I am genetically predisposed to baking. While my mother’s side of the family have elegant long-boned hands, designed for playing the piano and other such aristocratic pursuits, I have inherited my father’s hands. I’m pretty sure these hands are designed to shape dough.
My father’s maternal grandfather was a baker and my grandmother can bake up a storm when so inclined. I pull my weight. Having mastered the art of choux, with some trepidation I recently turned my attention to shortcrust.
I had a decent recipe – Stephanie Alexander’s rendition of Damien Pignolet’s instructions. The weather was, well, not perfect pastry weather but it was workable. With a few minor modifications to the recipe to account for not having a marble benchtop, I ended up with a pile of something which looked like it would never be shortcrust pastry.
I wrapped it up anyway and stuck it in the fridge. An hour or so later, i unwrapped it, rolled it flat, and lined my flan case. Some time thereafter, I had made the most awesome strawberry tart atop the lightest, flakiest, most perfect shortcrust pastry I have ever eaten. I’m sorry but there is just no room for modesty when it comes to this pastry. And I do have a point.
My point is this: If I had looked at that pile of floury stuff and followed my brain’s instructions to work it and work it until it looked like pastry, I would have had a solid slab of pastry-coloured pottery at the base of my tart.
As in Moot’s Goo-to-Cake Theory, in pastry, and at med school, there is only one trick. The trick is not to freak out.