Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shortcrust Pastry

I can say with some conviction that I'm not a tart. Some people may beg to differ. Let's ignore them.

I can also say, with perhaps even more conviction, that I love a good tart. Sweet or savoury, lunch, dinner or in between, home-made or bought from a fine patisserie.

The quantities for this pastry come via Damien Pignolet's 'French'. Stephanie Alexander's recipe has the exact same quantities...and she pays tribute to Damien Pignolet for them. Go figure. Where these two masters and yours truly part ways is on the method. They go for adept fingers and flour-covered benchtops and the delicate sprinkling of chilled water over lovingly hand-caressed butter-flour crumbs.

I go for the Magimix.

If I was a more useful blogger, I would have made both versions and compared the results, then given you a blow-by-blow description of why one is better than the other.

But all of that is just academic when you have a $600 piece of equipment in the kitchen capable of doing the job in a quarter the time with an eighth the effort, and still produces a delectable result.

So here is how I make my shortcrust pastry.

You need:

240g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
180g unsalted butter, diced
3-4 tablespoons cold water
1 food processor

Put the butter, flour and salt into your food processor and blitz till it looks like breadcrumbs.

Add the water gradually, say, starting with two tablespoons. Blitz between additions until you have a wettish-dryish crumbly mixture that comes together when pressed between your thumb and finger. I think this is the trickiest bit. I've seen pastry made on TV where they add liquid and process it till it comes together into a smooth ball. I always stop at the press-togetherable-but-still-crumbly point and always end up with flaky pastry. I think the 'science' is the more water and the smoother the dough, the less 'short' your pastry will be. And you want it short. Yes, smooth dough is easier to work with, to roll, to handle. But it won't be as short. And you want it short.

That said, I almost always need the full 4 tablespoons of water, and sometimes a few drops more.

Tip it out onto the benchtop and bring it together into a flat disc. You can knead it to make it smoother at this point. Don't go overboard. Short, remember.

Wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. You can see from the photo above that my mix is still quite crumbly. I like to live life on the edge.

Now it's time to roll.

 See how you can see the little bits of butter in the pastry? This is a good thing.

Using only enough flour to prevent it sticking, roll out your pastry to about 3-5mm thick. You will find, as I often do, that it will split on the edges. Feel free to patch it up. Once it is the right size and thickness, roll it back onto your pin then unfurl it gracefully over the top of the tin. Ease the pastry down into the tin, pressing gently against the sides, working all the way around. Cut or press off the excess. Admire your work. Then line the whole thing with foil and whack it into the freezer for 20 minutes while you preheat your oven.

This recipe is enough to line two 20cm tins, so I often leave one in the freezer for another day. Just wrap it in plastic as well as the foil. (20cm is quite dainty, however, so you'll have plenty for a larger tin here too).

It's time to blind-bake. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Take the foil-lined tin from the freezer and fill it with pastry weights, beans or lentils. My 'baking' lentils have been going strong for about five years now. 

Place the tin on a baking sheet and put it into the oven for about 15 minutes, then pull the foil back to see how it's going. If the pastry still looks quite raw, give it another five minutes. If it's 'setting' and looking firm, pull out the tin, remove the lentils and foil, then return it to the oven to brown. You want a lovely tan colour and delicate crispiness. It'll need at least another five minutes, but watch it closely.

This particular day, my pastry shrunk quite a bit, which wasn't a problem. To avoid it, I've seen some cooks leave the pastry a few centimetres higher than the tin, then cut off the excess with a bread knife once it has been baked.

It's amazing what you can achieve with some butter and flour, a pinch of salt and a few splashes of water. 

Now go and make this tart.


  1. Oh I LOVE pastry! I make a traditional quark pastry my grandmother used to make and I just can't get enough of it! Thanks for sharing this, I have always wanted to know how to make beautiful shortcrust pastry.

  2. Okay, this is pretty amazing ... this is exactly how I've been making pastry crust for YEARS! Great photos -- you had my mouth watering! Oh, and I love pie in the summer.

  3. This looks amazing! Great photos. My mum always drummed into me "half fat to flour" for pastry but I see yours uses more butter. Which is good in my book as I love butter. It looks perfect and delicious. I tend not to make pastry much but I must try harder!

  4. My my, you and I have a lot in common. There is nothing I love more than short buttery pastry. OK, I lie. Warm bread with salty butter. But it's all the same. I blitz too, by the way. Been a very long time since I did any rubbing between the fingertips. Hope you have a lovely weekend Greer.

  5. Yummy, it looks great! I prefer making my own pastry too. Shop bought pastry just never tastes as good but it is useful when I'm in a hurry! x


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