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Monday, 16 January 2012

Blind Baking Pastry: Basic Cooking Techniques

Blind Baking Pastry: Basic Cooking Techniques

So, you’re working through the recipe: you’ve made your pie filling, and you’ve mixed up your pastry dough.  Suddenly, the recipe tells you to line the pie dish with the pastry, and to blind bake it, with no other information.  Ok, many recipe writers will assume that experienced cooks know how to blind bake, but what if you don’t have much experience?

What is Blind Baking?  Blind baking simply means to cook, or at least part-cook, the pastry before you add your filling, avoiding a soggy base to your pie, tart or quiche etc.  Blind, because the raw pastry is covered during this pre-cooking.  There are a couple of variations, but the idea and method is very simple.

How to Blind Bake Pastry: method

Make a pastry dough as directed in whatever recipe you are following, rest it in the fridge for half an hour, then roll it out and line your pie dish or tart pan.  Thoroughly prick the base and sides of the pastry all over with a fork.  If you have time, rest again in the refrigerator to minimise shrinkage while cooking.  When ready to proceed, crumple up some baking paper or parchment – do this several times so it becomes soft, with no sharp edges to pierce the pastry.  Line the pastry loosely with the parchment/paper; there is no need to cut it to a perfect fit as long as the pastry is covered.  Weigh it down with specialist baking beans from the kitchen shop (usually ceramic), or ordinary dried “vegetable” beans, such as haricot (discard these after use).  Some prefer to use metal beads, or even a handful of loose change, as they are a better conductor of heat.

Now place the tin/dish into the oven (set at whatever temperature your recipe recommends, but usually a medium heat) and bake for twenty minutes.  By this time, your base will be at least part-cooked, and you can proceed with the rest of the recipe, filling your pie etc.

I prefer at this stage to remove the paper/parchment and the beans, then return the pie base to the oven for a further ten minutes or so – this thoroughly dries out the base and gives a crispier finish.

The reason for the fork-pricking and weighing down is to stop the pastry rising during this blind baking period.  This may be necessary for some pastries, but I have found that for simple shortcrust pastry all that is needed is a good fork-pricking and an unweighted lining of loosely crumpled kitchen foil.

You can do the blind baking well ahead of time.  If adding a hot filling, first reheat the blind baked pastry for a few minutes, which helps to preserve the crispiness.

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