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How to make perfect shortcrust pastry from scratch

Sick of doughy, tough, dry pastry that falls flat in the oven? Our kitchen geniuses are here to help.
Perfect pastry every time

Anyone who’s ever attempted the art of making pastry from scratch knows how tricky it can be. Pastry – especially shortcrust pastry – is known to be temperamental.

Kitchen too hot and your pastry could become too soft. Too much (or too little, go figure!) butter at the wrong temperature, your pastry might melt or ooze. Too much flour equals dry, chalky pastry that won’t come together. And too much liquid, your pastry could shrink whilst baking.

You get the picture.

Any baker who has tried their hand at DIY pastry has probably had their fair share of disappointments (and yes, that includes us), which is why we’ve come to the rescue.

We consulted one of our longest-serving baking geniuses, Fran Abdallaoui, on how to get the perfect shortcrust pastry every time, guaranteed.

Crumb and combine

Most tarts and flans have a shortcrust base which is made by first mixing the flour and butter together (running your thumb across the tips of your fingers) until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Handmade

If making a shortcrust pastry by hand, remember to use a round bladed knife (or a butter knife) and work the liquid through in a cutting motion before forming into a ball and kneading lightly.

Poached pear tart with warm chocolate sauce

Click here to get the recipe for our divine poached pear tart with warm chocolate sauce.

## Give it a whizz ##

If making shortcrust pastry in a food processor, which is a preferred option by many top bakers, be careful not to over process the dough. Use short, quick pulses when mixing the butter into the flour and be extra sparing with the water as it’s harder to judge when the dough just comes together.

Kneading and rolling

When kneading and rolling pastry, the golden rules are to handle it quickly, lightly and as little as possible. Heavy handling develops the gluten (protein) in the flour which can make the cooked pastry tough. Also, if the butter gets too soft it will be absorbed by the flour, creating a crust that is heavy and tough. Pastry toughens each time it is rolled, so avoid re-rolling pastry scraps more than twice.

ARTICHOKE & PROSCIUTTO TART

Getting in line

To line a tin, drape the pastry over a lightly floured rolling pin and position directly over the tin. Gently ease the pastry into the tin, pressing with your fingers or thumb over the base then the sides to ensure that no air pockets develop. Roll the rolling pin across the top edge of the flan tin to trim the pastry evenly. Rest the pastry as specified in the recipe to prevent it from shrinking during cooking.

Blind baking

Pastry cases which are to be filled with a cold filling are usually baked ‘blind’ – that is, empty. This ensures that the pastry stays crisp when the filling is added. To bake blind, line the tin with a piece of baking paper a few centimetres larger than the circumference of the tin over the pastry you have already filled the tin with.

Fill the paper with pastry weight, dried beans or rice to stop the pastry from rising during cooking. Place the flan tin on an oven tray and bake in a moderately hot oven for 15 minutes or whatever time the recipe specifies. Carefully remove the paper and weights and bake for a further few minutes or until the pastry case is lightly golden. Some cooks swear by lining the pastry with foil which they maintain conducts heat well and results in a crisper base.

Don’t drown it

Too much liquid will result in shrinkage during baking. This is the reason that most recipes specify a quantity of water, followed by ‘approximately’. We recommend adding two-thirds​ of the specified amount first to test, and then add the remaining liquid only until the dough comes together.

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