How to Make Foolproof Pastry

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Pastry is really easy to make, especially if you have a food processor. We show you how to use a ratio to make pastry, how to make sweet and savoury versions including suet pastry and the classic french pâte brisée and give you tips so that your pastry will be perfect.


– Pastry is made of a ratio of three parts flour to 2 parts fat (3:2) with enough liquid (usually water or egg or white wine) to bring it together. So if you want to use 225g of flour, you will need 150g butter and just enough ice-cold water to bring it together. If you want to use 454g flour, use 300g of butter.

– A pastry recipe using 350g of flour gives you enough pastry to make a 9-inch tart with a top or two 9-inch tart shells with no tops. So using our pastry ratio of 3:2 that means you will need 350g flour and 230g fat and enough liquid to bind it.

– Some recipes increase the fat or add an egg as part of the liquid to enrich it – see recipe variations below.

– You’ll need to season the flour with a pinch of salt for a savoury pastry or add a tablespoon or two of caster sugar for a sweet pastry.

– There are variations to this formula of 3:2 flour to fat which give you a richer more buttery pastry or a flakier pastry (see our pastry recipes below) but you won’t go wrong using the ratio above. You can for example use less flour for a sweet shortcrust pastry: to make 300g of sweet pastry, you can use 100g butter with 150g plain flour with 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and enough water or beaten egg to bring it together.


– All the ingredients and implements should be as cold as possible. Put the bowl you will be using in the fridge or freezer to chill if you have room. If the fat gets too warm you’ll end up with a pastry that is too crumbly and hard to roll out.

– Handle the pastry as little as possible. A food processor is good because it keeps the pastry cool as long as you don’t over-process it. Use the pulse button so you can control how the pastry comes together. It usually takes between 10-15 pulses to bring the pastry to the clumping stage. Always stop once it begins to ‘clump’ and press it together when you take it out of the processor.

– Use as little water as you can when making pastry and make sure it is ice-cold (put a little jug of water in the freezer for about 10 minutes before you start making the pastry). The more liquid you add, the more the pastry shrinks and becomes tough (all that moisture evaporates during the cooking). Conversely, if you use too little liquid, the pastry will crack when you try to roll it out. If it does, sprinkle it with a few drops of cold water and knead once or twice on a floured board and add a little more water if it needs it, then knead again (barely knead it or it will become tough).

Leave the pastry to rest in the fridge before you roll it out. The gluten in the flour needs to rest so that it stays stretched and elastic so you can roll out the pastry easily. When you remove the pastry from the fridge, leave it to soften before rolling or else it will crack and be impossible to work with. Don’t be tempted to put the pastry in the freezer: it actually freezes the gluten and stops the pastry resting and the pastry will shrink when you bake it.

– If you want to save time and trouble and mess, put the pastry between two large sheets of cling film before you chill it, then just unravel it and roll the pastry between the plastic. This also saves you using more flour which can dry the pastry out and keeps your work surface clean.

– To stop the pastry becoming soggy, blind-bake the pastry first (see the link above on How to Blind-Bake). This means you pre-bake the pastry shell so it forms a hard crust and the filling doesn’t seep into the pastry. You can also brush the base with egg yolk before you blind-bake it to give an added layer of protection.

– A suet pastry is easy to make and is virtually fool-proof – see the recipe below. It’s for meat eaters only as you use beef suet but you can find a vegetarian version of suet which also contains less fat (though to be honest, in our opinion it makes the pastry taste like cardboard).

– You can add flavourings to your pastry: vanilla extract, rosewater, cinnamon or nutmeg, lavender and sugar can be added to a sweet pastry while cumin, coriander, curry powder, saffron, herbs, spices, grated cheese and even mustard can be added to a savoury pastry.

– You can replace some or all of the water with beaten egg. Make sure to beat the egg first so it is homogenous.

You can also replace all or part of the water in a recipe with white wine. This is good if you are making a chicken and white wine pie.

– When you are topping a pie with pastry, trim the pastry with a scissors so that you leave a half inch overlap of pastry all round, then tuck the extra lip of pastry underneath itself leaving just a quarter of an inch overhanging the tart tin. Press this against the edge of the tin to close.

– When you are cutting out the pastry to fit a pie or tart tin, lay the tin over the pastry and cut around, leaving 2 inches extra pastry all round. Fold the pastry lightly into a quarter (or a triangle) then place this on the pie plate and unfold the pastry to fit into the pie dish. Or lift the pastry onto a rolling pin and place in the tart tin.

Filo pastry is usually sold frozen so defrost it first. Use a clean tea towel to stop it drying out while you are working with the pastry. It is useful for scrunching up and putting on top of a pie or you can brush melted clarified butter on each sheet before layering the next sheet on top. (See How to Clarify Buttter).

– Buy puff pastry instead of trying to make it, preferably from a good producer who uses butter. It’s too hard to make at home for most of us. (If you can make it, obviously ignore this advice!).

– Defrost the puff pastry outside of the fridge – it should take about 30 minutes to an hour.

– If you are cutting out shapes, dip the cutter into flour to stop it sticking to the pastry. Never twist the cutter into puff pastry or you will damage the layers and it may not rise well: just press it through.

– Always use a sharp knife to cut and cut the pastry cleanly (don’t drag the knife through).

– Don’t roll the edge of the pastry or you will compress the layers and it may not rise well.


Savoury pâte brisée recipe

This is the classic Cordon Blue recipe for pâte brisée. The butter needs to be softened (not chilled) in this case because you will blend it by hand into the flour. The method is similar to making pasta. You can make pâte brisée 2-3 days before you use it, keeping it in the fridge well covered in cling film. Allow it to soften slightly before rolling it but don’t let it get warm.


200g plain flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon (15ml) ice cold water
Pinch of salt
100g butter, softened


1. Sift the flour in a mound on a cool surface. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, water, salt and butter. Using the fingertips of one hand, start to work the butter into the wet ingredients and blend together into a homogenous mass (this is very enjoyable to do). Then just as if you were making pasta, draw in the flour into the butter mixture, bit by bit until you have a ball of pastry. Now, push away any excess flour (you don’t want to gather any more flour into the pastry or it will be too dry) and smear the pastry with the heel of your hand away from you on the work surface, drawing it back into a ball. Keep doing this until you have a round ball of smooth pastry. Wrap in cling film and chill.

(Pâte Brisée is the same as Pasta Frolla, the Italian shortcrust pastry except that you add baking powder and lemon zest to Pasta Frolla: see the recipe in the link above). The method and ratio of flour to butter is the same.

Pâte Brisée Sucré
To make a sweet version of Pâte Brisée, called Pâte Brisée Sucré, add 30g sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence to the egg mixture.


Suet pastry makes a lovely topping for creamy chicken pies, or for robust game or beef pies. Beef suet is the best to use but you can get away with vegetable suet if you can’t find the real thing. Suet pastry works on a 2:1 ratio of 2 parts flour to 1 part suet.

Makes enough to line and top one large pie or to top four 5 inch pies.


400g self raising flour
200g  beef suet
Pinch of salt
1 egg
4 tablespoons ice cold water


1. Whizz the flour with the suet briefly in a food processor or crumble them together with cold hands in a large bowl.

2. Add the salt and the egg and whizz or mix briefly. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time and pulse or mix until the dough clumps and starts to come together. Press it together into a disk, cover with two sheets of cling film and chill for at least 20 minutes before rolling.

Suet Pastry Pie tips
– Beef suet has more flavour but can be hard to find. Vegetable suet is made from vegetable oil and you can also get a lower fat version – though it doesn’t taste great.
– If you are using plain flour, add a teaspoon of baking powder to the flour and whisk well. You need to lighten a suet pastry or it will have the texture of cardboard.


Sweet shortcrust pastry

Use this pastry for fruit or custard tarts. This recipe gives you enough to cover a 10 inch tart tin.


454g plain flour
1 egg
1 egg yolk
225g butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 tablespoon ice cold water (you may not need it)


1. Whizz the flour in a food processor to aerate it. Add the egg and egg yolk and whizz briefly. Add the cubes of chilled butter, sugar and vanilla extract and pulse about 10-15 times or until the pastry clumps and comes together. You may need to add a little water but try not to as it affects the final pastry.

2. Turn out the pastry onto a clean board. Knead once or twice until the pastry comes together in a smooth ball, then place on a sheet of cling film and press into a disc shape. Cover with another sheet of cling film and wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

3. When you want to roll out the pastry, undo the cling film but keep it on the pastry as you can roll the pastry between the two sheets. Roll out to the desired size.

4. How to place the pastry in the tart tin: Lift the pastry off the cling film onto a rolling pin and place the pastry over the tart tin. Press into place with your fingertips, prick the pastry with a fork and put the tart tin in the fridge again to chill (this stops the pastry shrinking in the oven). Bake the pastry blind (see the link above on Blind-Baking) or pour in the filling. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Photograph copyright foodpixies.com


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