Everything You Need To Know About Pastry Making

Although it’s widely believed that pastry is one of the more challenging culinary techniques to master, our guide is here to show you there’s no mystery when it comes to making mouth-watering pies, pasties and patisserie treats.

The simplest pastry requires very few ingredients but, when combined and cooked correctly, they let you conjure culinary magic. Follow our simple rules and there’s no reason why you can’t create light, excellent pastry of your very own.

1. Ingredients

Using good-quality ingredients gets you off to the best possible start. Remember that different brands of flour may absorb more or less water, and lower-quality butter will more than likely have an inferior flavour and a lower melting point, making it harder to work with.

2. Temperature

As a general rule where pastry’s concerned, the cooler the better: you want the fat to stay firm enough to work with, so your dough doesn’t turn into a paste. If you’ve ever heard it suggested that pastry be made with quick, cool hands at an open window, it’s good advice.

3. Gluten

Remember that the more you knead your pastry, the greater the development of gluten, the protein that holds dough together. Less kneading and rolling results in a lighter dough.

Know your pastry

Not sure of the difference between shortcrust and puff? Can’t tell your flaky from your filo? If you really don’t have a ‘choux’ when it comes to pastry, our guide is here to clear things up.

And once you’ve decided to give pastry a go, our step-by-step guides are full of hints and tips to help you master the techniques right from the start.

Shortcrust pastry is the classic pastry used for pies, tarts and quiches and is made from flour, fat and salt, with water added to bind the dough. This simplest and most common form of pastry is made by mixing the flour and salt with the fat – either by rubbing in with fingers or using a food processor – adding water to make dough and then rolling out the paste. Mixing the flour with the fat at the start inhibits gluten formation and results in a ‘short’, or crumbly, tender pastry.

Sweetcrust pastry, also known as paté sucrée, is similar to shortcrust but replaces the water with sugar and egg yolks to bind the pastry.

Flaky pastry is a crisp, buttery pastry, often used for pie toppings. It’s made by leaving larger pieces of fat in the dough which, when baked, melt to create flaky layers and release steam, causing the pastry to puff up.

Puff pastry has many thin layers of butter in the dough, created by repeated rolling and folding. When the butter melts on baking, it adds crispness to the pastry and releases steam that puffs the layers up. Used to make Danish pastries, it comes out of the oven light, flaky and tender. 

Choux pastry takes its name from the French word for cabbage, which shape it closely resembles after baking. The initial mix is enriched with egg that is vigorously beaten in to make a more watery mix, closer to a paste than a dough, which steams and then solidifies on baking to form a light, hollow pastry. Its texture means it can be piped into shapes like eclairs and profiteroles before baking.

Filo or phyllo is a paper-thin pastry dough that is built up in many layers, generally wrapped around a filling and brushed with butter before baking to make very delicate, flaky pastries like strudel and baklava. However, because it’s so difficult and time-consuming to make by hand, most recipes recommend using ready-made sheets, so it’s perfectly acceptable to ‘cheat’ by buying it!

Be prepared.

If you’re embarking on a pastry-making voyage, it’s worth making sure that your cupboards are stocked with these few simple ingredients and essential pieces of equipment before you set off.


One of the great delights of pastry-making is that, as there are only a few basic ingredients, it’s relatively cheap to get started. As your skills improve, you may want to shop around, compare results and find your favourites.

Flour – Most pastry can be made using plain white flour, but it’s a good idea to have some strong white bread flour on hand to add to choux or puff recipes.

Salt – A pinch is all that’s needed to stop savoury recipes being bland. A fine-grained table salt that will blend easily into the mix is best.

Butter – Gives pastry its flavour, so it’s the most important ingredient to get right. Unsalted butters with a high melting point will stay firmer for longer, producing a less greasy pastry.

Lard – Add to shortcrust pastry for rich flavour and a crumbly texture – though, as it’s made from pork fat, it’s not suitable for vegetarian dishes.

Eggs -Add flavour and colour to pastry, either in the mix or brushed on as a glaze. As a general rule, the fresher the better.

Sugar – The most useful grade for pastry-making is icing sugar: its similar grain size to flour helps it to mix easily into the dough.


Technique is important when making pastry, but there are some products you will need and others that will help to make it a little easier to attain that perfect finish. (not sure how to make this a bit more exiting – maybe images of each piece of equipment?)

Tart tins – Picking the right baking tin is important to a successful bake; living up to its name, our range is perfect.

Pie dishes- Pies will look the part in any our pie dish range.

Pie funnels – Funnels support the pie lid and allow steam to escape, helping to keep pastry crisp. Our adorable bird funnel is perfect.

Rolling pin – Wooden or plastic, the most important thing about your rolling pin is that it has a nice smooth surface, with no cuts or dents. It’s a pain when pastry sticks to your rolling pin – you spend half your time patiently unpeeling it, giving up and rolling it out again – but you can fill our clever Cooling Rolling Pin with cold water or ice to help your pastry stay chilled and avoid sticky sensations.

Pastry brushes – Useful tools for glazing, and for brushing the edges of pie crusts with water before sealing. Try our Classic Pastry Brush or our Silicone Pastry Brushes.

Baking beans – When baking blind, any uncooked, dried beans, peas or rice will help weigh down your pastry, but ceramic ones are really easy to use – and last longer. Our Ceramic Baking Beans do just the job! If you want to level up blind baking even more check out our Metallic Pie Weight for blind baking pastry.

Baking parchment – Non-stick parchment is ideal for lining trays and cases before baking blind.

Electric Mixers and Food Processors

Pastry can be made by hand, but you can always turn to electric mixers or food processors to blend your mixes if you’re short on energy or time – just follow the directions in your recipe and be careful not to over-process.

How To Blind Bake 

If you’re making a pie with a filling that needs to be baked at a lower temperature than pastry requires, you’ll need to bake the pastry first to ensure it’s properly cooked. This is known as baking blind.

1. Roll chilled, rested pastry from the centre to the edge on a sheet of baking parchment or cling film. Rolling on a floured surface may upset the balance of ingredients by working in too much flour – and pastry is much easier to transfer to your tin when it’s on a sheet of plastic or paper.

2. Line your tin or tray with your rolled pastry, allowing the pastry to drape over the tin without stretching it.

3. Shape your pastry by gently pressing it against the inside of the tin using a leftover scrap of pastry pressed into a ball.

4. Trim any excess pastry with a sharp knife or, if your tin has a sharp edge, roll your rolling pin over the top edge to cut away cleanly.

5. Dock your pastry by pricking it all over with a fork, to stop it rising when baking.

6. Line the pastry case with a piece of baking parchment strong enough to hold the weight of beans or rice, making sure there’s enough left round the edges for easy removal.

7. Weight the parchment down with dried beans, peas or rice, or ceramic baking beans.

8. Bake the pastry cake as instructed in your recipe.

9. Air bubbles, if they develop in the first 5-10 minutes of baking, can be removed by pressing gently with a ball of scrap pastry.

10. Cover the baked base and pie filling with your pastry lid.

11. Trim the top layer of pastry using a sharp knife, always cutting downward while holding the pie at eye level.

12. Seal the edges of your pastry, glaze as directed and cut holes in the top to allow steam to escape while baking.

Inspired? Take a look at our range of pastry making products.

Your questions answered

 Do I have to mix pastry by hand?

All shortcrust pastries can be mixed using a food processor. Place the flour and salt into the bowl with the butter, then pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add just enough water to bind to a soft but not sticky dough, and make sure you do not over-process the pastry. Kneading the pastry has to be done by hand.

Do I have to use my pastry as soon as it’s been made?

All of the pastry recipes given (with the exception of the dough recipe for the pissaladière) can be made up to three days in advance and stored in the fridge. They can also be frozen for up to three months.

I don’t think my hands are cool enough to make good pastry – do you have any tips?

To chill your hands down, try running them under cold water for a minute. Make sure you dry them thoroughly before making the pastry and always use your fingertips only to rub the fat into the flour – this helps keep the mixture as cool as possible. You can also keep your mix cool by only adding cold or chilled water and, on hot summer days, it’s worth chilling the bowl and the flour in the fridge for half an hour before you start.

My pastry always turns out too tough – what am I doing wrong?

Knead your pastry just lightly enough to ensure it is smooth. If you knead any longer, you’ll overwork the pastry and it will become tough on baking.

How can I stop my pastry shrinking when I bake it?

Pastry must always be chilled in a fridge after making. This helps it to relax which in turn will help to prevent it shrinking on baking. Additionally, instead of trimming excess pastry from a tart case before baking blind you could also leave it overhanging the tin. Once the pastry has been baked blind you can then simply trim the excess using a sharp knife for a perfect finish.

How do I avoid soggy-bottomed pastry?

Follow our instructions for baking blind. This ensures your pastry is cooked through before adding the filling for recipes such as tarts and quiches, reducing the likelihood of a soggy-bottomed disaster.

Where possible look to use a perforated tin such as our Perfobake Loose Based Quiche Tin as this allows for really even cooking, and mean you can get pastry incredibly thin without it breaking, ensuring your baking will never be accused of a soggy bottom – you’ll be renowned for crisp pastries and crusty loaves in no time at all.

How do I stop air bubbles forming and damaging my pastry?

Pricking the pastry base lightly before baking blind prevents it from bubbling up on cooking – but be careful to ensure that the fork does not go all the way through the pastry.

What can I do to keep the base of my pastries even?

Adding dried beans, peas or rice, or ceramic baking beans to weigh pastry down during baking blind ensures an even rise.