Category Archives: Baking

Making butter

Like most little girls I was a fan of dressing up – putting on outfits of questionable taste and highly flammable fabric, waddling around in my mother’s heels and pretending to be some sort of ingénue heiress from the past. Or Nancy from Oliver. Or Liesel Von Trapp.

I have to confess that the urge to ponce about in big dresses has never really left me (hence the amateur dramatics), although these days it’s sadly less socially acceptable to get done up like a dog’s dinner and mince up and down the stairs all day. There are other ways however, to fulfil my love of the past and its traditions. A lot of them involve the novels of Daphne du Maurier and watching costume dramas, but now and then I also like to bring it back to life through food.

There’s been a resurrection in the last couple of years of going back to basics in cookery – a much-needed revolt against the horror of mass food production. Being swept away by this myself, I recently made butter by hand for the first time and got completely hooked. It’s so easy and so completely satisfying, I’m trying to make it a regular thing. It does leave the kitchen looking like a fetishist society has held an evening do there, but no matter.photo[5]

It goes without saying you need to use the best cream you can – my most successful batch to date has been using untreated Jersey milk cream from Neal’s Yard – but the rest is up to you. You can add salt if you like, or if you’re making it for a particular occasion, garlic, herbs or chilli will all work well too. The second time I made it I followed Darina Allen’s advice and left the cream to ‘ripen’ for 24 hours on the balcony. Either Ms Allen’s method is different to mine or she likes her butter tasting a bit rank, because I found it had a very sour flavour which to be honest tasted off, so I recommend you use cream straight from the fridge. Don’t expect it to taste like proper French butter either, I’m not sure how they achieve that flavour but I haven’t managed it. What you do get is butter that tastes like the best fresh cream – it’s delicious and incredibly moreish. The recipe below is for a basic salted butter, but if you like it unsalted (though God knows why you would) just leave the salt out. And if you’re adding flavourings, put them in with the salt.

What you need:

  • 600ml excellent quality double cream
  • 1-11/2tsp flaked sea salt (optional, but highly recommended)
  • some sort of electric beating device
  • a pair of butter bats (these aren’t completely necessary and you can just use spatulas or similar, but if you can find them in antique or second hand shops get a pair), soaked for 30 minutes in iced water
  • ice

1.    You can use a stand mixer, food processor or just an electric whisk to do this, although I don’t recommend one of those singular whisks that attach to a stick blender, they will give up the ghost too quickly. Put the cream into a sterilised large mixing bowl, the bowl of a stand mixer or a food processor, and beat it (with sterilised beaters) until the cream has completely overwhipped. Keep going and the butterfat will start to separate from the buttermilk. If your cream has come straight from the fridge this might take a while but it will get there in the end.

photo[3]

2.    Once the butter starts to come together, pour everything into a sieve set over a bowl to collect the buttermilk, (in true Victorian dairy maid fashion you can keep this to make bread). Put the butter back in the bowl and beat it briefly again to release any leftover buttermilk, then sieve once more.photo[4]

3.    Fill a large clean bowl with cold water, drop some ice cubes in it and put the butter in. Knead it with your hands to squeeze out any remaining buttermilk. Change the water 3-4 times during the kneading, until the water stays clean when the butter is kneaded. Put the butter onto a spotlessly clean surface and scatter over the salt. Bash it around with the butter bats (or spatulas) to distribute the salt through the butter, then shape it into a block and wrap in clingfilm or baking paper. If you’re not going to eat it all right away shape into two blocks and freeze one – keep the other half of the butter in the iced water while you’re shaping the first. It will keep in the fridge for around 5-6 days depending on how fastidious you’ve been with getting rid of the buttermilk. Spread it liberally on good bread, or if you’re feeling flush, try baking with it. photo[1]

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Why does my food taste average?

I’m sure this has happened to most of us. You’ve eaten something somewhere, you’ve managed to get hold of the recipe, you follow it to the letter, but it just doesn’t taste as good. And why does that starter from the Hawksmoor cookbook not fill you with the joy it did when you ate it at Hawksmoor? What is Ottolenghi doing that you’re not? And HOW does the meringue roulade in the magazine look so wonderfully crispy and light, when yours looks more like a slug?

It's all about the beating

Well, it could be almost anything – different ingredients, wrong season, complete lack of talent, but here are some of the more obvious ones that a trained chef will do without thinking, but you might be surprised to read…

Seasoning

Now I know I harp on and on about this, but there’s a reason I’m writing it first. Seasoning is the building block of cookery – without salt, your food will taste bland. Period. If you’re cooking with meat, you should always season it while it’s still raw, before it’s even seen the heat. It will make a huge difference to the flavour that just can’t be achieved after it’s cooked. And remember to season everything, even down to salad dressing. My idea of a pinch of salt is a four-fingered pinch so be bold, buy some Maldon and throw it about with gusto. And take heart, my blood pressure is absolutely fine.

Onions

Don’t rush your onions. They’re nature’s sloths, they like to do things in their own good time. If a recipe tells you to cook onions until caramelised, it’s safe to say you’re going to be waiting for at least half an hour, maybe longer if you’re doing a big batch. Cook them low and slow, and use plenty of butter. Caramelised onions form the flavour base for so many dishes, and if you rush the beginnings, the finished product will never taste as good.

Garlic

Burnt garlic will taint an entire dish, so treat it with respect. If you’re putting it with an onion base, add it only a couple of minutes before you add the rest of the ingredients – it doesn’t need as long as an onion to cook, just a few minutes to take the raw edge off. Never add it to really hot oil, it will burn instantly and smell of sulphur. For a dish like garlic prawns or mushrooms, add it finely chopped just before you serve – the heat from the food will soften it, and it will taste perfect.

Stock

This one is make or break, the difference between a masterpiece and a finger painting. If you’re cooking anything that lists stock as a main ingredient (a broth, a rich casserole, a gravy), you need to use the proper stuff. Either you can make your own, by roasting bones then cooking them slowly covered in cold water brought up to a gentle simmer with onions, bay, carrots, celery and peppercorns for about 3-4 hours, or you can buy the fresh ones from supermarkets. Heston’s from Waitrose is fantastic, well worth the cash and a gorgeous dark colour. The M&S ones aren’t bad either, and if you’re really stuck, the Touch of Taste bouillon bottles are ok too. But use fresh if you can, if only just to make me happy.

Ingredients

This is basically a common sense issue, but it stands to reason that some asparagus that’s come over from Peru in the dead of winter is not going to taste as good as a freshly picked spear from Kent in May. If you’re confused about what’s in season when, there are tons of websites you can look at (my favourite being this one from River Cottage). Also make sure you’re buying the best you can afford of the everyday stuff. Value Cheddar isn’t going to be a patch on the mature farmhouse stuff. Although this works both ways – for example, cheap mozzarella is better than buffalo for pizzas – the buffalo goes watery – you want the rubbery brands for cooking, save the good stuff for eating raw.

Meat

This needs a whole post to itself really, but please please always buy the best meat you can afford. Battery farmed chickens, grown super quickly with hormones taste bland, slimy and dry. And then there’s all the welfare issues. Anyone who thinks chicken or pork are tasteless has obviously been buying the budget packs, and if you find your cottage pie or lasagne has a slightly rancid taste, it’s probably because you used cheap mince. With meat, you get what you pay for, so find your nearest Q-Guild butcher, and start up a beautiful relationship with him.

Beating

Don’t get too excited, I’m talking about with a whisk. As you know from my cake post, butter and sugar needs a lot of beating to realise its full potential, but beating is equally important for other puddings. For example, your meringues should be beaten to firm peaks before adding any sugar, and even then it should be added a tablespoon at a time, and the mixture beaten well in between each spoonful. It incorporates as much air as possible, and breaks the proteins down in the egg white so your meringue will be more stable while cooking. And if you think that sounds like too much effort, just think of all the good it’s doing your bingo wings…

 

 

 

 

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Cheesecake.

Everyone in our office loves cheesecake. They LOVE it. Like one might love a firstborn child. Alright, not that much, but certain members of the team have been known to yelp when I put a freshly baked cheesecake on the communal table. That’s a pretty strong reaction to a bit of Philly and some egg if you ask me.

Because I don’t really get the obsession with cheesecake. It’s very tasty, it can occasionally, possibly border on delicious, but I would never order it in a restaurant, and I would never make one for a dinner party. And yet, consumer research time and again tells us that people want cheesecake recipes. When we do a gallery of them on our website we get a massive spike in user traffic. Am I just completely unaware that the Holy Grail of puddings is staring me in the face?

The world, it seems, is also against me. Cheesecakes have been around since Ancient Greece, when the Romans nicked the recipe and started making theirs using a cheese similar to ricotta, sweetened with honey and usually shaped into loaves. The addition of flour to the mixture would have produced a heavier, drier style than the smooth confections we’re used to, but the idea was the same.

Our widely accepted version using Philadelphia was born when an American accidentally invented cream cheese while trying to re-create French Neufchatel. Later, James Kraft (recognise the surname?) invented pasteurised cream cheese, somebody decided to bake it with eggs and sugar, and the modern cheesecake was born. Latterly, people have gone a bit nuts with the flavourings, as the fashion for one-thing-that-tastes-like another has gained popularity. If you fancy whiling away half an hour in contemplative gluttony, check out The Cheesecake Factory’s menu to see what I’m talking about. My favourites so far are ‘Adam’s peanut butter cup fudge ripple’ (what?!), and their Low Carb selection. AS IF you’re worrying about your carbohydrate intake if you’re supping at The Cheesecake Factory…

But what is it about the cheesecake that is so irresistible? Is it the (buttery) biscuit base? That unspeakable trougher Gregg Wallace seems to enjoy it. Is it the sometimes smooth, sometimes curdy main bit that fills your mouth with sweetness at the same time as setting your teeth slightly on edge with an alkaline tang? Is it the topping – the melted chocolate, toasted nuts, fruit compote or (God forbid) peanut butter cups? Or is it simply the knowledge that you’re eating not one, not two, but up to six or seven fattening ingredients in one, sinful, ecstatic mouthful and you feel like a kid in a candy shop?! I suspect the latter has more to do with it than most of you would care to let on…

Alright, so maybe I'm pretty proud of this one...

And while I can’t claim to be whisked away on a cloud of cheesey dreaminess at the mere mention of the C-word, I can see why people love them. All the elements of taste are there. I just have little joy in making them – there’s not the same feeling of alchemy that comes from making cakes, not the sharp intake of breath at the spectacular finished article. I’m mainly worried about whether the damn thing’s going to crack or not. (By the way, I can find no reliable cure for this – sometimes it works if you put it straight in the fridge, sometimes it cracks anyway. I think it’s the cheesecake’s revenge on me for not giving it its proper respect.) But people love them, so I suppose that is enough of a reward for making them on a fairly regular basis. Cooking is all about selfless giving to others and all that. But I’d still rather have cake.

NB. Check out this video of Louis Armstrong extolling the virtues of cheesecake, courtesy of our lovely photographer Myles New. It’s hilarious.

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Cooking with nuts

If you were to go looking through my hopelessly overcrowded freezer at home, you might be surprised by the number of packets of nuts in there. First, if you didn’t know that nuts could be frozen, they can, and second, I have so many of them because they’re so incredibly versatile. Think of any dish, and I could probably find a way of working nuts into it. Toasted macadamias tossed through a salad. Ground-up walnuts to thicken a Persian chicken stew. Chopped hazelnuts stirred through pasta with fried courgettes, or whole almonds coarsely ground in a fragrant orange blossom cake.

Nuts provide protein, natural fat, flavour and texture – they’re nature’s powerhouses that, unlike many superfoods, taste fantastic. I don’t think I’d be sprinkling goji berries liberally all over my supper. Alright, they’re not the cheapest adornment to your cookery, but they make such a difference, I really think it’s worth forking out for them. A Vietnamese salad loses a large part of its charm without its scattering of toasted peanuts, and I just don’t see the point of fruit cake if it’s not blanketed in sweet, sticky marzipan.

Of course, you’ve got to treat them properly. As a general rule nuts always taste better when toasted – it brings out the natural oils and gives them a rounded, less raw flavour. There are several ways to achieve this – you could place them in a dry pan and roll them around to stop them catching. This is the easiest option, but there’s a pretty large chance they’ll burn on one side. You could put them in a roasting tin in a medium oven for 10 minutes, which will toast them more evenly all over. If you’re going down this route, set a timer as I guarantee you’ll forget about them and they’ll end up black. Or, if you’re using them as a garnish and not an ingredient, you could heat a little oil in a frying pan and toast them in that – the oil distributes the heat so you get an even toasting, and also adds flavour.

If a recipe calls for them to be ground in a food processor, take care not to get carried away – whiz them too finely and you’ll push all the oil out which will leave you with a sticky lump instead of beautiful, fine crumbs. And always let them cool after toasting before grinding, to avoid the same thing happening.

Recipes using ground almonds, will be more delicious if you grind your own, rather than buying pre-ground. Doing it yourself means you can toast them first, and  control how far you take them  – leaving them mainly ground but still with a bit of texture will give you a cake with more bite and texture, and adding a couple of drops of almond extract will really enhance the flavour. As a general rule, you can substitute between half to 2/3 of a cake’s flour content for ground almonds, but add half a tsp of baking powder to the mix to counterbalance the heaviness.

 If you’re keeping open packets of nuts for longer than a few days, be aware they’ll go stale pretty quickly, and as anyone who’s delved into the bowls on the tables of an All Bar One will testify, stale nuts taste VILE. This is where the freezer comes in handy. Frozen nuts can be toasted straight from the freezer, but you probably won’t want to eat them untoasted once they’ve been defrosted.

And what’s my favourite nut? I really couldn’t pick. Almonds seem made for baking, whereas peanuts achieve their life’s purpose in peanut butter. A box of chocolates would be meaningless without hazelnut praline, and I can’t even imagine ice cream without pistachio. All of them work in salads, on yogurt, in muesli, and roasting a mix of them with honey, sea salt and thyme will give you one of the most moreish snacks on the planet. Just ask my father.

So my Ode to the Noble Nut is complete, and I’ll sign off by saying that if you don’t cook with them very often, this weekend please give it a go – there’s a very good chance you’ll become addicted. And since it’s Friday, and my mind is devoid of nut puns, I’m now going to invite your entries, with a mystery prize for the best one.

GO.

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Butter.

The mere mention of it strikes fear into the hearts of Daily Mail readers. Never in the history of faddy eating advice has one innocent substance been so persecuted, and yet, never in the history of cookery has one substance been so vitally important. Imagine a dry, rasping slice of toast with no smear of melting gold; the springy chewiness of a plain sponge cake without a crown of sugared buttercream. Butter is the base of your sauces, the building block of bakery – it’s in every French dish you can think of. It commands respect.

Butter is made from churning cream until the fat globules separate from the buttermilk and form solid lumps. The lumps are then brought together, washed, squeezed to remove all remaining buttermilk, and shaped into pats. It’s actually incredibly easy to make your own butter – you basically just overwhip cream (and I think we can say we’ve all done that). Darina Allen did an excellent guide for the Guardian here.

A lot of snobbery persists about whether salted or unsalted butter is best – at Leiths we were told that those in the know would always choose unsalted. Well, for eating raw, I’m firmly in the salty camp…how frightfully non-u of me. I don’t think there are many tastes better than properly salted butter, particularly the stuff from Brittany that’s flecked with whole sea salt crystals. Unsalted butter is too much like raw fat for me – the salt lifts it, and enhances at the same time as curbing, its creaminess.

That said, I always have unsalted to hand for cooking – when it comes to seasoning I’m a bit of a control freak, and starting a dish using salted butter makes for an uneven flavour. Salted butter is meant to be used as the French intended it – on proper bread, and in generous amounts. Add a bunch of radishes and a crisp glass of white and we’re good to go.

Funnily enough, considering the French love affaire with butter, it was actually a Frenchman who invented the first margarine. In the 1860s Napoleon III offered a prize for the first person to invent a suitable butter substitute to feed to his troops fighting the Franco-Prussian war. The fabulously named Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès responded by blending beef fat with milk and working the texture like butter. He wasn’t terribly successful though, and sold the patent to Jurgens (now Unilever) in 1871. After French and German scientists discovered how to hydrogenate vegetable oils (altering them so they behave like butter), the product we now know and loathe was born.

Thanks to sad cases like this chap, margarine now outsells butter in America (and is pretty close here), and many people mistakenly think that the saturated fat in butter is much more dangerous to your health than the hydrogenated fat in margarine. Sham science aside, I just don’t see how anyone with common sense can think that a natural product made entirely from cream can be more harmful than a laboratory product, stuffed full of chemicals, injected with air and artificially coloured. And despite loudly declaimed marketing slogans, it only resembles butter in the way that meat substitutes resemble a dry-hung steak. Not one bit.

Just imagine this with deliciously melting hydrogenated fat...

When flicking through other people’s recipes I will automatically discard any that give you the option of using margarine instead of butter. Anybody who thinks that’s acceptable has no right calling themselves a cook, let alone telling other people how to do it. You can spot a cake made with marge a mile off – it leaves a greasy film on the inside of your mouth and has an insubstantial feel when you bite into it. Butter is the real deal – the only thing that will give you that moist, golden crumb and rounded flavour. And yes it is high in fat, but I’m not advocating you eat the whole block – or the whole cake. As with all things in life, it’s all about treating yourself. Have a scraping on your toast in the mornings, and save the heavily buttered croissants (which by the way, are almost all butter to begin with) for the weekend.

So this weekend, throw away the marge, invest in some proper Brittany butter and just go crazy. Life shouldn’t be about consistent self-denial. I mean, look at Gillian McKeith…

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What’s wrong with my cake?!

Enjoy those rice cakes, won't you.

At this time of restraint and edamame beans it might seem cruel of me to be bringing up cake, but I’ve been making a lot of them recently (plus ça change…) so I thought I would write down a guide to what can go wrong, and the reasons behind it. Because from long experience, I know there is absolutely nothing more irritating than watching your beautiful cake rise, become fragrant and golden…then sink into a big flat pancake before your eyes. There have occasionally been tantrums…

The Leiths Bible, which, for baking and patisserie is still my Good Book has a very useful section entitled, somewhat primly, ‘Reasons for failure in cake making.’ Unfortunately, a lot of their reasons are to do with cakes that you or I will almost never think about making (Genoise Commune, anyone?!), so I’m going to aim for a more practical guide here. And then, just because I like to share my enthusiasm with you, I’m going to give you some hints on how to avoid them…

Your cake has sunk

This is probably the most common problem and is so easily avoidable!

  • Did you open the oven door too early? Tut tut tut. Leave the oven door alone! Blasting cold air into a warm oven will automatically cause your cake to sink if it isn’t set enough. If you must open the oven – if you need to cover the top to stop it burning for instance, try and wait until the cake has been in for at least 30-40 minutes – it will usually have risen enough that it won’t be a problem. Don’t throw it open and bang it shut either – opening and closing gently and smoothly will stop the rush of air and keep the oven temperature more accurate. Gordon Ramsay might kick them shut, but that doesn’t mean that you should.
  • Was your oven too hot? An over-heated oven will cause a thick crust to form on your cake before the middle is set, making you think that it’s cooked before it is, so you bring it out and two minutes later you have a cracked top crust and a load of dough on the inside. Buy an oven thermometer to be sure your oven is running at the correct heat – you’ll be surprised by how much they vary. Our testing ovens run 10 degrees low, but our photographer’s oven is high, and my oven just does its own thing most of the time. We can never be completely accurate in our timings for recipes as everyone’s ovens are different, so it’s worth checking that yours runs to temperature. Another neat trick if you’re making a big cake (over 10”) and you’re worried about it rising is to start it 10C higher than you need and after 10-15 minutes turn it down to the correct temperature. The high heat will kickstart the rise and form a crust (which stabilises the cake), and the correct temperature will make sure it stays moist.

Your cake has dried out

We’ve all done it – you’ve forgotten about the cake in the oven and now it’s burned/dry/crusty. It’s still salvageable! Try one of these…

  • If it’s burnt – Dark edges are easy to deal with – wait until it cools then shave off the burnt bits with either a sharp veg peeler or (more preferably) a sharp grater or microplane. Stop when you get to lighter sponge, and no one will ever know..
  • If it’s dry – If you’re worried it’s going to be dry in the middle, prick holes all over it while still hot, then either pour over some appropriate booze (I once used a whole bottle of PX sherry for a friend’s chocolate wedding cake), or a fruit syrup made with fresh orange/lemon juice, and a couple of tbsp sugar. There’s an orange drizzle cake recipe here with an excellent syrup. Abracadabra, problem solved and everyone will be saying ‘ooh, isn’t it moist, isn’t it just so moist!
  • If it’s crusty – A bit of crispiness is delicious, but if it’s a little too crunchy, either leave it in the tin to cool (it will somewhat unappetisingly, sweat, but it will soften the crust a bit), or turn it out and cover it with a damp tea towel to cool. This works a treat with bread too.

 Your cake is too dense

I’m afraid this one’s just down to laziness and heavy-handedness. When we say to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy we really do mean it. And that bit about gently folding in the flour isn’t just to fill our word count. Your cake’s fate is sealed the minute you mix butter and sugar together – part of the rise is formed by steam coming from these two melting, so the more you beat it, the more you break it down and increase the surface area, so the more steam you get which means…a lighter cake. And you fold in the flour rather than beating it so you don’t knock all the air out and ruin your hard work. Most recipes will tell you to use a metal spoon – we prefer a balloon whisk – it’s more efficient and has a smaller surface area to bash the mix with.

 Of course, there are hundreds of other things that can go wrong, but I think these are the Big Three. And remember baking really isn’t scary, you just have to follow the recipe, and use a little bit of intuition. God, I sound like Mary Poppins. Oh well, very happy baking to everyone and a jolly marvellous weekend…

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The Secret Art of Pastry Making

 Since around this time of year, I reckon there’s a fair few people thinking about mince pies, I thought I would write something about pastry. It seems to be a lot of people’s cooking nemesis, and while I sympathise, I’ve also learnt a few tricks to make life that little bit easier. So read on, all ye who fear to bake, and I will try to enlighten you.

 First of all, there’s no hiding it but compared with throw-it-in-a-pan cooking, pastry is a nuisance. And while I stood in a 35C kitchen trying to roll a whole block of butter into my puff pastry for the Leiths final exam, fat melting everywhere as the sun streamed down, I pretty much vowed never to touch the stuff again. Certainly when I got my mark sheet back and they declared ‘good rise, but a little too greasy’ I felt like I might just give up altogether. But that was Leiths and their expectations of pastry are frankly impossible, not to mention totally impracticable. For us mere mortals, a lower standard of perfection will suffice.

So, a few good pointers. Mainly, it mustn’t get hot. This is essential, and really the best piece of advice I can give you. If in doubt, stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes, and avoid the temptation to knead it. It’s not bread, it’s not Playdough, so leave it alone. If you’re making shortcrust or puff (which is more hassle than it’s worth), you should chill the pastry once you’ve brought it all together  – it will make rolling it out much easier if it’s cold and firm. You should also chill it once it’s been shaped. It must always, always go into the oven cold – it is the butter melting in the oven and creating steam which, in shortcrust, will help it to stay tender and essentially, short, and with puff, will make it rise (and not be greasy…hmph.) And don’t think if you’ve used bought you can ignore all of this. It’s exactly the same principle, just without the initial mixing process.

Another very important point is that if you’re making pies, then the filling has to be cold when it goes in. A hot filling will melt the pastry, and anyone who has struggled trying to shape soggy, raw pastry will understand. Chill, chill and chill again. It will be worth it in the end. If you’re making a pie that has a bottom and a top shell, always use a metal tin, preferably with a removable bottom. Those ceramic things your granny gave you may look lovely, but they’ll never heat up enough to give you a crisp base and you’ll end up with a grey, flabby bottom. And nobody likes those…

And so on to blind baking. If anyone’s seen this in a recipe and wondered what it was all about, it simply means baking a pastry case before adding a filling. To do this, you have to weight it down otherwise it will balloon and you’ll be left with a very wonky base. Most cookbooks tell you to use baking parchment to line the pastry case before adding the baking beans (NB. These don’t have to be the proper ceramic beans that cookshops charge a fortune for – I’ve used rice, split peas, even flour very successfully – as long as it’s heavy enough and won’t melt you’ll be fine), but we always line ours with tin foil – you get a sharper right angle and the metal foil heats up and cooks the pastry from the outside too. Always use plenty of baking beans – a small scattering won’t do – the case needs to be almost full. Also, always leave an overhang of pastry rather than trimming it to exactly fit the case. Pastry can have a nasty habit of shrinking in the oven, and the overhang will mean that you’re not left with a case that’s only a cm high in some places. After blind baking trim the edges with a serrated knife flat on the edge of the tart. You’ll end up with a lovely, neat blunt edge. Very cheffy.

If the recipe tells you to blind bake something for 15 minutes, it will almost never be long enough. An 8-inch tart case will take at least 25 minutes on about 190C, plus another 10 minutes at 170C with the foil and beans removed. These are just estimates – so keep an eye on it, the pastry should be completely sandy coloured, with no grey patches. Once your pastry is cooked, if you want to be really fancy you could glaze the inside with some beaten egg yolk and return it to a low oven for 10 minutes to dry out – this will form a waterproof barrier, and make sure your pastry stays completely crisp and delicious. I would really recommend this with custard based fillings – quiches and lemon tarts especially.

So there you go, the Truefoodie Guide to Pastry Making in under 900 words. I realise all of the above sounds quite complicated, but I promise it isn’t once you get into the habit, and the difference in your results will be extraordinary. Just don’t try and make almond pastry. If the Roux brothers find it tricky, then the rest of us have no chance…

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