Pastry Predicaments

Ah, pastry. Delicious, buttery, flaky pastry. But is it really butter? Or the cheaper substitute, palm oil? Sad to say, in most instances, it is palm oil. Pastry made with margarine, or vegetable fat, will always contain palm oil.

Show how do you avoid it? Well, you could make you own pastry; rolling and folding slabs of butter into dough for the ultimate buttery puff pastry; or deftly rolling out shortcrust with a minimum of contact (and the requisite cool hands). But if that's not really your thing - it's certainly not mine! - there are some great palm oil free pastry's out there if you know where to look.

While I don't imagine most of them set out to be 'palm oil free', the demand for high quality, 'artisan' pastry sheets, spurred on by shows such as MasterChef and Great Australian Bake Off (or Great British Bake Off - so much love for GBBO in this house!), has resulted in some great palm oil free options. And most are locally made using Australian ingredients - bonus!

My favourite is the Careme Pastry range. Careme is a Barossa Valley company, producing a range of hand made (yes - it's actually kneaded by hand!) puff and shortcrust pastry, using locally milled flour from Australian grains, high quality NZ butter (unfortunately Australian butter is too variable due to our super hot summers and cool winters) and local free range eggs (pastry made with yolks only don't use free range eggs as they can't find a supplier). The only issue here is that Careme is not yet available in the major supermarkets, but it is readily availible in most independent grocers - see their website for the full list.

For a full list of palm oil free pastry options - see my Palm Oil Free Database (link also in header).

For something with just a few ingredients, pastry has given me more than its fair share of failures, it is one of those kitchen things that just eludes me. I can make macarons with my eyes closed (almost!), but ask me to make pastry (or poach an egg!) and I'll start looking for the door. 

That said, I have been conscientiously trying anyone and everyone's never fail shortcrust pastry recipes, in an effort to find my own never fail recipe to share on the blog. Consequently we have eaten way more than our quota of pastry round these parts of late, but it's all in the name of research - what can I say, anything for the blog. I still haven't quite got it 100% never-fail, but, to be fair, I have come a long way from the soggy-bottomed, massive shrinkage issues I've had in the past. The wonderfully glamorous Nigella Lawson held the key for cracking this challenge, not in a recipe, but in the method, and a bit of a formula (us engineers like a good formula).

Almost Never-Fail Shortcrust Pastry

The formula is this: twice as much four as fat (by weight), and up to 1/4 cup of liquid to combine.

These quantities will give you enough for one single crust pie (or quiche).

  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g butter, cold, chopped.
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1-2 tbs chilled water

Place flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor, and chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

Blitz in a food processor until crumbly. Add the egg yolk & keep blitzing. Then add just enough water to bring it together - if you can press a few bits together and it sticks, you're done. DO NOT wait for it to form a ball - it will be over processed, and probably have too much liquid.

Tip it on to the bench, and work it just enough to bring it together. Then wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 min.

It's now ready to use, but I'd suggest once you roll it out and line the tins that it goes back into the fridge for 30 minutes, then straight into the oven from the fridge.

How do you feel about pastry? Do you deftly kneed and roll, ending up with a crisp, flaky pastry? Or is it frozen all the way?