Making pastry is a great introduction to baking, particularly for children, as they love messing with flour and eggs. The first time I made pastry, I ended up covered from head to toe in flour. Now I manage to keep myself a little cleaner.
These are a few recipes for pastry and, although it is now possible to buy good ready-made pastry in supermarkets, it is always worthwhile to make your own.
Simpler styles of pastry are sugar pastry and short crust, which are quick and easy to make and involve following some simple instructions.
Puff pastry is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming type of pastry to make, but there is a great sense of satisfaction when it is prepared – and it beats the shop-bought variety hands down.
While most types of pastry are used for either savoury or sweet dishes, puff pastry can be used for both.
I like to make my own butter for this pastry, by whipping cream until all the fat binds together and the buttermilk is left behind.
Then I remove the creamy fat, which is now butter, wrap it in muslin cloth to squeeze out the excess butter milk, then shape into a cube and refrigerate.
The secret of making puff pastry is to trap the air inside the dough, by layering it. When the pastry is made, you can cut it into small pieces, wrap it in an airtight freezer bag and use it as required.
500g strong white flour
400ml water at room temperature
15g sea salt
15ml lemon juice
10g white wine vinegar
50g softened butter (unsalted)
400g butter (unsalted)
2 pieces of parchment paper
1. Sieve the flour and place into a mixing bowl with the salt.
2. Add the lemon juice and softened butter, and mix for a minute or so. Add 330ml of water to the flour.
3. When the dough starts binding together, add the remainder of the water. The dough should come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Place the dough on a cold slab and knead it for 30 seconds. Fold into a dome shape, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Remove the other butter from the wrapping and shape it into a cube.
Place it in between parchment paper and roll the butter until it is half its size in height.
6. Make a knife cut at right angles in the pastry and then roll it out to form a square with the corners rolled thinly.
Place the butter diagonally in the centre of the dough and fold over each corner of the dough to meet in the centre. The fat is now enclosed in an envelope of pastry.
7. Roll out the dough to 10cm by 25cm,brush off the excess flour and fold into three. Refrigerate and repeat the same method five times, each time marking the dough with your fingers to indicate the number of rolls. The most important thing is that the layers should be even and properly insulated. Too few or too many will not give you a good puff pastry, as one will be more flaky and the other more dense.
8. When the pastry is made, butter a baking sheet and dust with flour. Roll out the pastry thinly and cut cookie shapes with your favourite cutters. Simply cook in a pre-heated oven at 195ºC for six minutes.
Apple tartlet with Midleton ice cream and Midleton sauce; serves four
4 Pink Lady apples or Cox’s Orange Pippins
100g Frangipane almond pastea
200g puff pastry
1 egg yolk for egg wash
50g granulated sugar
100g peach glaze
1. Roll out the puff pastry and make holes in it with a fork.
2. Cut the pastry with a 12cm cutter and fill the centre with almond paste. Wash and slice the apples thinly and place them in a fan shape around the edge of the pastry.
3. Egg wash the pastry and sprinkle with sugar. Cook in a hot oven at 180ºC for 12 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and cover with glaze.
200g unsalted butter
100ml 20-year-old Midleton whiskey
10ml still water
1. Melt the sugar and water in a pot and boil until golden brown.
2. Dice the butter and whisk it into the sugar. Then add the cream and the Midleton, bring to the boil and reduce until it has a coating consistency.
10 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod
10ml of still water
80g icing sugar
85g Midleton sauce
1. De-seed the vanilla pod and add the seeds and pods to the cream.
2. Line the stainless steel pot with water, then mix the milk and cream together and bring to the boil.
3. Whisk the egg yolks and add the sugar. Whisk together well. Pour half the milk and cream liquid into the egg and sugar mix. Whisk well and pour back into the liquid. Return to the heat until the temperature reaches 95ºC on a sugar thermometer.
4. Cook for two to three minutes or until you see the first bubble appear. Remove from the oven and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. When the mixture coats the back of the spoon, remove and place into a sink with ice-cold water. This cools the mix as quickly as possible.
5. When sufficiently cool, spin the mixture in an ice cream machine. When the mix is almost ready, add the raisins and pour in the Midleton sauce. Mix again.
6. Remove and place into a sterilised container, then store in a freezer until required.
2 Pink Lady apples
1. Wash the apples and slice thinly. Dip in the syrup and place on parchment paper, then dry in a oven at 50ºC overnight.
Place the apple tartlet on the plate. Make a ball of the ice cream and sandwich between two dried apple slices, sauce the plate using the remainder of the Midleton sauce, then garnish with icing sugar and mint leaf.
Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. www.thorntonsrestaurant.com