How to Bake Anything

Whether you want to bake bread, cakes, biscuits (cookies), flapjacks or find ways to make and cook pastry this is the place to be.

Bread, cakes, and pastry are very closely related; they are all a basic liaison of flour, fat, and liquid to which other ingredients may be added in varying quantities. And that makes them something of a culinary miracle because from that humble beginning they have become the most diverse form of food on the planet.

Even pasta, in all its various guises, is basically the same mix. So too are pancakes, scones, waffles, and crispbreads.

Every society uses some kind of flour to produce a dough which can then be cooked and eaten. It is the simplest – and at the same time most complex – staple food available to mankind.

How easy is it? Well, let’s start off with a basic pastry, suitable for pies, that you can make in a food processor. Yes, really!

Always bear in mind that for any given weight of flour, you need at least half that weight in fat. The more fat you add the ‘shorter ‘, crisper – and more difficult to handle – your pastry will become.

So, put 225 grams (or 6oz) of plain flour and a pinch of salt in your processor and whiz it for about 4 seconds. This will aerate it, which means you don’t need to sift it.

Add 125 grams (or 3oz) of chilled, diced butter or margarine and blitz until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Add one beaten egg and blitz just until the dough starts to form a ball.

Remove the pastry from the processor and knead it lightly for a few seconds. Then wrap it in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. Be careful not to overdo the kneading, pastry should be handled as little as possible, especially with hot hands in a warm kitchen. Try to use your fingertips only.

Working first thing in the morning is always a good idea when the day is at its coolest and the stove is less likely to be on. A fan can also be useful (but by no means essential) to keep temperatures down.

And here’s another tip; when you roll this out, don’t use flour – it tends to toughen it. Instead, spray your work surface and the rolling pin with oil. This will prevent sticking and have no adverse effect on the texture of the finished pastry.

That’s it. Congratulations! You are now a pastry chef.