Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bread and Pastry


1) Shortbread is a Scottish speciality enjoyed year round but especially baked for New Year celebrations. The secret to crisp yet tender shortbread is in the kneading. Gently knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 to 15 minutes and the shortbread will become very smooth and buttery.

2) Most bread doughs require 2 risings, or proofs - one after kneading and one after the dough has been shaped into loaves or rolls. For the first rising, transfer the dough to a lightly greased large bowl, turn to coat with the grease, and cover loosely with plastic food wrap. Set the bowl in a warm 80 - 85F dry, draft-free place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. The usual test is to press 2 fingers about 1/2 inch into the dough; if an indentation remains, it has risen enough. Punch down the dough to its original size. form into the desired shape, and let rise an additional 45 miutes to 1 hour before baking.

3) Patting out biscuit dough with your hands instead of rolling it out is an easy shortcut, although it gives the biscuits a slightly rougher texture on top. To save even more time, you can make square biscuits. Simply pat the dough into a rectangle of the recommended thickness, then cut it into 2 to 3 inch squares.


Always spread butter and/or filling right over the bread, otherwise the edges will be dry. Softened butter is easiest to spread evenly. If you are preparing a lot of sandwiches, a small, flexible palette knife will make spreading much easier.

Try cutting sandwiches in different shapes, using a sharp knife to cut triangles or rectangulars, or buscuit cutters for more unusual shapes, such as flowers and animals. To make sandwiches in advance without them going soggy, use toast or crisp-crusted bread and spread with butter, margarine or cream cheese as a waterproof barrier aginst moist toppings and fillings.

Instead of wet salad ingredients, go for crisp vegetables, such as celery, cabbage or chinese leaves. Cover with cling film or foil to prevent drying out, then store in a refrigerator or cool place for up to 24 hours.


1) Make sure that all the ingredients are cold.

2) The pastry must be made very quickly. A food processor may be used but take care not to overworked the mixture or it will be form into a dough before the correct quantity of liquids has been added; this will produce pastry that is hard to handle.

3) Sift the flour into a bowl first; this adds air to the mixture and produces lighter results.

4) Use fat which is cold and cut into pieces. If the weather is warm, freeze the shortening and leaves the flour in the refrigerator overnight. If you are using butter, there is no need to freeze it. Simply remove it from the fridge immediately before using. Make sure the liquid is cold so that it will not melt the fat.

5) Chill the pastry thouroughly before rolling it out. The crust should be rolled quickly, evenly and with a minimum of flour. A short bristle brush can be used to remove excess flour. Once the pastry crust is in the baking dish, it is advisable to refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes to minimise shrinking and cracking during baking.

6) Do not stretch pastry when rolling it as it will shrink back during cooking, producing and uneven pastry case.

7) Blind baking is a term applied to crusts that are baked without a filling. To Blind bake, line the pastry with parchment, foil or wax paper. Fill the lined crust with commercially packaged aluminium pie weights, dried beans or rice. They should be level with the top of the pastry to ensure that the pastry crusts do not shrink as they bake. Sweet pastry cases will cook more quickly because of the sugar content. Egg in the dough will also help the pastry to keep its shape during cooking and will give the cooked case golden colour.

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