Rich shortcrust pastry

Rich shortcrust pastry

By
From
Leiths How to Cook
Makes
enough to line a 24 cm flan ring
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

As the name implies, shortcrust has a short, tender crumb, and it is used in sweet and savoury recipes. The most important element of the technique is rubbing the fat into the flour, which coats the flour with fat and creates a fine crumb. The fat acts as a protector around the grains of flour and hinders the development of gluten, which would make the pastry tough. You should need only a small amount of liquid to bring the crumb together and make the pastry manageable. Using as little liquid as possible to bind the dough also helps to achieve a tender crumb.

Shortcrust is traditionally made with a combination of lard and butter. Lard lends a superior shortness but lacks the flavour of butter, so we generally use all butter.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
250g plain flour
pinch salt
140g butter, chilled
2 egg yolks
3-4 tablespoons water, chilled

Method

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Using 2 cutlery knives and working in a scissor action, cut the butter into the flour, keeping the 2 knives in contact. Using knives rather than fingers helps to keep the butter and flour cool.
  3. Once the butter has been broken down to small pea-sized pieces, use your fingertips to gently rub the little pieces of flour and butter together.
  4. Give the bowl an occasional shake to lift larger lumps of butter to the surface. The mixture should become a uniform fine, pale crumb with no visible lumps of butter. If the mixture begins to turn yellow, the butter is softening too quickly and you need to put the bowl in the fridge for 5–10 minutes to chill the butter.
  5. Mix the egg yolks and water together in a small bowl with a fork until evenly combined. Add 2–2½ tablespoons of the yolk mixture to the crumb and, using a cutlery knife, distribute the liquid as quickly as possible (this will create flakes of pastry).
  6. Pull some of the flakes to the side and feel them; if they are very dry, add a little more of the liquid to any dry areas of crumb and use the knife again. Don’t be tempted to add too much liquid, as it can make the pastry tough. Once you think the flakes will come together, stop adding liquid.
  7. Use the flat of the knife to bring a few of the flakes and dry crumb together, to create larger lumps. At this stage the pastry should be uniform in colour, not streaky. Continue like this until there are no dry crumbs in the bottom of the bowl.
  8. Pull the pastry together with your hands, shaping it into a flat disc, about 10 cm in diameter and 1.5 cm thick. Do this as quickly as possible, without overworking the pastry, which also makes it tough.
  9. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 20–30 minutes before rolling out. This will relax it and prevent too much shrinkage, as well as firm up the butter.

Variations

  • Herb rich shortcrust pastry: Add ½–1 tablespoon chopped herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano or sage to the crumb mixture before the liquid.

    Cheese rich shortcrust pastry: Reduce the butter to 110 g and add 30 g finely grated hard cheese, such as Cheddar or Parmesan, before the liquid.

    Wholemeal shortcrust pastry: Use wholemeal flour in place of plain, omit the egg yolk and use 80 g butter and 45 g lard. You will need a little extra water too.

    Plain shortcrust pastry: For a less rich pastry, use 80 g butter and 45 g lard and omit the egg yolks. It may be necessary to add up to 1 tablespoon extra water.

    Sweet rich shortcrust pastry: Add 2–3 teaspoons caster sugar before the liquid.
Tags:
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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