DIY pastry - to make or to buy?

  • By
    Caroline Hire

Is it always worth making your favourites from scratch? Our DIY series puts shop-bought and homemade to the test - this time, pastry...

Pastry being placed in a baking tin

In our grandmother's generation, pastry making was a basic cooking skill - essential for many traditional British dishes. These days, making your own pastry is often considered the domain of the domestic goddess - it takes skill, time and a sprinkling of magic, doesn't it?

In reality, making a basic shortcrust pastry is really very simple. The quantities are set, half fat to flour and as many teaspoons of water as there are ounces of flour. Ok, so if you work in grams you may need to follow a recipe but with three basic ingredients - probably ones you always have in your storecupboard - you can rustle some up.

Pressing pastry into a tinThe cost:

Cost of 500g shop-bought pastry- £1.10
Cost of homemade pastry- £0.94

The pastry recipe I used: 
The base from this roasted tomato, basil and Parmesan quiche

The making:

To make basic shortcrust pastry, you simply rub cubed butter (from the fridge) into the flour, using your fingertips until it has a breadcrumb-like consistency. You want to keep the mixture cool so you can always run your hands under the cold tap before you start. Make a well in the middle and add the water, then mix it to a firm dough. Don't overwork it and only add as much water as you need. If you add too much the pastry can become quite hard when cooked. The less water, the more deliciously crumbly it is.

If you have a food processor, it's even easier. Just blitz the flour and butter to breadcrumbs, then pulse in the water until it balls together into a dough.

Tip:
It's best to rest your pastry by wrapping it in cling film and popping it in the fridge after you've made it and again once you've rolled it out. This stops it from shrinking down the sides when you cook it.

Roasted tomato, basil and Parmesan quicheThe taste:

This pastry recipe is delicious and the resulting quiche was mouthwatering with lovely crumbly pastry. Whether I could have spotted a shop-bought pastry I'm not sure but I got a great deal of satisfaction knowing the whole tart was my own creation.

The verdict:

It's certainly cheaper to make your own pastry and I like the fact that most times, I'll have the ingredients to hand, no need for a special trip to the shops. There are so many different types of pastry and once you've mastered the basic technique it gives you the freedom to try others: adding an egg, sugar or some cheese for example.

A note on puff pastry: unfortunately I feel this is one pastry it is better to buy unless you're blessed with an inordinate amount of skill and time. It seems machines really can do this better - but you can't win them all!

Fancy having a go at making your own? Try one of our homemade pastry recipes:
Basic shortcrust recipe
Sticky onion & cheddar quiche 
Apricot tart with brown sugar & cinnamon pastry
How to make pastry video

What are your top tips for making pastry? Do you prefer making your own or buying it in?

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