“What – make pastry from scratch?” you exclaim. “Why bother? Life’s too short – buy it from the supermarket!” you cry.
Well, sure you can. But, given a little practice and confidence, the quality of the stuff from the supermarket cold cabinet won’t hold a candle to what you’ll produce in your own kitchen. Home made’s also cheaper and pastry dough freezes well – so if you get yourself organised, you can knock up several batches for later.
Tips for really good basic shortcrust:
- Pastry hates heat – make sure all your ingredients and your hands are COLD!
- Pastry loves air – it’s important to aerate the flour as you make the dough
- If you have a food processor it’s easy peasy – basically, just “dump & blitz”
- Or by hand, keep your hands cold and high and you’ll have no problem
- The ratio of fat to flour is usually 2:1 (i.e. twice as much flour as fat)
- Shipton Mill Organic Cake flour is really good for pastry
- President Unsalted Butter has a low water content so makes great pastry
- Using all butter produces the best flavour
- Adding a proportion of vegetable shortening/lard produces a crumblier crust. You could use all butter for a sweet crust and mix of butter and shortening for a savoury crust
- Never, ever, ever use margarine.
- Wetter’s not better! For a tender, crumbly pastry use only enough liquid to bring the dough together. Sticky dough = heavy pastry
- Gently does it. Pastry dough isn’t bread dough – don’t knead it
- You don’t have to use an egg but, especially for sweet pastry, it enriches the dough
- For savoury pastry, adding fine grade semolina to the flour gives a lovely extra “crunch”
- Pastry needs to rest in the fridge*, so the gluten can relax before rolling it out, or it will shrink back in the oven
* If you’re making a tart case to bake blind, resting your dough-lined tart tin in the freezer for 30 mins before you bake it blind helps prevent shrinking (see Technique: Lining a tart tin and baking blind)
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
Depends on what you’re making of course, but the quantities below should give you enough for:
- Top and bottom of one 23cm pie
- Two 23cm tart tins or 6x 12cm individual tart tins
- 300g plain flour
- 30g fine semolina
- 130g cold butter + 20g vegetable shortening (or lard)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp ice cold water
- 300g plain flour
- 150g cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 20g unrefined caster sugar
- I medium egg
- 1-2 tbsp ice cold water
- Sift the flour (+semolina) and salt (+sugar) together into a large mixing bowl. Cut the cold butter into 1cm dice and add to the flour.
- With cold hands (or a pastry cutter), rub (cut) the butter quickly into the flour, lifting the flour high to aerate the mix. Stop when you have coarse breadcrumbs.
- Sprinkle 3 tbsp of the iced water (or whisk the egg with 1 tbsp of the iced water)over the crumbs, mixing everything quickly but lightly, with the fingers of one hand (or a palette knife) until the mixture starts to come together in clumps.
- Put the flour (+semolina) and salt (+sugar) into the bowl of the processor and blitz for a few seconds to aerate.
- Cut the cold butter into 1.5 cm dice and add to the bowl. Pulse very briefly and stop when you have very coarse breadcrumbs.
- Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the the iced water (or whisk the egg with 1 tbsp of the iced water) over the crumbs. Pulse until the mixture starts to come together in clumps.
- Which ever method you use add more water cautiously, if you need to.
- Making sure your hands are cold, tip the dough onto your work surface and squeeze it gently together until it comes into ball. Shape it gently into a flatish round about 3cms high, wrap it in cling film and leave it in the fridge for at least 45 mins to relax before rolling out.