How to bake – expert advice from a pastry chef

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Baking is one of those things that can feel really overwhelming. They make it look crazy on the The Great British Cake, law?

But a perfect homemade baking can be yours in a click if you take your time, have a solid plan, and keep everything nice and fresh (more on that later).

Pastry chef Amber Croom is good at making perfectly flaky pastries every time, so we shared her expert pastry knowledge with her so that one day our pastry could ~ maybe ~ be as good as hers …

HOW TO MAKE PASTRY

Keep everything cold

You might have come across this before, but Amber says it’s essential that everything be cold, cold, cold – and not just butter and water. Amber says she also put her flour in the fridge before making her dough. “It helps keep everything at the same temperature,” Amber told Delish. “The science behind this is that using very cold butter helps you not overwork the dough, resulting in a very hard crust. Plus, it also gives you those pockets of fat which will lead to a flaky crust.

Mmmmmm, big pockets.

Leave some of this butter

Speaking of pockets of fat, Amber says that the best pastry still contains little pieces of butter before cooking it. “The pieces of butter are essential for getting that flaky, delicious crust we all crave. The best way to do this is not to work the dough until it has a fine, crumbly texture. Instead, you should still be able to see small chunks of fat in your dough. These pockets, during baking, will help create puff pastry from the steam as it melts.

Cool your dough

So, we know we want our baking ingredients to be cold, but that’s not where the cold ends: you want too cool your puff pastry for at least 30 minutes, according to Amber.

Use as little water as possible

The main ingredients for baking are flour, butter and water. But when it comes to of water, you really want to use as little as possible to keep it from getting too hard. “You use water in some pastry doughs to aid the development of gluten, which is something you don’t want in your pie because it will become extremely hard and unpleasant to eat. Instead, you want to use the least amount of water to help the dough come together.

“If a recipe calls for 250 ml of water, it’s best to add more little by little until you get the right consistency. It can vary due to the moisture that’s already in the air, but you’ll know when it’s done because you can pinch the dough with your fingers and it stays together. If it’s sticky, it means you’ve added too much water.

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Working with flour

Here you have made your pastry. And you have cooled your pastry. And after? Unroll, of course! Amber says it is imperative to work with floured hands and a floured work surface. “The best way to start is to roll out your dough, preforming the shape of the pan you are using to bake it. This will help reduce the time you spend spreading it. The rolling and turning technique works best. You want to roll it up and then turn it a quarter. Place the rolling pin horizontally in the middle and move away from you, and keep rolling and turning until you have the thickness you need.

“Apply the same pressure each time you roll the dough so that the dough is even all around – you don’t want one size too big and the other too thin. It is also important to ensure that the dough retains the shape of your baking dish. If the dough starts to stick, simply lift one side and sprinkle flour underneath.

It can be quite difficult to transfer your pastry to your baking dish, but the way Amber does it makes things a million times easier. “Sprinkle a little flour on your rolling pin and roll the dough on it. Start with the edge furthest away from you and place the edge on the rolling pin, and begin to roll it up as if you were rolling up paper towels. Start spreading the dough on the baking dish and just let it fall. Don’t put too much pressure on the dough or it may stick together.

Prepare for cooking

Again, temperature is the key here. Once your dough is in the baking dish, it’s time to put it back in the fridge. “This helps maintain the shape of the dough and reduces shrinkage during baking,” says Amber. “You will do this step before blind baking (baking the dough halfway before adding the filling if you are making a pie). You don’t want all of your hard work to be sabotaged because you missed this step, trust me.

Finally… it’s time to bake your pastry! Make sure you have preheated your oven to the temperature specified in your recipe. Do NOT put your dough in the oven until it has warmed up. Amber says to keep an eye on the dough and cook it until it turns a nice golden brown color. This will give you a flaky and tender crust. If you have to wonder if it’s done or not, cook it a bit more. We want brown, not “almost brown”.

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