Wednesday 11 January 2017

Shortcrust Pastry

A while ago, I went over to using a food processor to make shortcrust pastry. Rubbing in by hand is OK, but time-consuming, and if you have hot hands (I do), you won't really get the best results. Making shortcrust in a food processor is much quicker, and you get far more consistent results.

The other option you have in making shortcrust is what type of liquid you add. I find beaten egg again gives more consistent and malleable results...this recipe was for a fairly large batch (enough to line a very deep 23cm tin, with a bit of overhang), and I also needed to add a small amount of cold water as well as a large egg, though a smaller batch may not need this.

My take on pastry is it's always better to make too much, rather than too little. The base ingredients are cheap, it keeps well in the fridge, and it's probably one of the most flexible ingredients...I often use any left-overs to line a smaller tart tin (I have some 12cm ones), and use that to experiment with ingredients and recipes, before committing to a full-size bake.

Shortcrust Pastry - Recipe


  • 300g plain flour
  • 130g butter, chilled
  • 1 large egg, fridge cold
  • Water, fridge cold
  • 1 tsp salt
1) Put the flour and salt in a food processor with a blade attachment

2) Chop the butter up into chunks, and add to the food processor

3) Pulse the mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

You can do stages 1-3 in a large mixing bowl, and "rubbing" the butter into the flour. If you do this by hand, you want to add as little heat into the mixture as possible, so use just your fingertips, and carefully hunt down chunks of butter and rub them into the dry flour. You're looking for a breadcrumb texture, and the finer you can make it, the shorter your pastry will be. I'll be honest, a food processor is quicker!

4) Beat the egg, and add it into the food processor, while continuing to whizz and pulse.

5) The dough should come together...if it remains crumbly, add water a few drops at a time until it just starts to clump together

6) Turn the dough out onto a surface (or, I use a large mixing bowl, as it's easier to clean). Knead the dough a few times to bring it together to a smooth dough. Stop kneading as soon as the dough forms (it really shouldn't need more than 3 or 4 kneads...less really is more).

7) Flatten the dough to a disc with your fingertips, and wrap in cling-film

8) Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to allow the dough to rest. This should reduce shrinkage when you roll the pastry

This dough recipe was used for a quiche in an extra-deep 23cm tart tin, rolled to about 3-4mm thickness.

Rolling Pastry and lining a tart tin

1) Unwrap the chilled dough and place it on a slightly floured surface

2) Roll away from you, occasionally rotating the dough 90', until you have a disc about 3-4mm thick . My preference is to use batons to get it down to 5mm thickness, then roll it gently to a slightly thinner disc. It's always worth checking the size you're rolled out to by placing your tin in the middle, and checking that there is enough around the edge to line the sides

3) To line the tin, I prefer to take the base out, and then fold the pastry into a square (by bringing the edges over) to sit on this, then placing it into the tin.

4) Carefully tuck the pastry into the don't want to stretch the pastry up to the edge, but rather push the pastry down into the corners. Use a lump of spare pastry to push the pastry into the corners, and to fit the sides of the tin. Again, you don't want to be stretching the pastry, as it will shrink back when baking (and possibly tear).

5) Prick the base of the pastry with a fork. This is to stop any air bubbles forming when you bake it.

6) Don't trim the edges yet...leave these until you have baked the pastry, as then if the pastry does shrink back, you don't lose any height, and can trim it neatly.

Blind Baking

There are 2 reasons to blind bake;
1) To make sure the base is cooked, stopping wet ingredients soaking in (the dreaded soggy bottom)
2) Often, fillings are baked at a lower temperature to pastry. A savoury shortcrust bakes at 200'C, while an egg mixture (such as quiche) will probably be down at 160'C.

When you blind bake, you need to add some weight to the pastry, to avoid it rising, and to get a nice flat pastry lining. Traditionally you use baking parchment weighted down with baking beans (small clay marbles). I prefer to use cling-film, and a mixture of baking beans and dry's a little controversial (most cling-film says it's not to go in the oven), however the combination of a thin liner, and smaller weights means you can get a much sharper shape to the pastry.

If you do use cling-film, you need to be careful when removing the baking beans and dried rice, as cling-film can split, dumping all the rice into your tart tin (had it happen, it's a nightmare!). I'd recommend scooping as much as the beans and rice out with a serving spoon before lifting and removing the cling-film.

My other recommendation is to glaze the pastry with an egg wash when you remove the cling-film and beans...this once again has 2 purposes;
1) During the second phase of the blind-bake, this will brown off, giving a pleasing colour to the inside of the pastry
2) It seals the pastry, closing any small cracks, and preventing any leaks of the filling

So, with this in mind, the process for blind-baking is;

1) Pre-heat the oven to 200'C

2) Line the tart tin with cling-film, filled with baking beans or dry rice, ensuring that the weight is pressed into the corners, and is also pushing against the sides

3) Place the tart tin on a baking tray (this makes it much easier to handle getting in and out of the oven)

4) Bake the pastry for 12 minutes

5) Remove from the oven

6) Scoop out the baking beans and rice using a dessert spoon (careful, it's hot!)

7) Carefully remove the cling-film and any remaining rice/baking beans.

8) Using lightly beaten egg, apply a light wash to the inside of the pastry case

9) Return to the oven for 7 minutes...the pastry should turn a golden brown.

10) Remove from the oven to a wire rack

11) Using a sharp knife, trim the edges of the case to a neat flat edge

You can now add fillings, and bake again if required, based on whatever recipe you are using.