1. Bring to room temperature
If your pastry has been resting in the fridge, remove it 30–40 minutes before using to allow it to come to room temperature as it will be easier to work with. Having said this . . .
2. Keep cool
Your kitchen, worktop and hands should all be cool when handling the pastry so that the fat in the dough doesn’t become too soft.
3. Watch the flour
Don’t add too much flour to the work surface. It’s tempting to coat the surfaces and pastry with a generous dusting of flour because it makes it easier to handle but adding too much flour can cause the pastry to dry out. Always brush off excess flour before folding or baking the pastry or roll it out between two layers of cling film to avoid using flour at all.
Always rest the pastry in the fridge after handling it to allow the fat to firm up again.
5. Chill fillings too
Make sure your fillings are cold before pouring into tart cases, covering with pie lids or wrapping in filo otherwise the heat will cause the fat to melt and lead to soggy pastry.
To add a lovely shine or deeper colour to your pastry, glaze the top before cooking. Different glazes create different effects: use egg whites for a very shiny finish, beaten eggs or egg yolks for a deeply coloured shine and milk or cream for a matt golden colour. For filo pastry, glaze with melted butter or a neutral oil.
7. Preheat the oven
Cooking pastry at the right temperature is vitally important; too cool and the butter will melt before the pastry becomes firm causing it to collapse, too hot and the pastry may burn before the filling is cooked.
8. Use the middle shelf
Placing the tart tin, pie dish or baking tray in the middle of the oven will allow the heat to circulate cooking the pastry evenly on the bottom and the top.