Tips to help you become a patisserie pro
Get French fancy at home
09 Sep 2021
If you’ve ever been inside a French patisserie, you’ll know that those fruity French treats look like little works of art. But looking at lines of shining eclairs or tasty tarts, you may be tempted to think they’re out of your baking league.
And sure, your first efforts may not be Bake Off winning efforts, but creating showstopping French fancies isn’t as hard as you think - with a few top tips and a big help from the right kitchen tech.
So, here’s our guide to help you prep dough and prepare those perfect (or nearly perfect) pastries…
Pastry doughs and doughn’ts
How you treat your pastry depends on its type. Here’s your guide to the dos and don’ts of each type.
Choux pastry – for eclairs, profiteroles and other French classics.
- Be careful with your ratios. Too little flour and too much liquid and your batter won’t hold its shape.
- Never add extra flour once the batter is mixed. Doing this will give you lumpy batter and you might get a fright when you open the oven door! The right stand mixer will keep your batter smooth.
- To make sure you get your ratios of flour (1 part), butter (1 part), eggs (2 parts) and water (2 parts) just right – here’s a good choux pastry guide.
- Don’t take choux pastry treats out of the oven too early! The crust needs time to form, so if you whisk them out before they’re ready – prepare for a collapse. It’s better that your choux pastry is on the browner side.
- Prick the shells when they’re nearly done, or the hot air inside will make the shells fall apart when they’re cooling.
Puff pastry – for almond tart, danishes, napoleons and more.
- Puff pastry is made up of carefully constructed layers. If you roll it too much, it’ll lose its puff.
- Make sure your pastry is an even thickness. Even a little difference will give you a lopsided bake. Yikes!
- When cutting your pastry, make sure to use a sharp knife so that the pastry layers don’t get mashed together.
- Rest puff pastry for five minutes in the fridge before baking for a better rise.
- Don’t open the oven door before your bake is complete. This is generally true of all pastry types, but particularly true of puff pastry – since what’s puff pastry without the puff?
Filo pastry – for everything from strudel to baklava.
- Go fast! Filo pastry is delicate stuff and if you leave it too long, it’ll dry out and get brittle. You can get round this by wrapping your dough in clingfilm or covering it with a damp, clean towel.
- When you’re glazing your filo pastry, use a soft brush – or the pastry will tear.
- If you’re making a turnover or a pie, go easy on the filling! Otherwise, your pastry will leak in the oven and your bake won’t crisp up.
- You can freeze leftover filo pastry, but just make sure it’s fully defrosted first.
Shortcrust pastry – for unbeatable tarts and pies.
- Don’t spend too long rolling your dough or it’ll get tough.
- Use metal tart tins (rather than ceramic) to avoid the infamous soggy bottoms.
- Don’t stretch the pastry when lining your tin, or it will shrink while cooking and cause bad bakes.
- Fix tears in your pastry with wet fingertips or a pastry brush.
- Once you’ve lined your tin with the pastry, give it a blind bake – as the pastry cooks more slowly than the filling. But before you do this, prick the pastry with a fork to keep bubbles at bay. Plus, line your pastry with baking paper and then fill with rice to make sure it keeps it shape while par baking.
- Always leave an overhang. The pastry will shrink back as a it cooks. Plus, you can always cut off any overhanging pastry after the bake with a sharp knife.
- Once your pastry is in its tin and ready to bake, give it a rest for five minutes in the fridge.
- If you’re making something sweet, dust with icing sugar before baking. This will make your pastry delicious and give it a bit of crunch.
- If the pastry case is turning brown too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil to slow down browning and help the filling catch up.
Now you’re a pastry pro, here are some great tips that should guide you through everything from unrolled dough to piping hot pie.
Rolling your dough
If you’ve prepared dough earlier and stored it in the fridge, bring it out 30 minutes before you want to use it. When dough’s room temperature, it’s much easier to work with.
Don’t put too much flour on your work surface. Yes, flour makes it easier to handle and stops it sticking to the work surface or rolling pin, but if you add too much flour it’ll dry out.
Tip: Put your dough between two sheets of cling film when rolling and you won’t have to use any flour at all.
Adding your filling
Once your pastry case is ready, make sure your filling is cold first. If the filling is warm, it’ll cause the fat in the pastry to start melting and you’ll get soggy pastry. Yuck!
Add your glaze
If you want your pastries to be picture perfect (and isn’t that half the fun of making pastry?) brush glaze on the pastry before baking. And every pastry gets a different glaze.
- Butter/oil – for filo pastry.
- Milk/ cream – For a deep-coloured shiny finish.
- Beaten eggs/ egg yolks – for a golden, matt colour.
- Egg whites – for a shiny finish.
Pop them in the oven
Always pre-heat your oven to make sure oven temperature is consistent. This will help avoid pastry collapsing or burning. And to make sure your treats cook evenly, use a middle shelf.
Now you’ve mastered the fundamentals, it’s time to apply your skills to some patisserie recipes!