Kitchen Basics – Shortcrust Pastry
Making pastry can be more confronting for some cooks than a trip to the dentist, but it doesn’t have to be as torturous. There are some simple guidelines to making pastry that, if followed, gives good results every time.
I am going to give the recipes for two types of shortcrust pastry – the first is used for savoury dishes, such as a meat pie or a quiche. The second is a sweet shortcrust pastry, sometimes called a pâté sucrée
As the name suggests, it has sugar in it and is used in sweet treats such as a strawberry tart or a lemon meringue pie. Both pastries are made the same way and both respond well to a lightness of touch and keeping everything as cold as possible.
The number one rule for all pastry making is to remember to keep everything as cold as possible. A hot summer’s day is the enemy of good pastry everywhere. Pastry uses butter and water, and sometimes eggs – all of these ingredients should be kept in the fridge until you need it.
I make pastry in a food processor these days. If you want to rub butter into flour with your fingertips you can, but you must remember the second rule which is, don’t overwork the pastry. Work everything as lightly as possible. If using your hands you want to let the flour sift through your fingers like hot sand. You are not making bread dough.
And finally rule number three is let the pastry rest in the fridge before using. By allowing the pastry to rest, it is less likely to shrink away from the edges of the tart tin during baking. I generally chill the pastry for at least an hour before rolling it out and continuing with the recipe. The pastry then needs to be chilled again once it is lining the tin – at least another 30 minutes. I have often done this the night before and left the pastry lined tin in the fridge all day.
The following recipes give enough pastry to line a 22cm pie plate or tart tin and unless specified, are enough for most recipes on these pages.
120g plain flour; 60g butter; pinch salt; cold water from the fridge; 1 egg yolk (optional)
Sift the flour and salt into a food processor. Cut the cold butter into small pieces on top of the flour. Process for 20-30 seconds or until the butter is blended in and the flour looks a little coarse but not lumpy.
With the machine running, add either the egg yolk, OR cold water to the flour, one tablespoon at a time. About 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons should be enough. The more water you use the more it will shrink during cooking.
The moment the pastry starts to clump together into a ball, stop the machine. Remove the pastry, wrap it in cling wrap and pop it back into t he fridge for at least an hour.
If you are making the pastry by hand, sift flour and salt into a bowl, add the chopped butter and work as briskly as you can to rub the butter into the flour. Use your finger tips only. Add the water bit by bit as above. Wrap and chill the pastry.
SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY (Pâté Sucrée)
120g plain flour; 60g butter; 1 tbsp sifted icing sugar; 2 egg yolks
Sift the flour and icing sugar into a food processor and add the chopped up cold butter. Process for 20-30 seconds only then add yolks. Process until the pastry comes together in a ball, remove and chill thoroughly, at least 2 hours before using.