For many bakers, making pastry is one of life's great pleasures. Whether it's a tart or pie, there are a few secrets that can help you get a successful shortcrust pastry every time.
Before You Start
As with most baking projects, it's important to start off well prepared. It makes the entire process much easier and quicker. First, you'll need to choose your recipe and familiarize yourself with the steps involved. Depending on how you prefer your shortcrust or what you'll be using it for, you can use a basic pastry recipe or a rich pastry recipe with a little sugar.
Take some time to gather all of your ingredients to ensure you have everything needed. For consistent results, it's also best to weigh everything, especially the flour and butter. A little more or less of either ingredient can throw off your crust.
If you are not sure how much pastry to make, check the pastry calculator.
Gather Your Equipment
Next, gather all the equipment you will need. Again, having everything on hand means you will work more quickly. It helps avoid digging through the cupboards for something when you're in the middle of a crucial step or when your hands are covered in flour. It will also help your pastry turn out great.
For most shortcrust recipes, you will need:
- Large baking bowl
- Rolling pin
- Dinner knife
- Flat spatula
- Plastic wrap or cling film
Watch Now: How to Make a Perfect Shortcrust
Keep Everything Cool
There is an old saying that cold hands make good pastry. The first golden rule of making shortcrust pastry is to keep the ingredients, the bowl, the surface, and your hands as cool as possible. When the pastry mixture becomes too warm, the end result is a greasy and/or heavy, dull finished pastry crust.
- Run your hands under cold water before starting to mix pastry.
- If the butter or lard warms up too much (like on a hot day, for example), pop it in the refrigerator from time to time.
- Roll pastry on a cool surface (a marble slab is perfect) dusted with flour.
Don't dawdle when making pastry. It will turn out better and ensure you get a lighter, crisper pastry if you work quickly. This is why the previous suggestions for assembling your ingredients and equipment before you begin and keeping everything cold are so important.
Rest, Rest, and Rest Again
Once the pastry dough is made, it must be wrapped in plastic wrap or greaseproof paper and rested in the refrigerator for a minimum of 15 minutes. Resting allows time for the gluten (proteins) in the dough to relax.
If you attempt to roll the dough right after mixing it, it will be like trying to roll a sheet of elastic. It will roll, but seconds later it will shrink back to the original form. Likewise, once rolled, rest the pastry again. If you cook pastry that has been rolled and not rested, it will shrink in the oven.
Use a Hot Oven
Always put pastry into a preheated, hot oven (425 °F /220 °C/ Gas 7). If the oven is too cool the pastry will melt rather than cook.
Ensure a Crisp Bottom
No one wants a soggy bottom when their pastry is cooked. To ensure your tart or pie crust is crisp, place a heavy baking sheet in the oven while it is heating up. When you're ready, place the tart or pie directly on the heated tray.