You blind-bake a tart or pastry shell first when you are going to fill it so that the pastry shell doesn’t become soggy. The tart shells can be baked in advance and frozen.
How to blind-bake
1. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface.
2. Oil the tart tin and line it with the pastry. Press the pastry into the edges of the tin with a small ball of pastry. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tin to remove excess pastry. Using the ball of pastry, press the pastry into the grooves all the way around the tin, nudging the pastry up slightly so that when it shrinks during cooking, you still have a neat edge.
3. Line the pastry with baking parchment – crumple the baking parchment, then smooth it out, that way it will fit easily into the pastry case. If you are using tin foil, line the pastry and bring the foil up so that it extends above the baking tin.
4. Fill the paper or tin foil with ceramic baking beads or a baking bean chain (see below) or rice or dried beans (save them afterwards in a jar ready for use next time, they last years).
5. Bake the shells in a 180ºC/350º/Gas Mark 5 oven for 8-15 minutes (less time for small tart shells, longer for large ones. Remove the paper and weights and return the shell to the oven. Bake for up to 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Cool before filling.
Tips for Troubleshooting Pastry
Why do things go wrong with your pastry? Operator error usually! Here is a list of problems and solutions. Once you find the recipe that works for you, stick with it.
Tough crust: You may have over-mixed the dough or not used enough fat. Also, some recipes use a spoon or two of vinegar – try reducing the amount.
Crust shrinks: Three reasons: You have over-mixed the dough; over-worked the dough when rolling it out (try to use a light touch next time); or you have not used enough fat – add another ounce (28g) to the recipe the next time you bake it.
Soggy Crust: Your oven temperature may be too low and the pastry hasn’t cooked enough. You may not have baked your pastry long enough – if you can, return it to the oven and give it 5 minutes more.
Crumbly crust: You have not used enough liquid or you have used too much fat. Adjust your recipe or change it to one that looks right.
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