Shortcrust pastry

Shortcrust pastry

By
From
Pie!
Makes
325g
Prep
10 mins
Photographer
Mike Cooper

Shortcrust is the simplest and most versatile of all pastries, and at its crumbly, crispest best it is delicious, but it can become a little tough and chewy if it’s overworked. The best pastry is made as quickly as possible with the minimum of handling. The basic ratio is half fat to flour, and whilst my recipe below uses 180g flour to 90g butter, the recipe can easily be scaled up or down to suit.

There are two main ways to make shortcrust pastry, the traditional rubbing-in (by hand) method that I learnt years ago from my mum, or the much faster and easier food processor method, which is how I make it most of the time these days. With a little care I think it is perfectly possible to make pastry in a food processor that is just as delicious as the handmade stuff. However, because food processors are so fast and efficient, there can be a tendency to over-process the dough, giving a tough and dense pastry, so just bear this in mind.

This is the basic quantity of shortcrust pastry I use to make pies, and one batch is enough to line a deep or shallow 25cm tart tin or 6 individual tartlet tins (each about 10cm diameter and 2cm deep) or 4 slightly larger ones (each about 12cm diameter and 3cm deep). A single batch is also enough for a single-crust pie top/lid. For double-crust pies, simply double the ingredient quantities to make a double batch of the basic pastry.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
180g plain white flour
A pinch fine salt
90g cold butter, cut into small cubes
3-4 tablespoons ice-cold water

Method

  1. Food Processor Method

    Put the flour and salt into the food processor and whizz briefly together to mix, then add the butter cubes and pulse briefly a dozen times or so until you have coarse crumbs. If you use the pulse function in very short, sharp bursts (rather than just leave it in the ‘on’ position) to rub the fat and flour together, then I think it works more like super fast fingers and there is less chance of overdoing it. Next, you trickle in the ice-cold water, whilst pulsing all the while, just until the mixture resembles rough lumps and looks a bit like overcooked and dry scrambled eggs. Add only as much water as you need. Don’t keep processing until the mixture comes together in a big ball as that will develop the gluten in the flour too much, so be sure to stop before you get to that stage.

    Tip the clumped crumbs onto a sheet of cling film and gently squeeze together into a ball without pressing too hard – little air gaps are a good thing and will add a lightness and crumbliness to the cooked shortcrust. Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

    Traditional Rubbing-in (by hand) Method

    The method is essentially the same, but your fingertips and thumbs work together to literally rub the flour, salt and butter together until you have coarse crumbs. Lifting your hands out of the bowl as you rub adds air. Then once again, add just enough cold water to bring the mixture together into clumps – I find a blunt table knife is best to use here, using it to stir and cut through the crumbed mixture as you mix. Again, tip the clumped crumbs onto a sheet of cling film and squeeze gently into a ball, then wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
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Pie
pies
pastry
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