Although ready-made shortcrust pastry is readily available, nothing says “homemade” like homemade pastry. Making pastry is easy and your guests will appreciate the personal touch that has gone into your cooking.
Shortcrust pastry can be used for numerous sweet and savoury dishes including pies, tarts, quiches, flans and savouries.
The food processor method is the easiest and quickest way to make pastry. Although the pastry dough can be made in minutes using this method, it is important to allow adequate time for chilling of the pastry. Resting the dough in the refrigerator gives the gluten in the flour time to relax, thus preventing shrinkage when baking.
Ensure the dough mixture is handled as little as possible. If over-handled, the gluten in the flour will develop, resulting in hard-to-roll dough, shrinkage and a tough texture.
If you are using the pastry as a shell for a filling, it is advised to “blind bake”. Blind baking refers to the process of baking a pie crust or pastry shell without a filling. There are a couple of reasons why you might do this: to partially cook the pastry before adding a moist filling (such as custard) to prevent it from becoming soggy, or to cook it completely if the filling is not to be cooked with it (such as a chilled filling).
When baking blind, the pastry needs to be weighed down to prevent it from puffing up or losing its shape during the baking process. Line the pastry shell (base and sides) with baking paper and fill with dried beans, rice or pastry weights.
To partially bake, cook until the sides are just coloured. Remove the beans and baking paper and replace with the filling and cook according to the recipe instructions. For a fully baked pastry shell, remove the beans and baking paper, return the pastry to the oven and continue baking until the pastry is a rich golden colour.
Ingredients (enough to line a 22 to 26cm tart tin):
2 cups plain flour
150g cold unsalted butter, diced
Pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons iced water
1. Place flour, butter and salt in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs (about 30 seconds).
2. With the motor running, add enough of the iced water for the mixture to form a soft (but not sticky) dough. You may need to add a little more water than suggested depending on how much liquid the flour absorbs (each batch of flour is different and the quantity of water needed will vary). As soon as the dough starts to form a ball, stop the machine.
3. Remove the pastry from the food processor and place on a sheet of plastic food wrap. Lightly knead the pastry into a ball then wrap in the plastic food wrap and press into a flattish disc. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The pastry can be made in advance, but remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to rolling.
4. When ready to bake, unwrap the pastry and place on a lightly floured work surface. Dust the pastry lightly with flour and use a rolling pin to roll out to 3-5mm thick. Be careful not to use too much flour or the pastry will become dry. Another method is to roll the pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper to eliminate the need for flour.
5. Use the pastry as required and according to the directions in the recipe you are following.
6. To line a tart tin, drape the pastry over the rolling pin and unroll into the tin. Gently press the pastry into the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Should the pastry crack or split, patch up with pastry pieces moistened with a little water. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and prick the base all over with a fork. Refrigerate for a further 30 minutes. Blind bake as described above and proceed according to your recipe.
1. For a sweet pastry, add 2-3 tablespoons of caster sugar at step 1
2. For a richer pastry, decrease the water to 2 teaspoons and add a lightly beaten egg yolk at step 2.