Sunday, 2 March 2014

Basic Recipe | Shortcrust pastry

This is a flaky kind of pastry for savoury tarts, very much like pâte brisée, and was the result of considerable experimentation. I had long been dissatisfied with pastry that had a ratio of half butter to flour as I found it hard to roll and not very tender, so I have slightly increased the amount of butter. The pastry is not particularly rich as I find that this enhances the taste of the filling. I also use the fraiser technique for blending the dough without overworking it.

~ Shortcrust Pastry ~

110 g unsalted butter, very cold and diced
200 g plain flour
pinch of salt
3-4 tbsp icy cold water
1 small egg yolk, for the glaze

This makes enough pastry for a 23cm tart tin or a 36cm x 12cm rectangular flan tin.

Dice the butter and put it in the fridge, together with the flour, for 30 minutes prior to making the pastry. I don't normally put it in the freezer as it hardens the butter considerably and makes it difficult to handle.

To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, add the diced butter and, using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, lightly rub the butter into the flour until it forms course breadcrumbs. Add the icy cold water, a tablespoon at a time, and using a knife or fork stir it in until the dough just comes together. The quantity of water will vary with different brands of flour.

Turn out the dough onto a clean surface and form into a rough ball.  Using the heel of your hand, push a small amount of the dough away from you flattening it. Gather the dough together and repeat as above 3-4 times until you get a round, soft ball - this will give it a flaky texture. You should not overwork the dough. Shape the ball into a flat disc or rectangle, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge ideally for a couple of hours or at least for 30 minutes.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for about 5-8 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry. If it starts getting sticky, sprinkle more flour on the surface and the rolling pin. Transfer the pastry into a lightly greased loose-bottom tin. If it breaks, just patch it up. Prick the base with a fork, cover with clingfilm and chill for about an hour.

To bake blind, half an hour before taking the pastry out of the fridge, heat the oven to 185 C.

Remove the pastry from the fridge, cover the sides with foil and place a large piece of crinkled baking parchment on top. Fill this with baking beans and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil, baking paper and beans, patch any cracks with left-over pastry and glaze with egg yolk beaten with a little water or milk. Bake for another 10 minutes or so until dry and lightly golden.

Use as directed by recipe.

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