Making Shortcrust Pastry
This is the easiest pastry to make. It is versatile and can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes. Shortcrust pastry is a mixture of flour - usually all purpose/plain flour and a fat, either butter, lard or a mixture of both. These are bound together with either cold water or with egg for a richer pastry.
There are so many myths that making shortcrust pastry is difficult. It is not. There are a few golden rules, and once you have cracked those, you will not struggle, rather you will be very happy with the results. There is nothing better than a crisp, light, melting pastry.
If you have ever wondered ust how much pastry to make, you can use this handy Pastry Calculator to work out just how much pastry you need to make. Not that you can ever make too much. Pastry freezes so well so no excuses for not having some handy.
Here are my 9 tips to making great pastry, if you know of any I have missed, then please feel free to let me know. You will find a link at the bottom of the page marked user answer to send me your handy tips. I look forward to them.
Golden Rules for Making Pastry
- There is an old saying that cold hands make good pastry. The first golden rule of making shortcrust pastry; keep the ingredients, the bowl and the hands as cool as possible.
- In the US, mix equal quantities of all-purpose flour with cake flour to create a lighter pastry.
- Always sieve the flour to add extra air and lightness to the pastry.
- Work quickly, this keeps the pastry cool and prevents the gluten in the flour developing too quickly – which will make the pastry too elastic and difficult to roll, cause shrinkage, and create a tough end result.
- Handle as little as possible. Too much handling will make the fat soft and the pastry greasy.
- Always wrap the pastry dough in clingfilm / plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes if possible.
- Chill again after rolling out to prevent shrinkage in the oven, this will relax the pastry before cooking. Failure to do this means the pastry will shrink when cooking.
- Roll pastry on a cool surface (a marble slab is perfect), dusted with flour. Also, lightly dust the rolling pin with flour to prevent sticking.
- For a crisp base on tarts and pies always cook on a preheated baking sheet in the oven.