How to make quick flaky pastry
1. This is really a cheat's version because it doesn't involve the turning, rolling, resting and all the palaver that goes into the real thing. The advantage is that what you get is a real home-made pastry made purely with butter, which gives you a texture and flavour that is quite unique and special but, at the same time, doesn't involve either a lot or time or – believe it or not – a lot of skill. The secret is grating partly frozen butter, then mixing it with flour (so no boring rubbing in). It really does involve the minimum of skill but, at the same time, produces spectacular results. It can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes.
2. Because the butter is going to be coarsely grated, you need to measure out 4 oz (110 g) then wrap it in foil and place it in the freezer, or freezing compartment of the fridge, for 30-45 minutes. If it is too soft, it won't grate properly.
3. Flour should always be soft and plain and sifted. Sift 6 oz (175 g) flour, lifting the sieve high as you do so and letting it fall into a large, roomy bowl. I have said it before but there is no harm in underlining that the most important ingredient in pastry is air. Sifting the flour like this gives it a good airing.
4. Take the butter out of the freezer, fold back the foil and hold it in the foil, which will protect it from the warmth of your hands. Then, using the coarse side of a grater placed in the bowl over the flour, grate the butter, dipping the edge of it into the flour several times to make it easier to grate. What you will end up with is a large pile of grated butter sitting in the middle of the flour.
5. Now take a palette knife and start to distribute the gratings into the flour until the mixture looks evenly crumbly – don't use your hands yet, just keep trying to coat all the pieces of fat with flour.
6. Then, using a tablespoon, sprinkle in cold water. Start with 1 tablespoon then continue to use the knife, making cutting movements and adding more drops of water, until the mixture begins to form a dough.
7. Now dispense with the knife and bring the whole thing gently together using your hands. If you need a bit more moisture, that's fine – all you need to remember is that the dough should come together in such a way that it leaves the bowl fairly clean, with no bits of loose butter or flour anywhere.
8. Like all pastry, quick flaky pastry must be rested after it has been mixed – pop it into a polythene bag and chill for 30 minutes before using. Remember that the pastry freezes extremely well, in which case you need to defrost it thoroughly and let it come back to room temperature before rolling out.
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