Shortcrust pastry used to frighten me. I saw it as this shrinking, fragile nemesis only to be conquered by professional chefs. In reality it’s so incredibly easy! It is really even easier to make than any cake. It’s super quick and in a few moments you have a crisp, golden, buttery piece of heaven! Not to mention all the possibilities for fillings and flavours!
Egg or No Egg:
I’ve tried a few different recipes over the years; some with egg, some without, some with only egg yolks. I prefer not to involve eggs because they can diminish the buttery flavour of pastry and make the pastry less short. I think eggs work extremely well in cheesecake pastry because you need that extra structure to carry the weight of the heavy cheesecake. I only use eggs inside pastry for practical purposes and when absolutely necessary.
I used to dismiss recipes as soon as I read the words “blind bake”. Oh it’s not a big deal at all! It’s so easy and straight forward. Important notes on blind baking that make it a breeze:
- Use heavy weight foil. It yields the best results and can handle the weight of baking beans etc. Remember to place the dull side of the foil on the pastry as it has non-stick properties. Always cut a generous piece of foil so there’s enough to wrap around the upper edges of the tin – otherwise the exposed pastry will cook faster than all the rest under the foil.
- Use lentils for “baking beans”. Lentils are smaller, so they get into those edges a lot better than large baking beans.
- When you have finished blind baking the shortcrust pastry, remove the lentils by scooping them out into a bowl. If you try to lift everything out in one go, the foil will tear.
This is my go-to recipe for shortcrust pastry. There’s no “rest for 2 hours or overnight” thing going on. You merely chill it for 15 minutes, roll it out (no resting in between), freeze it for 5 minutes, smooth it out, freeze it for 10 minutes and then bake it! I’ve also included step by step photos of the method I use to painlessly transfer the pastry to a tin.
You will need to use a loose bottom tin. I like to use a standard cake tin because I like a straight, smooth finish on my tarts, but you are welcome to use a fluted tart tin as well.
I love using Salted Butter in pastry. Most people prefer to use unsalted butter so that you can control the amount of salt that goes into your bakes. This makes a lot of sense and I actually agree, but with pastry, salted butter is just incredible. If you insist on using unsalted butter, then add 1/2 tsp salt to the recipe.
- 170 g Cake Flour
- 40 g Icing Sugar
- 110 g Salted Butter, ice cold
- 1 Tbsp Ice Cold water
- Place flour in a food processor. Cut the butter into a 1 cm dice and add to the food processor. Try to distribute the cubes of butter evenly in the flour so that they don’t stick together.
- Process on high speed until resembling fine bread crumbs.
- Add icing sugar and process for about 10 seconds on high speed.
- Add the water and process on high speed for about 15 seconds. The pastry will not form a ball inside the processor.
- Pour the crumbly mixture onto a work surface – do not add any extra liquid! Press all the crumbs together and work the pastry till smooth and silky. This should take only about 3 minutes. Form the pastry into a ball and squash it flat to a 2 cm thickness.
- Wrap the pastry in cling wrap and refrigerate it for 15 minutes.
- Cut a 30 cm x 30 cm square of non-stick parchment paper. Place the chilled pastry directly on the paper. Flour only your rolling pin and roll out to a 3 mm thickness roughly in a circular shape by turning your pastry 90 degrees after every second roll or so. The parchment paper makes it super easy to turn the pastry when rolling!
- Spray/butter the inside of your tin. Place the loose bottom face side down onto the pastry. Cut around the sides of the tin’s bottom and also at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock to divide the excess pastry into 4 strips.
- Remove the strips one by one and place to one side. Press down on the tin’s bottom so that the pastry squishes out slightly underneath. I find this little lip of pastry helps to combine the pastry on the sides with the pastry on the bottom.
- Flip the parchment paper and tin’s bottom. Peel away the paper.
- Drop your tin’s bottom back into your tin and fill in the sides of the tin with your pastry strips using your fingers. Do not worry about a smooth finish just yet.
- Preheat your oven to 180ᵒC/350ᵒF.
- Place your tin in the freezer for 5 minutes. Remove from freezer and smooth the edges and bottom with a metal spoon. Return to freezer for a further 10 minutes or until frozen solid.
- Line the entire tin with heavy weight foil (enough to go up over the sides. Leave no pastry exposed) and smooth it onto the pastry. Fill the cavity with baking beans (I prefer lentils).
- Bake in the center of your oven for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
- Remove the baking beans and then the foil. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Egg-wash the inside of the pastry with egg white only. This creates a nice seal on the pastry so that it doesn’t go soggy when holding a wet filling.
- Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 - 15 minutes, turning after 6 minutes. The pastry should be very lightly golden.
- Leave to cool completely and transfer to a cake board or special plate/stand if you wish – the pastry is stable enough to handle the transfer.
Thanks for reading! I’m quite confident that this shortcrust pastry recipe will become your go-to recipe as well.
Check in again tomorrow for the main post of this week.