There are three rules for working with shortcrust pastry - and any pastry, really:
- Keep the pastry cold
- Handle the pastry as little as possible
- Bake your pastry at the right temperature
When making pastry, you want to start with cold ingredients. That means cold butter and iced water.
Depending on the type of pastry and the method used to make it, you may need to start with frozen butter.
Making pastry in a mixer involves mixing the butter with sugar and flour on low until it turns into breadcrumbs. Then you should add the water slowly until it just comes together. Stop mixing before it becomes a smooth ball of dough.
Making pastry in a food processor is much faster, and involves pulsing the butter with the flour and sugar until your see breadcrumb consistency. Add the iced water slowly until it starts to form a ball.
If making pastry by hand, rub the butter pieces into the flour and sugar until no large lumps remain. Then add some of the ice water and cut through with a knife, mixing gently until it starts to come together.
Tips for Different Mixing Methods:
- If using a mixer, cut your butter into small cubes and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes before use.
- If using a food processor, cut your butter into small cubes and keep it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before use.
- If cutting the pastry by hand, cut the butter into small cubes, straight from the fridge, and use it right away.
- Always finish the pastry on the counter by gently pushing and moving it to a smooth ball. Wrap and chill for at least an hour before using.
Tricks to Keep the Pastry Tender
To ice the water, pour the desired amount into a measuring jug and fill it with ice. When making a small batch of pastry, you will typically use a tablespoon to add the water, which can be dipped into the jug.
Cold hands and a marble tabletop will help to keep the pastry cool, preventing breakage. Always handle the pastry as little as possible.
Lightly dust the rolling pin and work surface with flour and roll quickly, working with pastry straight out on the fridge and still cold. If working with a larger batch, cut into workable portions and keep the remaining pastry in the fridge until ready to use.
Start with the rolling pin in the center of the pastry disc and roll away from your body. Turn the pastry and work the other half.
Working in quarters, roll from the center out, making quarter-turns each time, until the pastry is the desired thickness.
Do not roll the edges down. Keep even pressure to avoid uneven spots.
Cut pastry with a knife or cookie cutter, not a blunt-edged instrument (like a glass). If cutting for a pie or tart, place the baking dish in the center and cut with enough over-hang to allow for the depth of the dish.
To blind-bake a pie or tart shell, place a piece of parchment inside the pastry case and fill it with baking beans, dried beans, or rice. Remove the beans and bake uncovered for the last ten minutes to ensure an even bake.
How To Make the Best Shortcrust Pastry for Pies and Tarts
- 500 grams Cake Flour
- 100 grams Powdered Sugar
- 250 grams Butter
- 2 whole Eggs
- 1-2 tablespoons Whole Milk
To make shortcrust pastry in a mixer:
- Cut the butter into small cubes and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
- Place the flour and sugar into the mixer and turn on low to incorporate.
- Add the butter and mix on low until there are no large lumps and the mix resembles breadcrumbs.
- Lightly beat the eggs and pour them into the mixer.
- Mix on low until the dough starts to form.
- Add the milk very slowly, stopping when the dough comes together.
- Finish bringing the dough together on the counter and press into a disc to chill until needed.