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Easy Tarts and Pies - Easy Tarts and Pies

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

Easy Tarts and Pies

Nothing beats a home-made tart or pie—it’s real back-to-basics cooking. Whether you are making your own pastry, or taking a shortcut with ready-made, home baking is time well spent in the kitchen. Tarts are open, with a pastry base, whereas pies are often deeper, and almost always topped. Both can be made with either sweet or savory fillings.


Storing and freezing

Uncooked pastry can be kept in the refrigerator for 1–2 days. Wrap well in a plastic bag and seal, or wrap in plastic wrap. Although cooked pastry remains the most crisp at room temperature, leftover meat- or custard-filled pies and tarts must be refrigerated.

Uncooked pastry can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap well in a plastic bag or plastic wrap. Cooked pastry shells can be frozen for up to 6 months.


Dough know-how

Cool hands make good “short” and crisp pastry. Always use your fingertips, and don’t overwork the pastry, otherwise it will become tough. Wash your hands in ice-cold water (then dry them) before starting to rub in the fat.

Keep all ingredients cool before starting, especially the butter. A good tip is to measure out all the ingredients, and cut the butter into cubes, then sit everything in refrigerator for 1 hour before starting.

Measure ingredients accurately, as baking is a science, and it won’t work without the correct quantities.

The less liquid, the better the pastry. Be careful when adding water; do so a little at a time. Too much, and the pastry will be tough and may shrink from the edges of the pan when baked. Make sure the water is ice-cold.

Don’t add too much flour when dusting the work surface or rolling pin, as it will dry out the pastry.

Chill the pastry dough, if time permits. It will make it easier to roll.


Make perfect shortcrust pastry

Shortcrust is the most versatile pastry, suitable for both tarts and pies.

Sift 8oz (225g) of plain flour into a large bowl, and add a pinch of salt. Cut (41/2oz) (125g) of butter into cubes, and add to the flour.

Rub the butter lightly into the flour using your fingertips, lifting it as you go. For light pastry you want as much air in it as possible. Continue rubbing the mixture in until it resembles fine bread crumbs.

Add about 2 tablespoons of cold water and, using a blunt knife or a pastry blender, bring the pastry together.

Gather the pastry together into a ball using your fingertips. It should come away from the sides of the bowl easily. If it is too dry and crumbly, add a sprinkling of water until it comes together. Cover the pastry with plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.


Line a tart pan

Use these simple steps to line any size or shape of pan.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, to a circle about 2in (5cm) wider than the tart pan. The pastry should be fairly thin.

Carefully drape the pastry over a rolling pin and gently lay it over the tart pan, so the pastry hangs over the edge.

Gently ease the pastry into the sides of the pan using your fingertips or knuckles, being careful not to tear it.

Once in place, prick the base all over with a fork, then roll a rolling pin over the top of the pan to remove the pastry that hangs over the edge. Put in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.


Psst…

To work out the amount of pastry you need to line a pan, the rule of thumb is to subtract 2 from the diameter of the tart pan in inches, and this will be the amount of pastry, in ounces, you need. So an 8in (20cm) pan would need 6oz (175g) of pastry. This is useful if you are using a different size pan than the recipe states. The filling quantity will also need adjusting.


Bake blind

Baking the pastry before filling will ensure your tart has a crisp base.

Line the uncooked pastry shell with parchment paper, then add enough pie weights or dry beans to cover the bottom. This will stop the pastry from rising up while it is cooking. The tart is now ready to bake blind in the oven at 400°F (200°C) for 15 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are cooked.


Ready-made pastry

For convenience, ready-made pastry is a good substitute for home-made. Shortcrust and puff pastry can be bought fresh or frozen, ready-rolled or in blocks. There are low-fat versions, but all-butter pastry will taste more home-made. Blocks of pastry (that you roll out yourself) tend to produce better results than the ready-rolled, as the ready-rolled are often a little wetter in texture. The recipes in this section refer to the readily available types of pre-rolled pastry, unless otherwise stated.


Tools of the trade

A selection of pie and tart pans, of varying shapes and sizes (metal tins produce crispier pastry than glass or ceramic ones); a rolling pin, either wooden or marble; some pie weights to bake the pastry blind (dry beans or rice can be used instead); parchment paper for lining the pastry shell; and a pastry brush for brushing butter or egg wash over pies and pastries, and brushing filo pastry layers.

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