Shortcrust pastry

I’ve always had cold hands, but since having my daughter I’ve regularly experienced Raynaud’s phenomenon, which leaves my hands white and bloodless. The only good thing about this is that I am now the perfect pastry making machine.

This week I made a spinach quiche and a peach pie, both using the same pastry recipe. I don’t like sweet pastry much and prefer to make a version of this shortcrust for almost every pie or tart, no matter the filling. I’ve used this pastry for everything from chocolate tart to quorn mince pie.

The quantities here are based on the standard size pack of butter in both the UK and Australia, so no measuring or weighing of butter is required. For me, the most annoying recipes are those that measure butter in cups. I takes so long to squish butter into a cup measure and then scrape it out again. I always envy American cooks who only need to count out sticks of butter in order to follow a recipe.  Here, 250 grams of butter will make enough pastry for two pie crusts or two big tart cases.

Shortcrust pastry

  • 340 g flour
  • 250 g butter
  • big pinch of salt
  • up to 60 mls or 4 tablespoons water (chilled for at least 30m minutes)

Sift the flour and salt into the centre of a clean work bench or marble slab. Remove the butter from the fridge and chop into small squares. Toss these in the flour and rub lightly between your fingers until the flour and butter come together and look almost like breadcrumbs. (Don’t try to get rid of every piece of butter; a few larger flakes of fat won’t hurt the pastry. Leaving them in will ensure that you don’t overmix and end up with a tough crust.)

Take the water from the fridge or, if you’re forgetful like me, put a couple of ice cubes in a small bowl of water for a minute or two and measure your fluid from that. Sprinkle the water a tablespoonful at a time into the flour and use the tips of your fingers to work the water into the flour and butter.  This step is more about bringing the dough together than it is about mixing or kneading. The dough should be soft, not sticky, and hold its shape. Once the dough holds together, cut and shape it into two balls, wrap in cling-film and refrigerate for an hour. (These balls can be frozen and then defrosted in the fridge for later use.)

Remove the dough from the fridge, and roll out with a rolling-pin on a floured work surface to about 1/2 centimetre. Flip the dough over two or three times during the rolling. Lift the dough, by folding it over the rolling-pin, and lay it over the pie dish or tart tin. Press down gently into the corners and trim the edges with a sharp knife.

Return the pastry case to the fridge for 30 minutes. Before baking, line the pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights. (I use a mix of lentils, rice and black-eyed beans that are very hard and small from being cooked so many times.) Bake blind in a preheated 200°C oven for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

You’re now halfway to a tart.


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