This shortcrust pastry would be ideal for savoury flans or tarts. Foods that have overly sweet fillings would benefit from having an unsweetened pastry much like this one. People are so scared and worried about making pastry themselves and I want to demystify the process showing you how simple it really is. Hopefully you’ll never buy ready-made shortcrust pastry ever again.
There is an argument over using margarine and butter for pastry and pastry is one of the only times I will use butter because it solidifies when refrigerated, meaning the pastry becomes easier to roll. We always try to refrigerate pastry because this not only sets the fat, making it easier to roll, but it also relaxes the gluten and this prevents the pastry shrinking back in the oven. You’ll see some people complain about making pastry saying that “their hands are too hot”. As long as you chill the pastry sufficiently between each stage, or as directed in the recipe, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
Unlike bread, we do not want gluten to form; shortcrust pastry gets its name from the fact that the gluten strands are short, making a crumbly melt in the mouth pastry. This is just one aspect of making pastry that puts people off as you are quite tempted to overwork the pastry, meaning it is tough and rubbery. My tip to prevent this is to cut the butter into small cubes so it is easier to work into the flour.
To bind the flour and butter together, usually an egg or cold water is used. In smaller quantities of pastry, water is the better option as the egg may make the pastry too wet. Remember that any form of liquid should be gradually added to reduce the risk of the pastry being too wet. This means that the food processor is the essential bit of kit for making shortcrust pastry as the flour and butter can be made into breadcrumbs before being combined by the liquid added through the funnel. Of course if you do not have a food processor, copy the instructions below except using your own hands and a large bowl.
150g plain flour
75g cold butter, cut into 5mm cubes
2-3 tbsp ice cold water – this amount could vary so have extra water on hand in case
- Place the plain flour into a food processor. Add the cold cubed butter and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- With the processor running, add the ice cold water tablespoon by tablespoon until the pastry comes together into a dough.
- Turn out the pastry onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for about 20 seconds until it is smooth on the outside.
- Wrap the pastry up in clingfilm and press it out into a disc. Chill until required.