A rough puff guide to pastry


I don't know about you, but I get a bit confused when it comes to pastry & its various forms. For example, I've often wondered what the difference is between puff & rough puff or when you would typically use a shortcrust pastry. Also, what is it that makes filo pastry so flaky? In an effort to learn a bit more about pastry & clear away it's mysteriousness, I decided to do a little research.  

I'll try to keep this blog short & sweet (ha ha!) & simply provide a brief explanation of the most common types of pastry as well as recipes or links to recipes for you to try.  Of course, there is the argument that some types of pastry are so time consuming, it's best to just buy ready made from the supermarket.  I think this could definitely be said for filo pastry, not only is it very time consuming it also requires quite a lot of bench space!  So for filo pastry I've simply included a couple of links to recipes for you to try if you're feeling adventurous or you're interested in finding out more about how to make it.

Shortcrust pastry

Shortcrust pastry is perhaps the most common form of pastry because it's mainly used for tarts & quiches.  It is a 'short', crumbly pastry once baked & makes a good base for pies as well.  It can be sweet or savoury with either variety having the base ingredients of plain flour, cold butter & cold water.  Savoury shortcrust sometimes has a little added salt for flavour & sweet shortcrust will have sugar & sometimes eggs to make a richer pastry.  

You can make shortcrust pastry by hand or blitz it in the food processor.  Whatever method you opt for, try not to faff about with the pastry too much.  As soon as you've added enough water for the pastry to come together to form a dough, work quickly to flatten it slightly into a disc or the rough shape of your tin, wrap it in clingfilm & then place it in the fridge to chill.  

When it comes to rolling out the pastry, you'll need to use the size of your tin as a guide so you know how much you need to roll the pastry to form the required size to line the base & sides of the tin.  Be careful not to roll the pastry too thin though, otherwise you'll have no end of problems with the pastry tearing when you try to pick it up to lay it over your tin. Equally, you don't want your pastry to be too thick either.  You're aiming for a thickness of around three mm or thereabouts.  

More often than not, your recipe will ask you to bake your pastry 'blind' first, before you add your filling on the top.  Baking blind just means baking the pastry on its own to ensure it crisps up & you don't end up with a 'soggy bottom' as they like to call it on The Great British Bake Off!  You'll first bake the pastry with a layer of foil or baking paper over the top & then filled with baking beans or a suitable alternative such as uncooked rice.  Once you've baked the pastry this way for around 15 minutes, you'll remove the beans & paper & then bake it for a further 5 or 10 minutes to ensure that the pastry has dried out enough so that you ultimately end up with a crispy bottom.  

One more thing, don't be afraid to tear off any excess pastry & use it to fill any gaps or tears once you have lined your tin with it. Also be sure that you gently push the pastry into the sides of your tin or dish & a good tip for doing this is to use a small ball of pastry rather than your bare fingers.  

Shortcrust recipe (use for savoury tarts & quiches)

* Recipe taken from Mary Berry's Baking Bible, pg 239 *

175g plain flour
75g cold salted butter, cut into small cubes
2-3 tablespoons very cold water

Makes enough for a 30 x 23cm rectangular tin.
  1. Place flour into a large bowl & rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Slowly mix in the cold water, a little at a time until you end up with a soft dough.
  3. Form the dough into roughly the shape of your tin & then press it down lightly so that it's about an inch or so thick (doing this will make your life easier when it comes time to rolling the pastry out).  Wrap the dough in clingfilm & leave it to rest in the fridge for 30 mins.
  4. Lightly flour your kitchen bench & roll out the dough until it's large enough to cover the bottom & sides of your tin.  
Sweet shortcrust recipe (for sweet tarts & desserts)

* Recipe taken from Mary Berry's Baking Bible, pg 350 *

175g plain flour
15g icing sugar
75g cold diced butter
1 large egg yolk
About 1 tablespoon very cold water

Makes enough pastry to line a 23cm fluted flan tin.
  1. Measure flour & icing sugar into a large bowl & rub in the cold butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the egg yolk & water & mix until it comes together to form a firm dough.
  3. Form the dough into roughly the shape of your tin & then press it down lightly so that it's about an inch or so thick.  Wrap the dough in clingfilm & leave it to rest in the fridge for 30 mins.
  4. Lightly flour your kitchen bench & roll out the dough until it's large enough to cover the bottom & sides of your tin.  
Puff pastry

Puff pastry as the name suggests, is a light flaky pastry which is rich in flavour & puffs up when baked.  Puff pastry is used for things like sausage rolls & tarts and it makes a delicious top for pies.  

Puff pastry is made up of the same ingredients as shortcrust pastry but in order to achieve the puffy, crispy layers, you need to roll out the pastry, layer it with more butter, fold it over, roll it & then repeat the folding & rolling several times over.  Each roll & fold is called a 'turn' of the pastry & the more times you turn the pastry, the more puffy layers you'll ultimately end up with once its baked.  As the pastry bakes, the butter that has been layered through the dough produces steam which forces the layers apart as it bakes. 

Because of the rolling & folding process, which is interrupted each time with a spell in the fridge to allow the pastry to rest, puff pastry is quite time consuming!  So be warned, this is not something you can whip up, roll out & use straight away.

Now, the difference between puff & rough puff all comes down to how you add the butter to the dough & the subsequent texture of the pastry that you end up with once its baked.  The 'puff' of normal puff pastry is achieved by placing a slab of flattened butter in the middle of the rolled out pastry, which is then rolled & folded several times over.  For rough puff pastry, small chunks of butter are mixed straight into the pastry dough once it's made & then you roll the pastry, fold it & rest in the fridge a few times as you would with puff pastry. Although the butter still does the same thing with rough puff - produce steam as it bakes to form those crispy layers, the layers will only be in localised areas of the pastry where the butter was actually located.  This is why it's called rough puff.  The puffy, light layers are roughly distributed around the pastry as opposed to evenly spread right throughout the pastry which is what you strive to achieve by adding the pastry in a solid block with regular puff pastry.  Clear as mud? :)

From what I can tell, rough puff pastry seems to be the same as flaky pastry - which is what we would more commonly know it as in Australia & New Zealand.  

Puff pastry recipe

*Recipe taken from The Great British Bake Off 'How to turn everyday bakes into showstoppers', pg 312 *

Makes around 750g of pastry

300g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
300g unsalted butter, cold but not rock hard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Approx 140ml ice cold water
  1. Place flour & salt in a food processor & pulse a couple of times to get air through the flour.
  2. Cut 50g of butter into small cubes & add to the food processor.  Blitz until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
  3. Mix lemon juice with the ice cold water & slowly drizzle it into the mixture whilst the food processor is still running.  You'll end up with a slightly moist dough.
  4. Lightly flour your bench top & then place the pastry on the top.  Shape it into a ball & cut a deep cross over the top.  Wrap in clingfilm & chill in the fridge for 15 mins.
  5. Lightly sprinkle some flour over the remaining butter & place it between two sheets of clingfilm or baking paper.  Pound it with a rolling pin to flatten it to half of its original thickness. 
  6. Remove the top layer of clingfilm or baking paper & fold the butter in half.  Replace the clingfilm or baking paper cover & pound it again.  Repeat this process a few more times until the butter becomes pliable but remains very cold.  Once you get to this point, use the rolling pin to knock the butter around the sides to shape it into a square which measures around 13cm on each side.
  7. Remove pastry from the fridge & place it on a floured kitchen bench again.  Roll it out in 4 directions (from each side, rolling away from you) so that you end up with 4 'flaps' with a thicker square section in the center on which you'll place the butter.  
  8. Lightly dust the butter with flour & place it in the center of the pastry.  Fold over each of the 4 flaps of pastry, pressing each flap gently with the rolling pin to ensure the butter is sealed in the center.  
  9. Turn the dough upside down & lightly flatten the pastry with the rolling pin - be careful not to squeeze out the butter though!
  10. Lightly roll the dough away from you into a rectangle around 54 x 18cm.  Fold the dough into three, like you would sometimes fold a letter before you place it in the envelope! (Fold the bottom third up to cover the center third, then fold the top third down to cover the other two layers).
  11. Lightly press the open edges with the rolling pin to create a seal.  You've now finished your first turn of the pastry!
  12. Lift up the pastry & turn it a quarter turn anti-clockwise, until the folded edges are to the left & right.  Roll the dough away from you in a rectangle & fold it in three again like you did before.  This is the second turn of the pastry.
  13. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm & chill it in the fridge for 15 mins.  Then, repeat steps 10-12.  Re-wrap the pastry & return to the fridge for a further 15 mins.  
  14. Remove from the fridge & repeat steps 10-12 again.  By the end of this, you will have completed six turns of the pastry.  Chill the pastry one last time for an hour before you use it.    
Rough puff recipe


Recipe taken from The Great British Bake Off 'How to turn everyday bakes into showstoppers', pg 188 *

225g plain flour
Pinch of crushed sea salt flakes
190g salted butter, chilled & cut into 2cm cubes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
140ml very cold water
  1. Sift the flour & salt into a mixing bowl, add the butter & toss to coat the butter in the flour (TIP:  an alternative to chopping the butter into cubes would be to grate it.  To avoid the butter melting as you hold it, keep the paper on the end of the butter so you can also grip the butter & just keep moving the paper away from the grater as you grate the butter down.  The important thing is to move quickly & ensure the butter remains cold).
  2. Mix the lemon juice with the icy water & add to the bowl.  
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the liquid into the dry ingredients & if you have added the butter in cubes, make sure you cut in the butter as well.  Once you have a rough lump of dough which has come together, turn it out onto a lightly floured kitchen bench. Shape the dough into a block of around 10 x 14cm.
  4. Roll the dough away from you to form a rectangle of approx 20 x 35cm.  
  5. Fold the dough into three, like you would sometimes fold a letter before you place it in the envelope! (Fold the bottom third up to cover the center third, then fold the top third down to cover the other two layers).
  6. Give the dough a quarter turn & then repeat steps 4 & 5.
  7. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm & chill it in the fridge for around 20 mins.  
  8. Remove from the fridge & repeat steps 4 to 7 twice over (each roll & fold is one 'turn' & you need to complete a total of 6 turns). 
  9. Finally, wrap the pastry one more time in clingfilm & chill for an hour before you use it.
Filo pastry

Filo (or phyllo) is a Greek pastry that is very light & crispy with lots of paper thin, delicate layers.  It's used in things like baclava, all sorts of sweet & savoury pastries & strudels.   

Making filo is extremely time consuming so it's not for the faint hearted or those short on time!  Filo is made by rolling out & stretching the pastry until it is so thin it becomes transparent!  So a large amount of bench space, time & patience is needed!  Once the pastry is paper thin, it can be folded up or rolled with filling inside.  Because its so thin, you'll end up with lots of layers which is what ultimately results in the very delicate, crispy layers once baked.

Here is a link to Paul Hollywood's recipe for filo pastry which he uses in his Spanakopita recipe www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/spanakopita

Here's a link to another recipe you might like to try www.food.com/recipe/homemade-phyllo-pastry 

Choux pastry

Choux pastry contains a lot of water, which in turn creates steam as the pastry bakes which results in a very puffy pastry which is hollow in the middle for you to conveniently pipe in cream, custard or other delightful fillings!  Think chocolate eclairs & profiteroles!  

Choux pastry is made in a very different manner than the other pastries mentioned above. Although it contains the same ingredients, the butter & water is heated in a saucepan to which the flour is added, followed by the eggs & beaten until smooth until you end up with a shiny paste that you spoon into a piping bag & pipe onto trays for baking.

Recipe for choux pastry

* Taken from Mary Berry's Baking Bible, pg 157 *

50g butter
150ml water
65g plain flour
2 large eggs, beaten
  1. Place butter & water into a medium saucepan & heat gently until the butter melts. Bring mixture to the boil.
  2. Remove from the heat & add flour.  Beat until the mixture forms a soft ball.
  3. Allow to cool slightly before gradually beating in the eggs, ensuring that you beat well in between each addition.  You should end up with a thick, shiny paste that you can spoon into a piping bag, ready to pipe out on baking trays to bake.
Best of luck with your pastry making adventures!  I hope this blog has helped clear up any confusion about some of the different types of pastry.  It's also a good place for you to refer back to if you're ever in need of a pastry recipe :)

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