I don't think of it as a particular dietary threat, unless it's not regarded as an occasional treat. It's really no different to any other thing that you choose to enclose something else. It's composed of flour, a fat and water.
True, these days you'd better be wary of your ingredients, though. It's good to use organic, non-GMO white whole wheat flour, if it's available, and I never use any fat other than butter. But, if these things are not available to you, by understanding the principles of pastry making, yours will always be better than commercial pastry, even if your flour isn't wonderful.
Ingredients - your choice
And here's a list of ingredients from your commercial freezer ready to use pastry shells:
Wheat flour, water, vegetable oils (rapeseed, palm), palm fats, salt,preservative,potassium, sorbate, emulsiffer: mono and diglcerides of fatty acids.
To be honest, they might be perfectly fine. Its just I have this strange hangup about people putting things in my food that I don't know about and can't spell.
A moral dilemma
Those fats are hard fats, making them much easier to work with, but it's easy to see that unlike butter which is liquid at body temperature, common sense dictates that they would be a powerful factor in lining arteries with fat.
I always remember when I attended a commercial baking school, the instructor maintained he would never buy commercial puff pastry products, because of the fat we used. It was in thin layers of what looked like paraffin wax, that made puff pastry making a breeze, and gave a beautiful looking result.
Hypocritical? Yes. The students' inexpensive products were snapped up by the public every day after class.
He wasn't the only one to seriously question the moral issues of using baker's specially formulated fats. This moral dilemma question by a pastry chef sums up why you might like to find ways of producing your own beautiful pastry products at home. His extraordinary public questioning might just be of huge service to many people.
Now for the butter shortcrust pastry!
1. Use 2 cups flour in a large bowl.
2. Add 7 oz ice cold butter, cut into cubes
3. Now cut the butter into the flour, using a dull knife, or a pastry cutter. You need to leave pea- sized little lumps of butter, but all the flour should be coated with the fat. This is what gives you tender pastry, because it stops that stretchy gluten protein from developing.
4. Mix the following together lightly with a fork.
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbs white vinegar
6. Divide the mixture in half, flatten with your hands, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge while you make your filling, whatever that is!
A couple of notes
It's important to know that one of the basic principles of pastry making is to ensure it is cool in the making, and hot in the baking!
Now this is a recipe requested by my webmaster, femmeflashpoint of flashPress. She wants my butter tarts!
I make these very tiny most of the time, just one mouthful, but in spite of my best efforts to save people from themselves, they always seem to need more mouthfuls for proper appraisal! I don't make them very often, but they are wonderful.
Butter tarts - the filling
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted (NOT margarine)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1 cup organic corn syrup
optional 1/3 cup raisins or 1/3 cup pecans, or just use none of these.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Mix the brown sugar into the melted butter. I use a 4 cup measuring cup for this. Then I just add all the other ingredients.
3. Add the vanilla, vinegar and lemon or lime juice.
4. Beat the eggs lightly and add to mixture; add corn syrup. I use a kitchen scale for this, and just add the syrup until the weight is right ( 12 fl. ozs)
5. Sprinkle optional ingredients into the bottom of each shell
6. Ladle the filling into the tart shells, filling about 2/3 of each shell.
7. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until the filling is just barely set.
8. Allow to cool before tasting!
Below is a slide show depicting fresh tarts from start to finish, made before sunrise this morning!
Thank you for your visit today and I hope you'll enjoy making and sharing these wonderful pastries as much as I do!