An Easy Shortcrust Pastry
Every cook should have a basic short crust pastry recipe in their repertoire as it can be a lifesaver for making that last-minute quiche or dessert – and a good short crust is well worth its weight in lesser pastry.
Short crust pastry is called this because it’s intended to be friable, or crumbly. The “shorter” the crust is, the crumblier it will be.
Pastry is simply a quantity of flour with half its weight in fat mixed together with and bound with water. Traditionally, short crust is made by rubbing the flour and fat together to make something approximating breadcrumbs or oatmeal, then adding water to bind. But, as is the case with many pastry recipes, a lighter touch is better.
This recipe doesn’t require you to use your fingers – it’s all made in a food processor with a double blade fitted or a mixer with the flat paddle attachment. Rather than plain flour, this recipe uses Italian “00” flour, but I have also made it with with plain (all purpose) flour and have found the results are perfectly acceptable.
240gm (8.5oz) “00” flour
120gm (4.25oz) cold butter cut into 1cm (half inch) dice
Iced water with a dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt
23cm (9 inch) pie dish (this recipe makes enough to line and cover the pie)
Measure the flour into a bowl or freezer bag and add the cold butter, then put it in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Take it out of the freezer and put it directly into the food process or mixer and switch on low (slow to medium if you’re using a mixer) until the mixture resembles oatmeal.
Add the iced water, tablespoon by cautious tablespoon. Don’t add too much too quickly or you’ll have a mess!
When the dough looks as if it’s about to come together, but just before it clumps, turn the machine off.
Remove the pastry, still crumbly and form into two balls. Pop them into freezer bags and put them in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to rest. When it has rested, you’re ready to roll it out.
If you’re after a sweet short crust
To make the same amount of short crust pastry, but a sweet version, increase the amount of butter to 160gm (5.6oz). You will also need 60gm (2oz) of icing or confectioner’s sugar, two egg yolks and a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
Sieve the flour and sugar together, combine them with the butter as before and put them in the freezer for 10 minutes. Beat the egg yolks, vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of water in a small dish and a put it in the fridge.
Put the flour, sugar and butter in the food processor and switch on low. When it gets to the oatmeal stage, add the egg mixture to bind. You may need to add a little iced water, but don’t over do it!
Put it in the fridge to rest and that’s it!
Tips for “blind” baking
If you’re planning to put a liquid filling in the crust, you’ll need to “blind” bake it first. This means you cook, or partially cook the pastry so it doesn’t just become a squidgy mess in the pan.
You’ll need some beans or pie weights to weight down the center of the crust, otherwise it might rise up, ruining a perfect crust. I use plain white beans, but there are ceramic, glass or steel versions you can buy which do the same thing.
Once you’ve pressed the dough into your pie dish, place a sheet of baking parchment over it and fill it with the beans or weights. I cook mine in a warmer oven, set to 200 Celsius (390 Fahrenheit) then cook it first for 15 minutes. Then I take it out, remove the beans and cover the edges with aluminum foil – to keep them from burning – and put them back in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until it’s beginning to color. Note: if you’re using the sweet version, turn the oven down to 180C (350F) for the last ten minutes.