Tuesday, 16 February 2016

How To Avoid a Soggy (Pastry) Bottom

Now stop laughing because for many people  a soggy bottom is a real problem!

Only a few days ago a friend cooked a Tomato Tart using puff pastry but she was unable to get the bottom of the tart to cook. She asked my opinion on what she did wrong and how to avoid a soggy bottom with puff pastry.

Remembering back to my first few quiches, I suffered from a similar problem, although I used a shortcrust pastry. Then I learned about blind baking.


Blind baking isn't turning the oven on wearing a blind fold.

It is where you bake a pastry case for a short period of time  of the without a filling, to ensure the bottom of the pastry is cooked through.

To stop pastry on the base rising, it is necessary to prick the pastry base with a fork, cover it with baking or greaseproof paper and fill the cavity with dried beans or Ceramic Pie Weights. The shell is then cooked for a short time without the filling.

This method allows the pastry to cook right through to the bottom layer once the filling is added.

Ok we have learned that the hard way. But does this method work with puff pastry????


No matter whose recipe you read, there are arguments for and against blind baking puff pastry! In fact many chefs will not use puff pastry on the bottom of a filled pie because there is no guarantee that it will cook through.

As a rule, I blind bake all pastry cases; puff, flaky, shortcrust. The only exception is if I making very small puff pastry finger foods, where the filling is completely wrapped in puff pastry - then I bake it on a high temperature to ensure it's sealed and cooked quickly.


I called into my local bakery 'Banana Bogie' at Belair and spoke with baker Jason Spencer. I asked his opinion on puff pastry.  

One of the most important things to remember when using puff pastry, according to Jason is to make sure you cook pastry at the correct temperature; puff pastry needs to bake quickly at a high temperature, around 200º or higher depending on your oven. Also, you need to ensure that your filling isn't too wet, because this can also make for a soggy bottom.

Jason stated that most commercial bakers/bakeries would use two kinds of pastry to make pies; puff pastry for the top of the pie because it puffs up beautifully, gives a wonderful golden colour to the pie and is nice and flaky when you eat it. The other end of the pie is usually a shortcrust pastry, which holds the filling in and cooks right through to the base - so no soggy bottoms. How sneaky is this???

I have the recipe for the Tomato Tart that my friend made. I decided to give it a go with puff pastry too, but I did blind bake the pastry cases. I decided to make individual tarts, because that was more useful at the time.

(I've not included the recipe, because I don't have permission to re print it.) But, guess what? No soggy bottoms!

Now you might just disagree with blind baking your pastry and that is Ok. Whatever works for you is fine. But after a few years of failures, this works for me every time.

The recipe came from a book called "Delia's Happy Christmas' Cookbook. You may be able to search for it on line. Delia Smith did not recommend blind baking the pastry for this recipe.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Inspired By Plenty - Peach, Brazil Nut and Lavender Cake

Thank you Yotam Ottolenghi for your wonderful books 'Plenty' and 'Plenty More'. I have been very inspired by them.

'Plenty More' has an incredible array of vegetarian food, an exciting mix of ingredients and I have stolen a few ideas to try later. I was particularly interested in trying recipes for pomegranates and figs, basically because they go so beautifully together in taste and colour. I have absolutely fallen in love with Yottam's 'Smoked Beetroot with Yoghurt and Caramelised Macadamias'.

The Spiced Stuffed Potatoes Cakes were wonderful although I did cheat a little and use sweet potato mixed in with waxy potatoes. The herb stuffing inside these gave a nice little kick to the potato and teemed beautifully with the tamarind dip. I can see these ending up in my favourites file.

I've also made the Alphonso Mango and Curried Chick Pea Salad, an intoxicating blend of spicy cauliflower and sweet mango.

I am so loving trying this huge variety of vegeatables and I strongly urge you to get your hands on a copy of the book, you wont be disappointed.

However, it was the photo of the Apricot, Walnut and Lavender Cake that drew me in. I wanted to take a bite right out of the book. 

And as peaches were in abundance at the market, I decided to use Yoti's idea and make my own version of his cake, using ingredients I had in the pantry.

If you are a walnut lover, then check out the original recipe, I am sure the taste will be sensational. But as I can't eat walnuts I substituted brazil nuts. These have a little more oil in them and so the cake was very moist. 

I baked the cake to share with friends at our annual Australian Day celebrations. I think everyone enjoyed it.

Here's the recipe I used:

170g unsalted butter softened
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
200g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
3 eggs beaten
80g brazil nuts blitzed to a coarse powder 
90g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of a lemon
1½ teaspoons culinary lavender
6 peaches, stoned and quartered

For the icing;

50g sifted icing sugar
lemon juice

  • Place butter, sugar, oil and ground almonds in a bowl and beat together until soft and creamy. Add beaten eggs a little at a time until all are completely mixed in. 
  • Fold in sifted flour, brazil nuts, vanilla and lemon zest.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of lavender and a pinch of salt.
  • Line the base and sides of a 20 -23 cm cake tin, with removable base, with baking paper.
  • Pour in the cake mixture and level the top for the peaches.
  • Lay quarters of the peaches side by side, touching if possible, around the cake starting at the very edge.
  • Bake in a preheated oven 180º/170º fan forced/gas mark 5 for approximately 60 minutes. If the peaches brown too quickly, cover with foil. Cake is cooked when a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave to rest for 5 -10 minutes before turning out.
  • The icing can be made by adding lemon juice to the icing sugar to get a pourable consistency.  Brush this over the cake using a pastry brush and finish with a sprinkling of lavender.
  • Served warm, the cake is delicious.