Shortcrust Pastry
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Ingredients / Shopping List

200g plain white flour

100g block margarine

Water to mix

Prep Time:   0:15
Cook Time:   0:00
Serves:   0

Prep to Cook:   Mixing bowl, sieve, round blade knife, measuring jug, tablespoon, teaspoon, flour dredger, rolling pin

Prep:    Weigh the ingredients, the flour and the fat carefully, the proportion is important.

Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl

Dice the chilled block margarine (or butter)

Rub the fat into the flour using your fingertips, lifting the mixture to let it fall into the bowl.  This makes the pastry light and keeps the mixture cool. When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs stop rubbing in.

Add the water about 2 tablespoons at first and then more as required to make the crumbly mix become a pastry dough.  Use a round bladed knife to stir in the water to stop the fat from melting.  Use chilled water to keep the dough cool.

Once a dough is formed you can use you hands to make the dough form a ball.

At this point you can wrap the ball of dough with cling film and chill for 5 minutes.

Roll the dough on a floured board or table top.

Use for flan base for Quiche, Bakewell tarts, Jam tarts, mince pies or fruit pies.

For double crust pie – double the amount of pastry you make.

Check it out !

Check it out    Shortcrust pastry uses the ratio of half fat to flour.  Some people mix the fat using lard and margarine to create a shorter, crumbly pastry. Use for savoury or sweet tarts, pies and flans.

Cooks Know How: Shortcrust pastry is a classic recipe that demonstrates the working characteristics of flour, fat and water combined.  Raw dough is soft and pliable but once cooked at around 200C (Gas Mark 6) the properties of the ingredients are changed and the pastry becomes rigid and a darker golden colour. Shortcrust pastry starts its journey when the two main ingredients are combined by a technique that is important.  The fat (half the amount of the flour) is rubbed-in, either by fingertips or by a processor.  Rubbing-in means that all the flour grains become coated with a very thin layer of fat,  so that when the water is added it does not penetrate the flour grain immediately.  On cooking the water, surrounding the flour grains, turns into steam and lightens the pastry a little making it swell slightly. You can see that happening in the oven as you bake the pastry.  Inside each flour grain a protein called gluten also has an important job.  Firstly it becomes elastic in the dough and  enables the dough to be rolled out easily, but during cooking the pastry turns from pliable to rigid and firm as the gluten is denatured.  It is important to cook the pastry for long enough for the heat to change the gluten.  Flour also contains starch which during cooking, as the water turns to steam, is gelatinised so that the starch  does not taste raw.  You may also notice that the outer layer of the pastry changes colour in the oven.  This is because the drier starch, on the surface, dextrinises and turns a golden brown.  This golden colour indicates that the pastry is cooked, as does the rigid texture.  You can tap the pastry with your nail (you won’t feel the heat) to check if it has crisped up and ready.  

The individual ingredients in shortcrust pastry have important roles to play – the flour provides the protein gluten and the starch; the fat which is usually yellow, provides a  golden colour and also a ‘buttery’ flavour.  The fat also has a very important role in ‘shortening’ the pastry.  The amount of fat, in this case half fat to flour, helps to limit the gluten framework, the length of the gluten strands,  therefore making the pastry crisp, crumbly and short (hence the name shortcrust).

One final point is that gluten in the dough (water added) will allow pastry to stretch slightly, particularly when it is being rolled out.  Resting the pastry, by allowing it to wait for even 5 minutes, will help the gluten to stop shrinkage when the pastry is finally cooked.  Overhandling pastry is the most common reason for pastry that shrinks from the edge of the baking tray during cooking.  

Next Time

Next time:  Try making shortcrust with a mixture of lard and margarine, or use only butter, to replace the margarine.  If you try reduced fat spread that will give a poor result because the proportion of fat will be reduced.  Pasty can be made with oil but use the ‘Fork method’ rather than the rubbing-in method.

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