Rest And Chill Well . . .

The subject of the making of pastry and pastry products is a very emotive one. It can split families, alienate life-long friends and divide countries! As with anything that has deep cultural, sociological and political (yes, I did say political) roots the contest for ‘best of best’ can become murderous.
The production of a fine, soft, melt-in-the-mouth pastry is an art to die (if not kill!) for! And from my ongoing researches into old and antique recipes there is no obvious proof that a recipe from 1912 is in any way better than one from 2012 or vice-versa!
While the basic ingredients have changed very little over the centuries (flour, fat, water) the quality of those ingredients has improved beyond all recognition. My post on the evolution of pastry covered a very basic history and the examples I gave there from the mid-fifties used the new ‘margarine’ Less than four decades earlier ‘margarine’ had been regarded by most credible cooks with distain as a cheap, greasy and foul tasting alternative to butter or even it’s cheaper cousin, lard!
Making pastry is as much about feel as recipe, as much about experience as knowledge.
It cannot be manhandled and trampled like bread dough or pulled and folded like Edinburgh rock or so it will become! Bread or rock! The true art of pastry making is in cool hands and a cool head. And, like the majority of us it will work better when well rested and chilled. With minimal handling (especially by those of us with a high metabolic rate and thick fingers that are consistently warm) and accurate moulding the quality of the pastry will improve beyond expectation.
The recipes given here are from a magazine supplement from the thirties and it is interesting to note a recipe for a sweet/savoury tart (above left) in a ‘relatively modern’ publication. Such concoctions belong to a much earlier, but arguably less chill, time!

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