Saturday, 13 June 2015

Perfect Shortcrust Pastry

perfect shortcrust pastry recpie
This may be one of the simplest things to make in the kitchen, it has only 3 ingredients; flour, butter & water. It is a great cost saver, pre made pastry is a rip off there is no other way to put it. So here we have it a simple cost saving recipe, that people have been making since the dawn of time I might add then why is it so hard to get just right? What are we trying to achieve? A buttery, crisp, but not too crisp, certainly not chewy, melt in your mouth pastry. Over the years I have experimented with many recipes; Delia Smith, Nigella, The Hairy Bikers, all people who look like they know their pastry, whilst I accept theirs recipes may work for some they do not work for me.

Delia told me to incorporate the butter at room temperature the same way I do when I make scones, she is wrong, in fact I noticed that most of the celeb chefs are telling me to do that. They are wrong, and I am willing to get into a fight about it so bring it on I have done the science, well I have researched the science plus I married a physicist so I can get brownie points there, I think. For pastry to crisp up in the oven you need the butter and the moisture within it to be distributed correctly. Similar to the method of puff pastry you need the butter to form small sheets withing the mixture. You need them to be less defined and finer than puff pastry. So how do you achieve this? Well you do not get it by using the rub method, your food processor or a pastry cutter, (although that has its uses). To get the correct distribution of butter you need to grate it. It sounds impossible but it can be done. Also I have added another ingredient too, vinegar, don't worry your pastry will not taste of vinegar.

Making this pastry is a labour of love and cannot be rushed but there is plenty of time when it is sitting for you to go off and do something else. On the plus side you will have amazing pastry to eat and boast about and whilst you make it, even if you live in a small city flat you will have the notion of being in a large country kitchen of yesteryear.
perfect shortcrust pastry recipe
as you can see the pastry starts life pretty shaggy you need to be patient with it
 
you will need;

2 1/2 cups plain flour
8oz unsalted butter
pinch of salt
2tsp cider vinegar
5tbsp ice cold water (you may need slightly more or less)
recipe for perfect shortcrust pastry
method;
  1. Weigh out your butter and freeze it. Yes wrap it in greaseproof paper to prevent freezer burn and freeze the butter.
  2. Clear a large area of worktop, you will need it. Place the flour and salt onto the work surface, mix with your fingertips.
  3. Grate the butter onto the flour. Bring the mixture together in the centre of your workspace and gently roll with a rolling pin. Gather it back to the centre and roll again. 
  4. After you have done his 2-3 times you will have fine sheets of butter lumps covered in flour. There will be a great deal of flour that looks loose too, don't worry about that.
  5. Gather the mixture up to the centre again and make a well. Don't make the well all the way through to the worktop, the mixture should form a bowl like shape.
  6. Take a tablespoon of ice cold water and pour it in, followed by the vinegar and a second tbsp water. Start to mix with your fingertips. Add a tablespoon of water at a time.
  7. The mixture will be incorporated, but only just it will look kind shaggy. Gently shape it into a large fat burger shape, the key is not to overwork it. If you see bits of butter great that is what you want.
  8. Wrap the pastry in baking parchment and put in the fridge for at least an hour but I am inclined to say 3 hours.
  9. Take it out and roll out gently, taking care not to overwork it. It is a short crust pastry and it will have a tendency to break, just patch it up, you will have plenty of it.
fool proof shortcrust pastry
see how nice it looks
Here are my few further tips to perfect that crisp shortcrust;

ALWAYS give your pastry an egg wash

ALWAYS add baking beans when baking blind

ALWAYS let the oven get up to temperature before you pop the pie, quiche etc in. This one is very important as it it the science behind the crisp, cold butter, cold moisture, hot oven = crispy buttery delightful pastry.

I hope this helps anyone else who has struggled.

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