The Secrets to Making the Best Shortcrust Pastry
Making shortcrust pastry
Making shortcrust pastry is a delicate process which can be frustrating and the results less than desirable if not done properly. However, by following these simple baking tips you can make the most delicious shortcrust pastry from scratch and be sure your shortcrust pastry desert will be a success, every time. Also included in this article are recipes and instructions on how to make the basic Shortcrust pastry, Sweet shortcrust pastry, Rich shortcrust pastry and Food processor shortcrust, to fit a variety of dishes.
By following these simple instructions you will be able to make the best shortcrust pastry that you desire.
Shortcrust pastry (basic recipe)
This recipe makes about 375 g of shortcrust pastry, which is enough to line the base of a 23 cm pie dish, or just the top. Simply double the recipe to make 750 g of pastry.
To make 375 g of shortcrust pastry you will need:
250 g (2 cups) plain flour
125 g chilled butter chopped into small pieces
2-3 tablespoons iced water.
To line the top and base you will need 600 g of pastry, and for this you need:
400 g plain flour
180 g chilled butter chopped into small pieces
3-4 tablespoons iced water
Sift the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt into a large bowl. Sifting the flour aerates the cough and helps make the finished pastry crisp and light.
Add the chopped butter and rub it into the flour using your fingertips (not your palms as they ted to be too warm) until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. As you rub the butter into the flour, lift it up high and let it fall back into the bowl. If applicable, stir in the other dry ingredients such as sugar (f making sweet pastry).
Make a well in the centre, add nearly all the water and mix with a flat-bladed knife, using a cutting rather than a stirring action. The mixture will come together in small beads of dough. If necessary, add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Test the dough by pinching a little piece between your fingers - if it doesn't hold together, it needs more water. Use just enough to hold the pastry together - if it is too wet it will toughen and may shrink on baking; if too dry, it will be crumbly.
Gently gather the dough together and lift out onto a lightly floured surface. Press the dough into a ball and then flatten it slightly - don't knead or handle the dough too much.
Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes - this makes it easier to roll out the dough and helps prevent shrinkage during cooking.
Sweet shortcrust pastry
Follow the directions to make the shortcrust pastry in the basic recipe and add 2 tablespoons caster or icing sugar after the butter has been rubbed into the flour. If preferred, you can also add egg yolks to enrich the pastry (see rich shortcrust baking tips below).
Rich shortcrust pastry
This pastry is often used for fruit pies, flans and tarts as it gives a richer, crisper crust.
To transform a basic shortcrust pastry into a rich one, gradually add a beaten egg yolk to the flour with 2-3 tablespoons iced water. Mix with a flat-bladed knife, as described in the technique for shortcrust pastry in the Shortcrust pastry know-how above.
Food processor shortcrust
Shortcrust pastry can be made quickly and successfully with a food processor. The obvious advantage is its speed but, also, you don't handle the pastry much so it stays cool.
Process the flour and cold chopped butter in short bursts, using the pulse button if your machine has one, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. While the processor is running, add a teaspoon of water at a time until the dough holds together. Process in short bursts again and don't overprocess or the pastry will toughen and shrink while cooking. You will know you have overworked the pastry if it forms a ball in the processor - it should just come together in clumps.
Gather it into a ball on a lightly floured surface, flatten it into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.