The next Great British Bake Off is about to start, and I don’t know about you but I love the show. In the last few series it has surprised me how so many of the contestants are not very good at pastry. It is such a valuable baking skill. I have often wondered why this is, surely all the best British Amateur bakers should have at least have mastered shortcrust pastry to a reasonable level.
Some people may be a little sacred of pastry but they really should not be. While you can buy ready made pastry (and I will confess when it comes to puff pastry I often do) I find that ready made shortcrust pastry shrinks more than my own homemade shortcrust, so I always make my own.
Short crust pastry is easy to make and is the first thing you need to make many delicious sweet and savoury pies and tarts so it is well worth matering. If you haven’t tried it before, follow my Recipes Made Easy How to Make Shortcrust Pastry guide and with a little practice you will soon be making perfect light crumbly pastry.
The secret of sucess
While shortcrust pastry is not difficult to make, it is important to follow a few basic rules . Always measure the ingredients accurately, keep the ingredients cool and do not over work.
- General rule of thumb for shortcrust pastry is to use cool ingredients and keep the pastry cool while making and resting. If you use butter straight from the fridge you may find it a little harder to rub in, so slightly warmer butter is fine. If it is too warm the butter will begin to melt as you rub it in and will make the pastry oily.
- Handle the pastry as gently as possible. Knead the pastry just sufficiently to bind it together Over working the pastry will develop the gluten in the flour resulting in a tough pastry. This is also true when making pastry in a food processor. As soon as it comes together to form a dough, stop processing as it can quickly become over worked.
- It is easier to add a little more water to pastry when bringing together to form a dough, than it is to rectify if you add too much, so add most, but not all, of the water. The amount of water needed may vary slightly from time to time.
- Once made many recipes say chill for 30 minutes. So long as the pastry hasn’t become too warm while making, I find 15 minutes in a cool place is sufficient. If you chill the pastry too much you may find it is hard to roll out.
- When rolling out the pastry, use the minimum amount of extra flour to flour to prevent the pastry sticking to the rolling pin or the work surface. If you use too much it will make the pastry dry.
- Do not stretch or pull the pastry when rolling as it will lose its shape when baked.
- Chill the pastry again before cooking. I find the chilling after rolling far more important if you want to avoid shrinkage, so don’t skip that step. Chilling now will harden the fat so that when the pastry is placed in a hot oven the flour will cook and hold the butter in position before it melts.
- Glazing the pastry will produce a shiny surface. You can use egg, beaten with a little water to loosen, Egg white or milk. Brush over the surface of the pastry just before baking and avoid making the pastry too wet.
Which Fats to use
- A basic shortcrust pastry is 1/2 fat to flour.
- Traditionally shortcrust pastry was made with half butter (for flavour) and half lard because that gives a “shorter”, crispy pastry.
- I rarely see lard in recipes but it is coming back in favour now that fat is no longer considered the source of all evil. I generally make my pastry with all butter as I like the flavour and this seems to be what most people prefer, but I am beginning to use lard again for some savoury bakes. All butter pastry does seem to be a little harder to handle.
- I use a lightly salted butter for all my cooking. If you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the pastry with the flour.
- You can make similar pastry using oil which is ideal if you want to make a pastry suitable for Vegans, though technically speaking it is not a shortcrust.
- The fat to flour ratio may vary according to the recipe to make a shorter, more crumbly texture or richer flavour but the method is the same. Pastry with a higher fat content or with added ingredients may become a little harder to handle. If you find them very soft and difficult to roll, try rolling between two sheets of baking parchment or cling film.
- For a sweet pastry, stir in a little caster or icing sugar after rubbing in the fat.
- An egg yolk instead of some of the water will make a richer pastry.
- Replace some of the flour with ground almonds or hazelnuts for a delicious sweet pastry.
- Wholemeal flour can be used but will give a heavier pastry and will require additional liquid.
- Shortcrust pastry can also be made with gluten free flours.
Uncooked pastry can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours and frozen if well wrapped for up to 1 month.
What to Make?
Why not test your pastry making skills with one of these fabulous recipes, there is something for everybody.
A Classic Quiche – Easy Cheese and Onion Quiche from Apply To Face Blog
A Savoury pie – Chicken and Mushroom Pie From Recipes Made Easy
Small Pastry Treats – Jam Tarts from Baking with Granny
Gluten free pastry – Apricot Tart from Wild Mama Wild Tribe
Vegan Bake – Beetroot and Lentil Vegan Pie from Only Crumbs Remain
wholemeal (spelt) flour – Rhubarb Galette from Tin and Thyme
Something for Christmas – well its too far off now but may be pinned for nearer the time 🙂 Mince Pies from Cooking with my Kids
**GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF ROUND UP**
As the Great British bake off will be in full swing next month I will be sharing a round up of Great British Bake Off inspired bakes. So if you have previously shared a bake inspired by Bake off or if this new series inspires a post drop me your links for inclusion in the comments.