If, like me, you suffer from cold hands on the sunniest days, rejoice. You have pastry-making hands. Knit some warm mittens to wear the rest of the time.
This is the only sort of pastry I make on a regular basis. It is quick and easy to knock up, and let’s face it, pastry makes everything taste better. I usually make savoury pies but use this recipe for sweet pies too. I’m not a fan of sweet pastry – I’d rather let the filling do the talking – but you can use orange juice instead of water and even add 50-100 g of icing sugar to the flour to sweeten it.
You can make as much or as little as you like. Just use half as much fat as you do flour. (If you add icing sugar, don’t count this as part of the flour. It’s an extra.) I tend to make 250 g flour and 125 g butter’s worth of pastry for a large pie crust, or twice that if I’m making big cheese and onion pies on a couple of baking sheets.
Cut the (cold) butter into cubes and add it to the flour. Rub the butter into the flour between your fingertips, until the whole mixture is uniformly sandy. Then add a little cold water, and stir it into the mixture with a knife. Add the water a dribble at a time, and the flour and fat will all start to stick together. You want to be able to push it together into a lump but not become wet or sticky. Don’t touch it any more than is strictly necessary. Put it on the cold shelf in the larder (or covered with cling film in a new-fangled fridgidaire) for at least half an hour.
When you’re ready, roll out your pastry, ideally on a marble or granite surface, again, handling it as little as possible. This keeps it crumbly and short, rather than tough and chewy. Trim off any extra which hangs over the edge of your pie dish, and, if you’re making a pastry base as well as a lid, dab a little water around the join as this will stick the two parts together. Use a fork (or birds, but a fork is more hygienic) to crimp the edges, then slash the top in a couple of places to let the steam out.
This is the point at which the children appear, wanting to taste the pastry and make jam turnovers out of the leftovers. Ilse rolls her scraps over and over until they are as tough as old boots, but takes great pride in filling her little pie and putting it in the oven. Make sure they have cooled properly before letting anyone eat them, though – the jam gets fiendishly hot.
I urge you to try making pastry a few times, at least. It might not be perfect at first, but, with a little practice, you’ll find yourself reaching for your rolling pin every time you want to make a meal out of those leftovers.