Rolling Dough




Pastry cutters.


Dozens of them.


Rattling around jostling for space amongst the cake tins and cooling racks that I have tossed, because I am mind crushingly bored of packing now and impatient to be finished with the job, so that they lie higgledy-piggledy, one on top of another, bare of a muffle of bubble wrap, in a huge cardboard box.  They will complain bitterly once we get moving, I can hear their clattering complaints already.


I stop throwing for a moment and eye them. I feel a bit guilty. They’d wink at me, the pastry cutters, if I used them more often; they’d be shinier if I did. As it is they’re crusted with a tired coat of rust.


I am going to use them more in my new home. I make a promise to myself. And to them. They’d smile back if they weren’t so lacklustre, so jaded by the tedium of dark back-of-drawer living, dejected, apparently long forgotten except by the cockroaches that scuttle between them in the middle of the night.


They hold, you see, in their scallop-curled-corners, such sweet memories of childhood. 


Mum made pastry on a board. She cooled her hands before she rubbed the butter into the flour; she ran the cold tap over the inside of her tilted wrists, to chill the blood to her hands, she said: the cooler her palms, the shorter the pastry, she explained.


We watched as she rolled the dough with a wooden rolling pin to smooth sleek sheet, our small flour dusted noses just peeping over the top of the kitchen counter, we watched as she deftly pressed down into the dough with a cutter and twisted sharply so that it gathered the perfectly executed shape between its edges and she could drop it into the soft hollows of a muffin tin. She wasted little; each cut made as close to the last as possible. No gaps.


When the muffin tin was full of shell-shaped pastry cases, my brother and I were given the scraps from which to fashion whatever we liked. We rolled and tugged and pulled until our own little piece of dough was grey from the grime of small hot hands.


“See, Robert, I’m making a snake, see, see? Ssssssss! It’s going to BITE you!” My brother squealed and rolled his own piece more energetically.


Mum filled the tarts with a careful teaspoon of strawberry jam. Glossy, fat red berries cushioned in scarlet jelly which slid from the spoon lazily. She filled the space perfectly so that it bubbled caramel but never boiled over or burned bitter black at the edges. We baked them and ate them hot with a dollop of farm fresh cream heaped on top.


Nobody made jam tarts like my mum did.


I am going to teach Hat how to.


As soon as we’re there. As soon as I’ve unearthed the pastry cutters I’ve made my silent pledge to.



12 Responses to “Rolling Dough”

  1. nuttycow Says:


    You’ve got me thinking about jam tarts now. Mmmm.

    I always think I should do more baking. I used to do it a lot when I was younger. But now I’m older, with a rented oven in a rented house, it’s not quite the same.

    You wait until I have my house in the country and my aga. Then I’ll invite you all round for tea!

  2. Roberta Says:

    This year, for Christmas, I treated myself to a brand new set. They are shiny happy copper nestled in a matching copper box. I leave it on the counter to admire, like some crazed crow looking at a shiny bauble.

    How I love them! (I’ve yet to use them…) But how I love them!

  3. Potty Mummy Says:

    How timely, RC. Boy #1 has his nursery year picnic next week and I have – somewhat foolishly, I admit – signed myself up to make 40 jam tarts. This was more due to the lack of anything else being left on the list (going away for 5 weeks in Australia does have some disadvantages, then) by the time I got to it than that I am a champion pastry maker. I hear the chiller cabinet and it’s ready made pastry calling me…

  4. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    Pastry cutters seem to be family heirlooms that no one wants to throw away! When we married I inherited some that are severely rusted, really small and very odd shapes; I expect they shall be passed on to one of our children and wander if they will ever be used again. I don’t even feel guilty looking at them. Growing up it was my job to make the jam tarts and I had a mug with a rim just the size of the muffin tin. Enjoy the jam tarts in your new house – perhaps I shall make some with the children this weekend – if I do we shall raise a tart to you!

  5. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    delicious nutty; it’s a date. can you make some scones too: am quite partial to those, with jam and cream too, of course.

  6. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    like some crazed crow looking at a shiny bauble.

    love that. they sound very pretty. nearly too pretty to use in fact?

  7. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    do mapesbury. make some jam tarts and think of us! how about play dough …? wouldn’t your family heirlooms make great play dough cutters? God i sound like retro 1950’s domestic goddess which so am not but do recall great pleausre my own got out of playdough. home made naturally, not because am DG but because could not source bought variety here. meant i had to keep checking it, lifting the lid on the tupperware in which it lived to make sure it hadn’t grown a smelly green fur coat …

  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Potty, dont m&s do a lovely little jam tart? couldn’t you take tiny leaf out of allison pearson’s i don’t know how she does it: buy some and simply knock the edges off in simulation of the real thing? then smile sweetly at crumbling jewel topped tarts and admit, ”yet, all my own work, what a sweat, a whole morning sifting, kneading and rolling out …” just a thought …

  9. Tom Says:

    Making and baking is one thing… it’s the eating I can’t do anymore. I find that it’s quicker to tape the tarts to my waist.

  10. Stacie Says:

    I remember a plastic sheet with red marks on it that my mom would use to make pastries as a kid…must have been measurements or some such thing…but it is a strong memory of spending time with my mom…so thanks for prompting me to jaunt down this particular memory lane…it was wonderful to be in the kitchen and she would often smudge my face with flour…

  11. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    me too Tom: tape the tarts to my hips. But its more to eat them first.

    Stacie, they’re good those memories aren’t they? but they only pop up with prompts now that I’m so addled and ancient (if my kids are to be believed). And packing prompts!

  12. Mozi Esme's Mommy Says:

    I have cupboards full of unused utensils etc. that I packed – determined to use them in this new house! Hope you’re more successful than I’ve been.

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