Shortcrust pastry that melts in your mouth

Shortcrust pastry is the simplest to make, so let's start our pastry making section of the site with this. We will cover different types of pastry such as flaky, puff and choux on other pages of the site.

My American friends may not have heard this term before, but basically this short crust pastry is similar to your pie crust recipe, lower down the page, apart from a slight difference in the type of fat used and the method of mixing.

This page offers both a basic shortcrust and a rich shortcrust variation.

Tips for shortcrust pastry making

Keep your cool! By this I mean work in a cool environment, or put the air conditioner on, and leave the oven off until the pastry is made.

Keep the ingredients cool. Take the fat out of the fridge before getting started, so that it has time to soften very slightly but not get runny. It is easier to rub into the flour if it is cool (but not rock hard).

Don't over work it. Use a light hand to rub the fat into the flour, keeping your hands up above the rim of the bowl to get as much air into the mixture as possible. Stop as soon as the two are combined.


Add the correct amount of cold water. The recipe will give you a guide as to how much ice cold water to add. You don't want to skimp and end up with a dry, crumbly shortcrust pastry which is difficult to handle, and likewise, you don't want to make it too wet so that it looses its shape while baking.

Roll it out on a cool surface. A marble pastry board is perfection, but not too many of us can afford one of those I guess. So a good quality, spotless work surface will have to do, but try not to use an area that is in direct sunlight.

Stay cool. Chill the shortcrust pastry for 30 minutes after making it, before rolling it out.

Heat it up quickly. After emphasizing how important it is to keep everything cool, this one may surprise you. But when it comes time to cook your dish, you must ensure that the oven has been pre-heated to the required temperature. This sets the pastry in its correct shape straight away, and makes it easier to control the exact cooking time needed.

Basic shortcrust pastry recipe

Ingredients

  • 8oz (240g) plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4-6oz (120-180g) butter, margarine, lard or shortening (or a mixture of any two)
  • 3-4 tablespoons cold water

Method

  1. Sift the flour, with a pinch of salt, into a large, low bowl.
  2. Cut the fat into small cubes and add to the flour.
  3. Stir it around with a metal knife until the fat is covered in flour, then put the knife to one side and get your (clean) hands into the bowl! Scoop up some mixture in your hands and then, with your palms up, use your thumbs to rub the fat and flour against your fingers. You are aiming to produce something that looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Make a dip (or well) in the center of the flour mixture and tip in most of the water. Mix quickly with a knife, then as the dough begins to come together, use your fingers to press it into a ball. Add that remaining water if necessary.
  5. Turn the shortcrust pastry dough out onto your slab or work surface. Then knead it gently until it is smooth. Wrap the pastry in greaseproof paper or pop it into a bag, then leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes to cool before rolling it out.

Rich shortcrust pastry

The recipe above is ideal for savoury pies, flans and quiches, but for a sweet dish you may prefer to use this rich shortcrust pastry recipe.

Ingredients

  • 8oz (240g) plain flour
  • pinch salt (yes, even in a sweet recipe)
  • 6oz (180g) butter
  • 2 rounded teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2-3 tablespoons cold water

Method

  1. Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into the mixing bowl. As above, rub in the fat until you get to the breadcrumb stage. 
  2. Stir in the sugar. Mix the egg yolk with the water and then tip it into the flour, fat and sugar mixture. Mix into a dough as before.
  3. Again, chill for 30 minutes before using.

Basic pie crust recipe

If you live in the USA or Canada you are more likely to use all lard or shortening in your pie crust rather than a mixture of fats. In this case use the following recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8oz) all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup (5oz) lard or shortening
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Method

  1. Place the lard or shortening into a bowl, add a good pinch of salt and the water, and cream the ingredients together.
  2. Sift the flour on top and using a palette knife mix it into the fat to make a dough.
  3. Chill for 30 minutes and then roll out and use as required.


 


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