9 tips for perfect pastry

In a pastry panic? Get it right every time with these tips for sweet, shortcrust and puff pastry

Baking is back and it’s bigger than ever. Shabby chic trends, nostalgia and a certain TV baking show are inspiring us to reach for the flour and eggs en-masse.

Around 3 in 4 people tried home baking last year, according to stats from Mintel. Take your baking to the next level with our tips for perfect pastry….

9 Tips For Perfect Pastry

Sweet pastry

What it’s good for: Pastry cases for chocolate and fruit tarts, biscuits like homemade jammie dodgers.

How it’s made: Rub together butter and flour, then add sugar and mix in beaten egg to make a dough. Simple. But there are a few areas where things can go wrong.

1.    Go easy on it

Pastry falling to pieces? You could be overworking it. Bring the ingredients together in a food processor or stand mixer, but keep it on a low/medium setting. Once you’ve got a ball of dough, stop.

2.    Let it rest

Leaky pastry case? It can spell the end for your chocolate tart.  Banish cracks from your crust by letting your dough rest. Be patient - once you’ve shaped your dough put it aside for at least a couple of hours.

3.    Keep things cool

Sweet pastry needs to be kept cool. Make sure everything from your hands to the ingredients are cool before you start. Line your tart tin or cut out your shapes then pop it in the fridge. 

Puff pastry

What it’s good for: Steak pie lids, croissants, sausage rolls – or just rolled on a sheet, scattered with cheese and tomato and baked.

How it’s made: Once you’ve mastered puff pastry, you can pretty much bake anything. One of the trickiest bakes, it involves layers of dough and butter, rolled together, folded and the same again, and again.

1.    Be cool

No one likes a soggy bottom – and puff pastry can be prone to one if not treated right. Puff pastry is another one that needs to be kept cool, too. If things get too hot the butter will melt into the pastry. The result? A very soggy finish.

2.    Score the surface

Getting an uneven rise or bake? Remember to score the pastry. You can do this with either a knife, like when creating a lid for a pie, or by pricking it with a fork when making mille feuille.

3.    Use the real thing

Want that classic puff-pastry taste? You’ve got to use real butter. Puff pastry is never going to be healthy – but everything in moderation. Just promise yourself you’ll only have a little! If you’re thinking of using margarine, you might as well buy the pre-made stuff. 


What it’s good for: The great all-rounder. Use it for meat and potato pies, cheese and onion quiches, mini tartlets. And for sweets too – apple pie, lemon tart, jam tarts. 

How it’s made: Just flour and butter crumbed together, with salt and a splash of water to form into a dough. It’s super simple, and a great first pastry if you’ve just got the baking bug. It’s relatively easy to master too.

1.    Bring out the sieve

Sieving flour might seem like a pointless exercise, but it’s actually very important. Why? It removes lumps and adds air for a light and uniform pastry.

2.    Get the butter out early

Getting your butter out of the fridge early requires less elbow grease from you later on. Letting your butter come up to room temperature will make it more malleable. It’ll blend with the flour faster, meaning the dough will need less working from you.

3.    Drip by drip

Don’t add the water all at once. First, make sure it’s cold, not tepid. Then add it bit by bit ‘til you have the right consistency of dough – it should be dry enough that it doesn’t stick to your hands or the dish but wet enough that it’s not crumbling apart. 

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