RECIPE | Foolproof pastry with perfect crust

You won’t crumble if you follow these simple recipes by Angela Hartnett

Good pastry should melt in the mouth but not break down completely when you slice it – there is crumbly and then there’s just crumbs. Pastry-making is a great skill to have, but sometimes we can over-think it.

Give yourself time and follow the recipe: the trick is to allow it to rest and to roll it quickly to prevent it from drying out.

Working on a cold surface is also advisable.

For the salmon and watercress tart, recipe below, I like the pepperiness of it paired with the rich fattiness of the fish.

You can use spinach if you ­prefer. It’s a great one for brunch, lunch or dinner.

For dessert, the chocolate tart here is a portable dinner party essential.

The sweetness of the milk chocolate and the bitterness of the dark chocolate means it’s well balanced and not overly sugary, especially served with a sharp-tasting ice cream, crème fraîche or mascarpone.

Similarly, the tartness of the apple and blackberry tart in the gluten-free recipe cuts through the sweetness of the pastry.

Apple and blackberry pie with gluten-free pastry

Apple and blackberry pie is always a winner
Apple and blackberry pie is always a winner
Image: 123.RF.COM

Serves 6 to 8


For the pastry:

300g gluten-free plain flour, plus extra for dusting

2 tsp caster sugar

¼ tsp salt

135g cold butter, diced

1 large egg

For the filling:

3-4 apples (in SA try Granny Smiths), peeled, cored and sliced about ½cm thick (about 800g)

2 tbsp brown sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Zest of ½ lemon

200g blackberries

Milk, for brushing

Caster sugar for dusting

Double cream to serve


Sift flour with sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add butter and rub it in until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Whisk egg with enough cold water to obtain 100ml of liquid. Gradually add mixture to the bowl, mixing quickly to combine. The dough should be quite soft (gluten-free flour absorbs more liquid as it rests more than normal flour).

Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan) and put a baking tray in to heat up. Halve the chilled dough and roll out each half on a floured surface to 3mm thick. Use one sheet of pastry to line a 23cm pie dish, making sure pastry overhangs a little.

Place apples in a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest, and mix well. Tip into the dish and add blackberries, so you have a rounded mound of fruit.

Lay the other sheet of pastry over the top, trim edges and use a little water to seal them together, crimping as you go.

Make four or five slits in the pastry lid to allow steam to escape, and brush the pie with milk. Place pie on the preheated tray and bake for 10 minutes, then lower to 170°C (150°C fan). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until pastry is golden brown and nicely cooked.

Sprinkle with a little caster sugar and serve with double cream.

Salmon and watercress tart

Salmon and watercress tart
Salmon and watercress tart

Serves 6


For the pastry:

260g plain flour, plus extra for dusting (in SA use cake flour)

65g butter, softened

65g lard, softened

For the filling

350g salmon fillet, skin removed

1 bay leaf

1 wide strip of lemon rind

20g butter

2 small onions, finely sliced

180g watercress, roughly chopped (remove large stalks)

250ml double cream

2 medium eggs plus 1 medium egg yolk

1 tbsp finely chopped curly parsley


To make the pastry, sift flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add butter and lard, and use your fingertips to rub the fat into the flour until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add a little cold water – just enough to help the pastry bind together, about three tablespoons – and use a fork to bring the mixture together to form a ball. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly.

Form a ball and wrap in parchment paper. Allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 170°C (150°C fan). After chilling pastry, roll it out on to a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 25cm fluted loose-bottomed tart tin, allowing the pastry to overhang the edges (reserve a small amount of raw pastry – about the size of a walnut – in case you need to fill any gaps later).

Prick the base with a fork and line with baking paper. Fill with rice or baking beans.

Bake the lined tin for 15 minutes, remove paper and beans, and cook for a further 10 to 12 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Use a tiny piece of raw pastry to plug any gaps.

To make the filling, place salmon in a large saucepan with bay leaf and lemon rind. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, remove from heat and leave to stand for five minutes until salmon is just cooked.

Remove from the pan and allow to cool a little, then flake into large chunks.

In another pan, heat butter and cook onions until soft but not coloured – about 10 to 12 minutes. Add chopped watercress and allow it to wilt briefly.

Tip onion and watercress into the pastry-lined tin and scatter over the flaked salmon.

Whisk together the cream, eggs and extra yolk, season and stir in the chopped parsley. Pour over the salmon.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is just set.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Rich milk and dark chocolate tart

A rich chocolate tart
A rich chocolate tart

Serves 8


For the sweet pastry:

330g strong plain flour, plus extra for rolling (in SA use bread flour)

200g cold butter, diced

100g icing sugar

2 eggs, beaten

For the filling:

300g dark (70%) chocolate, broken into pieces

100g good-quality milk chocolate, broken into pieces

40ml liquid glucose

40g butter

500ml double cream

Whipped cream, to serve


Sift flour with a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add icing sugar and stir well.

Add the beaten egg to the bowl little by little, mixing to combine, adding just enough egg to bring the dough together into a ball (reserve the rest). Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan).

Roll chilled pastry out on a floured surface to 4mm thick. Use this to line a 24cm loose-bottomed fluted tart tin.

Using a small ball of excess pastry dusted with flour, press into each fluted depression to make sure pastry goes into the grooves.

Prick base with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with rice or baking beans, and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and take out the beans and paper – if base isn’t cooked, return it to oven without paper and beans for another five minutes.

Brush base and sides of the pastry with the reserved beaten egg and put back in the oven for two minutes to cook the egg and seal the tart.

Trim any overhanging pastry and set tin aside.

Place chocolate in a large bowl with the glucose and butter.

Heat cream in a pan until it just comes to a boil, then remove immediately from heat and pour over chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, then pour into tart case and place in fridge until just set.

Serve tart with whipped cream and berries.