SOS SOS! MIL is visiting and I need to learn how to make pastry properly!

(48 Posts)
struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 10:14:26

Every time I make pastry it is a DISASTER.

I make it in a Kenwood chef, using the correct K-beater thing. I rest it for an hour, then roll out. Either it cracks really badly, or it shrinks when I put it in the oven and I am left feeling like a domestic demon, rather than a goddess.

I've tried using all kinds of ratios of fat to flour, and combining Trex and butter, and still the same problem. What am I doing wrong?

My bossy MIL is coming soon and has requested pie. I can't face a pastry fail in front of her. PLEASE HELP!

wem Mon 09-Dec-13 10:16:25

Buy some ready to roll stuff wink

MajesticWhine Mon 09-Dec-13 10:16:39

I buy the ready made stuff

Gileswithachainsaw Mon 09-Dec-13 10:17:37

Oh go buy some jus role or something. Or a pastry case. She can either eat it or starve the cheeky mare grin

Weegiemum Mon 09-Dec-13 10:19:26

As above.

Two words.

Jus Roll.

cuckoonest Mon 09-Dec-13 10:22:27

I am not immune to pastry disasters, but the idea is to rest the pastry every time you work with it, preferably in the fridge. So make it, then rest it, then roll it and line your dish without trimming it, then rest it and trim it just before you bake it.

Or you could try something I saw on Masterchef last week - one of the pros didn't trim the edges at all until it was baked and then literally was filing the edges!

Do you have time for some practice runs? Maybe in foil dishes so that you could freeze any that go really well and make it look like you make pies all the time?

TobyLerone Mon 09-Dec-13 10:23:36

Possibly working it too much. I can't imagine the beater helps.

I make mine in the food processor. A quantity of plain flour, a pinch of salt (if it's savoury pastry you're after) and half as much butter as flour. The butter must be very cold and cut into small cubes.
Flour in the food processor, add the salt and butter, blitz for a short time until breadcrumby. Add a very small amount of cold water and blitz a bit more until it just comes together.

Rest in the fridge until you need it. Roll out with plenty of flour.

Never fails!

or buy ready made

I think the baking legends normally suggest making in in a food processor rather than kenwood, something about how it rubs the butter into the flour whilst the butter stays cold (which is supposedly why people with cold hands make good pastry). Also it is made quickly which minimises the development of the flour's gluten content.
Then just do what you normally do, making sure to work quickly and not to let the pastry get warm by over working.

Notsurehowthathappened Mon 09-Dec-13 10:28:04

Why worry, buy ready made.

I am a MIL and wouldn't even notice if it was out of a packet or home made. In fact I would probably think how sensible you were if it was out of a packet.

She might be bossy, but if she is really going to judge you in relation to your cooking skills she needs a reality check. Very few couples break up because of pastry. What matters is how much you love her son and DC's and how close you are as a family.

struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 10:33:45

Thank you people!

She is a solid cook, and would be highly critical of readymade pastry.

I know it's a faff, but I would like to learn how to do it properly because it would be a useful skill to have. I will try in the food processor, as it may be that the Kenwood beater is causing the problem... though I'm mindful of a saying about bad workmen and tools!! I think it's probably more than I don't have a clue how to do it properly. /needscookerylessons

MuffCakes Mon 09-Dec-13 10:36:56

Everytime I use a gadget for pastry it doesn't work. I use my hands to mix it and then leave in the fridge for a hour. Real butter and lard mix always works for me to.

longtallsally2 Mon 09-Dec-13 10:37:38

What are you wanting it for? If it's mince pies then it really isn't too tricky if you do it by hand, if you don't want to buy Jus roll. If it's puff pastry

I use 8 oz flour (200g) and 4oz/100g cooking marg or butter. Add 2oz/50g of sugar if you are making sweet pastry, or leave it out for savory. Then use your fingertips to squish the butter into the flour. Do it just with your finger tips, not rubbing the palms of your hands together, so that you keep the flourmixture nice and cool. Stir the flour up with your fingers inbetween squishes and let air mix in with it too.

When the butter/marg has all disappeared, add 2 tablespoons of warm water and again with your hands squish the mixture together until it starts to make a nice gooey ball of pastry. You can add more tablespoons of water if needed, but squish inbetween each one to see if it is sticking together. It shouldn't feel wet at all, the water is just starting off the sticking process, but you need enough water to make sure that it is soft and squishy, not crumbling.

I don't leave mine long before rolling it out - just set it aside long enough to flour the surface and rolling pin.

Make sure that your mince pie tray, or dish or whatever is well greased before putting the pastry on it. Best of luck.

longtallsally2 Mon 09-Dec-13 10:38:39

Oops. 'If it's puff pastry, then cheat!'

wem Mon 09-Dec-13 10:40:35

She doesn't have to know it's ready made!

If you really want to do it yourself, I agree with other posters, you're working it too much.

But seriously, your MIL is being very rude if she is being critical of food you are cooking for her. And demanding pie in the first place!

TheHeadlessLadyofCannock Mon 09-Dec-13 10:45:59

If you want to learn how to do it for yourself, fair enough. If you're only doing it for your MIL, fuck that. Make/buy/serve what you want to. She can eat it and be grateful like a normal civilised guest, or if she really can't bear to eat it she can feed herself.

FunkyBoldRibena Mon 09-Dec-13 10:46:12

Requested pie? Tell her you aren't planning on pie, cake will have to do.

Honestly - some people are so rude.

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Mon 09-Dec-13 10:49:24

It doesn't sound to me as though overworking it is the problem -- that would tend to make it tough and gummy and it sounds as though you have the opposite problem.

If it's too crumbly then the likely culprits are
- under mixing
- using too much fat
- using too little liquid

If you're making it in a mixer and have tried all sorts of ratios of fat to flour then not using enough liquid is your most likely issue (but don't use too much or it'll get all doughy and that's not nice).

SaggyOldClothCatPuss Mon 09-Dec-13 10:54:43

Don't overwork it. Gluten is a git and once you activate it you'll just end up with a shrinking mess. A good processor is better than a mixer. A beater is no good for pastry.
Even the professionals use ready rolled, hide the packet and she will never know. If she suggests that you've used it, take umbrage! wink And them refuse to ever make her pastry again! Job done! grin

StainlessSteelCat Mon 09-Dec-13 10:57:04

Using the Kenwood with any sort of beater won't work. Not sure why, but the action doesn't rub the butter into the flour properly. K beater is indeed a thing of wonder, but not for pastry! Food processors with blades are recommended, I haev never seen any TV cook.chef use a beater though.

Cut very cold butter into cubes, then rub in with finger tips, then bring together with minimal amount of water. Best thing about pastry is that it's better the less you do fwink.

But save the trial runs for another time, and serve them to people who are more appreciative. If you feel you must give her pie, use ready made or even ready cooked. Or shepherd's pie fgrin

FennellaSage Mon 09-Dec-13 11:03:12

I can make pastry (thanks mum!)

Recipe is:

8oz self raising flour
5 oz trex
3 oz butter (cool room temperature -not too cold or you have to overwork it to get it in or too soft)
Pinch of salt

Bung it all in a food processor and whizz until large breadcrumb size - watch it carefully you don't want it to start clumping together yet.

Add a few spoonfuls of water (say 5 to start with). Whizz again. If it comes together now then stop the mixer and give it a gentle push with your finger. If it feels too stiff add a tiny splash more water and whizz again.

As soon as it is in one lump stop the mixer.

Take it out. Press it into a round ball and roll out on a well floured surface (I never chill pastry, it always seems more flexible if you use it straight away and less likely to crack). If doing something like mince pies, leave 1/3 in the bowl (covered) while you work wight the first lot.

Roll it out on a cool, well floured surface. Try and get as many bottoms (if you are doing individual tarts/pies) as possible out of this first roll because once you have to squeeze the remainders back together to make a new ball the pastry is never as good.

Once those are in the tin and filled use the remaining third to make the lids.

Honestly pastry is one thing I can do. Hope it works for you.

FennellaSage Mon 09-Dec-13 11:04:35

I've used a beater but I agree, a food processor is better smile

ABitterPIL Mon 09-Dec-13 11:06:02

Use jus roll and dont TELL her

MrsHoratioNelson Mon 09-Dec-13 11:11:32

If you want to be really sneaky, buy ready made and before MIL gets there shape it into a disk, dust with flour, wrap in cling film and look innocent.

caketinrosie Mon 09-Dec-13 11:13:02

Ooh struggling100 you are really missing a trick! The secret is when she arrives have all the ingredients together and ask her to show you her method! I swear to god she will dive elbows deep before the words are out of your mouth. Then for evermore she will tell everyone how she helped you find your pastry way and you and her will be friends for evermore. The other side of this approach however is she will regret asking for pie and never ask again. Either way a win all round. then buy jus roll cake fwink

struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 13:06:29

Hahahahahaha!! I love all the sneaky cheats. Brilliant!

I know it is silly, but last time she was here, I served lasagne. I'd made it in advance, and it took absolutely bloody ages to defrost. When I finally served it, she looked at me and said in the tone of voice you'd use to a small child 'What lesson have you learned from this?'. I didn't know where to put myself - I was literally speechless. So she said (speaking really slowly, as if to a very stupid person) 'Freeze... smalller.... portions'.

She was absolutely right, of course. But SHE WOUNDED MY EGO, DAMMIT! So I do not want to ask her advice, even though she'd be able to help and she'd absolutely LOVE showing me how to do it. I know, I know... I should be more humble and magnanimous. But every time I think about it, I hear the time in my head when she asked me if I had been a good girl and whether Father Christmas was going to visit this year. I am 36.

Having read through all of the very helpful suggestions, think I am possibly not adding enough water. And it sounds like the beater is the wrong tool to use altogether! So I will give the food processor a go and see where I get to with Fenella's brilliant looking recipe (which has more fat in it than I've tried too). Thank you so much Fenella!

I will report back!

TheHeadlessLadyofCannock Mon 09-Dec-13 13:10:26

She'd have had the lasagne in her face lap if she'd spoken to me like that, OP.

'she asked me if I had been a good girl and whether Father Christmas was going to visit this year. I am 36.' shock

You're putting up with too much shit. Seriously, why bust a gut learning to make pastry to impress her and to make food to her specifications? You are being a doormat. You deserve much better. You deserve at least common courtesy and gratitude from someone you're hosting and feeding.

Eastwickwitch Mon 09-Dec-13 13:11:58

I 2nd food processor. Make sure the waters cold & add a few drops at a time with the motor running. Half butter, half trex makes it easier to roll.
Chill for at least an hour.
Waitrose sell all butter shortcrust which is better than mine.
Good luck!

struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 13:24:06

OK, so I did Fenella's recipe, and I've managed to screw up. What I have produced looks like cake mix. It is light and fluffy and not at all like dough. Where did I go wrong?

struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 13:31:46

I think I might have added too much water. I read Fenella's recipe back, and she says 'five spoonfuls' of water, which I read as '5 tbsps'. I have added more flour and it is now a dough. I have no idea if it will work though???

Eastwickwitch Mon 09-Dec-13 13:32:54

Squidge it together with a drop of cold water then bung in in the fridge in cling film. Bet it's fine by 3pm.

Eastwickwitch Mon 09-Dec-13 13:33:24

Ignore that water bit!

5HundredUsernamesLater Mon 09-Dec-13 13:33:59

Find a good bakery or farm shop nearby that sells home made style pies, buy one and pass it off as your own. Why stress yourself out, she sounds like she doesn't appreciate your effort anyway. And since when have guests been given the right to choose the menu? That is only acceptable if they have allergies or food intolerance and not just intolerable.

CMOTDibbler Mon 09-Dec-13 13:46:08

She won't be happy whatever you do. So don't torture yourself - buy readymade and if she is negative, then just 'mmm' at what she says and then start a thread in your head.

I can make pastry, but can't be arsed tbh when the readymade is so good. Even the top chefs buy readymade puff and filo

struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 13:51:06

5Hundred - that's a great backup plan, if this doesn't work!

I feel like I'm giving my MIL a bad rep! She doesn't mean to be as rude as she actually is. Her heart is in the right place, but she just isn't very good at thinking about how other people might feel, and acting accordingly.

However, I am very keen for the visit (which isn't for a couple of weeks) to go well, because she and FIL are currently doing a very bad job of caring for my grandfather-in-law. They live at the opposite end of the country from us, so it's a very difficult and delicate issue to handle. Again, they don't mean to be neglectful, they just don't have the first idea how to 'do' care and have been used to having life entirely their own way. The result has been that grandfather ended up in hospital recently, because they went away on holiday without putting carers in place, he didn't take his regular medicine because he gets confused, and he had a seizure as a result and was unconscious for 36 hours. (We didn't even know they were away, as they knew we would have insisted that carers were in place, which is why they didn't tell us). DH is going to convince them that they need to change things up a bit so that grandfather is better cared for, so I am bending over backwards to make everything as lovely as possible so they don't feel attacked.

whereisshe Mon 09-Dec-13 13:53:32

Seriously? The answer here is not to perfect pastry making, the answer is to put your MIL in her place. Yes, baking is a lovely skill to have, but it's hardly the measure of one's success or failure as a human being!

If she keeps giving you shit about your cooking I suggest changing the topic to something you know she's rubbish at... In a mildly condescending fashion ideally (although you sound too lovely to be a little mean, which might be part of the problem).

msmiggins Mon 09-Dec-13 14:01:46

Don't pander to her- you are encouraging her bad behaviour.
She may have requested pie but cook what you want to and serve it with a smile.
Don't make pastry if you are not confident. In obeying her requests you are feeding her control.

struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 14:02:11

whereisshe - I think we both posted at the same time! I would be rubbish at doing condescending. Not because I am lovely (I'm really not), but because I have terrible pubquizitis, i.e. as soon as anyone asks me a factual question I begin to have horrendous doubts about the answer in my head. I can quite easily end up doubting my own age and name within seconds. I lack the necessary sense of certainty to pull off putting anyone in their place. Also, I really do need her to see reason about granddad. Perhaps the best plan is to eat humble pie and get her to teach me, as this will definitely put her in a good mood!

StainlessSteelCat Mon 09-Dec-13 14:04:42

I usually use roughly twice as much flour as fat, Fenella's has equal amounts.
Try this recipe

AngelaDaviesHair Mon 09-Dec-13 14:10:57

Rich doughs are easier to work. if you've got a recipe that uses ground almonds or other nuts, and/or egg yolks, try that. I found the one below on


8 ounces plain flour
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
3 ounces icing sugar
6 ounces butter, chilled and diced
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon rind
1 egg yolk


Sift flour, almonds and sugar into a bowl.
Rub in the butter until mixture resemble breadcrumbs.
Add lemon rind and stir in.
Stir in egg yolk to make a soft dough.
Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Bake at 180-190C, gas mark 4.

struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 14:45:18

Update! I have managed to roll out the pastry! It is still not perfect - there are cracks appearing in it when I roll, but it is better than my last disastrous effort!

Thank you all for your help! I am going to keep trying until I get this. I am a bit stubborn like that. smile

FennellaSage Mon 09-Dec-13 15:37:30

OMG!!!! I'm so, so sorry, stainless steel cat is right, my recipe is wrong should be 16 oz flour, 5 trex, 3 butter! blush blush blush

Was having a mad moment! It should be double amount of flour to fat.

Sorry again <hangs head in floury shame>

struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 15:46:34

Don't worry Fenella - I added loads of flour to see if it helped, and it has worked! smile Should it be 5 tablespoons of water or 5 teaspoons?

I am going to give it another go tomorrow.

Eastwickwitch Mon 09-Dec-13 15:51:33

struggling have you got a food processor? Keep it whizzing round & it should clump into a ball.

struggling100 Mon 09-Dec-13 15:54:04

Eastwickwitch - yes I do, and I used it this time, and it worked a lot better. Not perfect though, as it tended to crack a bit when I rolled it out. Try #2 tomorrow!

FennellaSage Mon 09-Dec-13 15:54:28


5 dessert spoons is what I'd use (just ones we use for cereal rather than measuring ones smile)

Blatherskite Mon 09-Dec-13 16:07:00

You're not going to make the pie in front of her are you? How on earth will she know if the pastry is home made or shop bought?

Buy it. Bin the packet. Tell her you made it from scratch. Job done.

She's not going to get it professionally analysed or search through your bins so how will she know the difference?

Eastwickwitch Mon 09-Dec-13 16:16:08

Sorry I can't link.
But DH won a bet (to make an apple pie) using Jamie Olivers step by step guide. If you google JO home cooking skills it's there.

MrsAMerrick Sat 14-Dec-13 12:36:19

omg, thought I had the Mil from hell but now realise she's an angel in comparison with yours, struggling. I can't make pastry either, I use Jusrol and am not ashamed of it, but if I had your mil I woukd be tempted to lie and claim it was my own fair hand. good luck!

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