10 July 2011

the secret to perfect pastry

I am feeling magnanimous. Pie can do that to a person. So I will share with you you another of my closely guarded secrets. We all know that most pastry requires quick work and cool hands. Work it for more than a few moments, or too warm, and whether you're aiming for shortcrust or flaky, you will never achieve that melting tenderness that makes chubby angels sing. Marble work surfaces? Pish and nonsense! Unless actively chilled, they are the same temperature as any other material in the room. If anything they will conduct the ambient temperature into your chilled pastry faster than wood, or God forbid, melamine. So what's a pastry maker to do? Easy, just modify that one silly step that appears in every recipe but makes no sense at all. Do not cut your fat into small pieces and wait for it to soften before rubbing into the flour. Simply freeze the required quantity (I prefer butter even though lard is healthier - hard to believe I know - and lighter), then grate it straight into the flour, dusting regularly so that it doesn't stick together in a great clump. The finely shredded and still cold fat is then a complete doddle to quickly rub into the flour without warming or working it much at all. Voila! Pastry perfection.

Pork filling braised in gin and rosemary, with a stock reduced to sticky unctuousness doesn't hurt either.

In case you are so agog with wonder at this stroke of brilliance that you have to know the source, I hereby stake my claim at having thought it up entirely by myself. However, modesty must allow that some of the credit should go to my fine scientific training at University of Cape Town Botany Department, and the wonderful teachers there that taught me to accept absolutely nothing at face value.


  1. Good looking pie!!!

    I have always grated. Do you rub until it looks like sea sand? I love that part.

  2. Damn, my genius is overstated. And yes to sea sand. Well great minds obviously think alike.