Tag Archives: Baking

Proper Explanations for Things I Have Mentioned

Apparently people have chanced upon this site while seeking actual proper information.  If it were only proper information on “Shortcrust Pastry Modifications” they were seeking, I would not feel so bad.  However there seem to be a number of people seeking explanations for “Free Air in the Abdomen” and I am somewhat concerned that I may have provided something which may or may not look like medical advice.

So, seekers of abdomen-air-and-shortcrust-pastry-related information, here is a brief summary of what you might need to know.

Free Air in the Abdomen:  Sounds very sexy but since you are looking for this on the internet, you probably know someone in hospital with this problem.  It’s not at all sexy.  It means there is gas in the abdominal cavity, possibly due to an infection or perforation of an organ.  It’s not good but it can be treated.  Talk to your medical professional and don’t rely on stuff you read on the internet.

Shortcrust Pastry: Making pastry is a chemical process which hinges upon the molecular structures of various combinations of some or all of: fat, flour, water, milk, egg, sugar and salt.  The gluten proteins in the flour are especially important.  I know little of the chemistry and rely mostly on instinct and wisdom handed down through the ages.  Common wisdom holds that it is best to make pastry on a cool, dry day.  Keeping the ingredients cool seems important.  It is for this reason that many recipes suggest use of a marble slab.  I don’t have one.  So, I tend to look at the weather on my pastry day and adjust factors according to my instinct.  Use iced water on a hot day.  Use less water on a humid one.  Chill my hands before working the dough.  Those are the type of modifications I make to shortcrust pastry.  The big thing to remember is this:  Don’t over-work it.   Touch it less than you think you need to.

It occurs to me that this is good advice for other things in life generally.

In other news, I have not been sleeping much recently.  If I had missed this mornings’ lectures and had a nice lazy sleep-in, I’d be feeling pretty pleased with myself right now, because they were a total waste of time.   Except for the bit with the dermoid cyst.

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Goo to Cake Theory and Shortcrust Pastry

Moot's Goo to Cake Theorem

Moot's Goo to Cake Theorem

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.

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