrust pastry (32p per batch – similar weight Asda ready-rolled shortcrust pastry is £1.25)
- 220g plain flour 7p (45p / 1.5kg, Asda)
- 110g butter/baking fat/lard 25p (55p / 250g baking fat, Asda)
- pinch salt (less than 1p)
Rub the butter into the salt and flour until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Work quickly, and use just the tips of your fingers, as you want to avoid getting the fat warm. Add water, a spoonful at a time, mixing in with the blade of a knife firstly and then your fingers. Add just enough that the mix holds together in a ball without being wet.
Chill, wrapped in cling film, for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. You can use shortcrust to make quiches, pies (especially good for the kind that have pastry on both the top and bottom), Cornish pasties, mince pies at Christmas, lemon or jam tarts and lots of other things.
Rough puff pastry (39p per batch – similar weight Asda ready-rolled puff pastry is £1.25)
- 150g butter/baking fat, cold and chopped into cubes 33p (55p / 250g baking fat, Asda)
- 200g plain flour 6p (45p / 1.5kg, Asda)
- pinch salt (less than 1p)
Add the fat to the flour and salt, mix round to dust without breaking up the cubes, and pour in 100ml cold water. Mix and tip onto a large piece of cling film. Wrap up in the film, squishing together, and refrigerate for about 30 mins.
On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out to a long rectangle (about 1/3 as wide as it is long), keeping the edges straight. Fold the bottom third up, then the top third down, to make a square. Give it a quarter turn, then roll out into a long rectangle again. Repeat this another 3 times, until you have a smooth dough with streaks of butter visible. Fold back up into a square and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes before using.
To use, roll out again as required. This recipe makes the rough equivalent of a ready-rolled sheet, and can be frozen if required. Use to top steak pies, make sausage rolls, make sweet and savoury pastries, simple open tarts (like the tomato and goats cheese tart picture below) and even beef wellington.