This post is part of my Baking Tips page (whivh also has tips for macarons, croissants, cake decorating ideas and bread.)
- Key pastry tips
- Flavouring the dough
- Recipe: standard shortcrust pastry
- Flavour variations: flavouring the dough for both sweet & savoury pastry
- Rolling out tips
- Lining a tin
- Baking blind
- Using the blind-bake pastry case
- Gluten-free shortcrust pastry
- Links to some of my favourite recipes
Shortcrust pastry is such a versatile pastry and it only takes minutes to make up a batch and then leave it wrapped in the fridge until you want to use it.
I love the fact that a perfectly crisp pastry case (the result of blind-baking) opens up a world of exciting possibilities in baking with all manner of savoury and sweet tarts just waiting to be tried.
I have tried so many approaches for baking blind over the years but the approach I prefer for blind-baking ensures perfect results every time. And I blind-bake at a lower temperature, on a pre-heated baking sheet, which gives me the best results. The full details for fool-proof baking blind are later in this post.
Key pastry tips
The best tips for shortcrust pastry are:
(I) Minimal handling: this prevents chewy or tough pastry.
(II) Resting the just-made dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes: a well chilled dough will behave perfectly in terms of rolling it out and baking without shrinking. It also benefits hugely from resting for at least 30 minutes once you have lined a tin with it if you are blind-baking it.
Recipe: standard shortcrust pastry (makes about 300g)
- 200g plain flour
- 50g unsalted butter, chilled and in smallish pieces
- 50g lard, in smallish pieces cubed
- about 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- cold water to mix
(1) Put the flour and salt in a bowl and add the butter and lard. Using your fingertips rub the fats and the flour together gently, lifting the mixture above the bowl from time to time until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
(2) Add a couple of tablespoons of water first and using the blade of a rounded knife (or your fingertips if they are not warm) mix together until just incorporated. Add more water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together to form a soft but not sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently until it forms a fairly smooth dough. NB: you can do this in a food processor, just pulsing the flour and fat together until it resembles breadcrumbs and pulsing gently as the water is added – make sure you stop as soon as the dough comes to a rough ball.
(3) Flatten the dough slightly, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes. It is now ready for rolling out.
The pastry above is excellent as it is, but flavours can be added to the flour before making up the dough, depending on what the filling is going to be.
Favourites of mine include:
- finely grated cheese
- finely chopped fresh herbs
- ground turmeric
- mustard powder
- garam masala
- fennel powder
- crushed walnuts
- sun-dried tomatoes (not the ones in oil)
- lemon zest
- orange zest
However, don’t go over-board as you don’t want to affect the pastry’s texture.
As a general guide, about 1 teaspoon of herbs and spices per 100g flour; a rounded tablespoon or so of grated cheese or chopped walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes….
I have given further pointers for both sweet and savoury pastry below.
For a sweet pastry:
Use all butter instead of lard and mix in about 40g icing sugar or caster sugar into the flour. Keep the salt! Add an egg yolk mixed with about a tablespoon of water to the mixture first before adding the rest of the water, a little at time to form the dough.
For chocolate pastry you can replace about 20g of the flour with cocoa, perhaps also with the finely grated zest of one orange for a wonderful chocolate and orange pastry.
For a savoury pastry:
Add any herbs and spices along with the flour ie) before rubbing in the fat.
I would add things such as crushed walnuts, grated cheese, chopped sun-dried tomatoes (ie: things with more body!) once the fat has been rubbed in, just stirring them through the flour and fat mixture.
Rolling out tips
The dough needs to be chilled for at least 30 minutes so it can roll out without cracking, and both the work surface and the rolling pin should be lightly dusted with flour.
You need to have a light, but purposeful touch when rolling out: if you are too heavy-handed the dough will stretch too much and shrink when it is baked.
Don’t use too much pressure on the pastry when rolling out: try to roll away from you rather than in too many directions. After a couple of rolls, slide a palate knife underneath, give the pastry a quarter turn and roll again, perhaps with a little more flour sprinkled underneath. Repeat until the pastry is the right size.
Lining a tin
(1) I find it easiest to lay the rolling pin on the dough at the edge furthest from you. Then roll the pastry back over the pin and roll the pin and pastry towards you: like a backwards swiss roll!
(2) Place the pastry-covered rolling pin over the lightly buttered ring or tart tin and unroll again carefully going away from you.
(3) Lift the pastry a little to help ease it into the corners, and use a small ball of dough to push the pastry gently against the tin: gentle easing rather than pushing the dough (which will stretch it) will help prevent the dough from tearing or shrinking as it bakes.
(4) You can cut off a lot of the excess pastry which can be gently kneaded and re-used or frozen for a later time. You should still have a little of overhang which is a back-up measure to prevent shrinkage when it bakes.
(5) Prick the base all over with a fork and chill the pastry-lined tin for at least 30 minutes before blind-baking: this relaxes the gluten in the flour that would have been developed a little during the rolling out. As a result shrinkage is less likely.
NB: the lined tin can be frozen at this stage if desired.
Baking blind essentially cooks the pastry in the tin without its filling, ensuring a crisp pastry in the finished bake, including the base:
(1) While the pastry-lined tin is chilling, pre-heat the oven to 170C (fan).
(2) Press the rolling pin very gently along the rim of the tin until you can just see the metal through the pastry: don’t go right through. This will allow the over-hang to snap off cleanly once the pastry has baked – as shown in the picture below:
(3) Ease greaseproof or foil into the tin, getting it into the base corners. Foil is an easier fit and works excellently. With greaseproof, fold it like a fan first to help it. Place baking beans or uncooked rice liberally into the tin.
(4) Bake for 15 minutes at 170C(fan).
(5) Lift up the greaseproof/foil and the beans carefully, turn the oven down to 150C and bake for a further 10 minutes or so until there are no damp patches.
The gallery below shows the same approach for a shortcrust pastry made with a little wholemeal flour:
Using the blind-baked pastry case
Leave the cooked pastry in the tin while you add the filling and bake it.
You can apply some beaten egg to the inside of the baked pastry and return it to the oven for 5 minutes or so if you want to be extra-sure everything will turn out well: the egg sets hard, giving a very thin protective layer on the inside, ensuring there are no leakages from the filling.
If using a loose-bottomed tin, once the tart with the filling has baked and cooled a little, place the tin over a tall cup or can and gently pull down: the outer part of the tin should come away cleanly revealing a perfectly clean and tidy pastry tart, screaming out to be eaten.
Gluten-free shortcrust pastry
I often make shorcrust pastry gluten-free, using gluten-free bread flour in place of the plain flour. You can add various powdered “gums” and the like but I find it really doesn’t need them.
A touch more water is needed as the flour is very absorbent but it handles very well and, crucially, it tastes excellent. You can add a beaten egg to the mixture to help it roll out without cracking but if it does crack, it can be lightly pressed back together with ease. And gluten-free pastry has the added advantage that it does not shrink.
Links to some of my favourite recipes
Below are links some of my recipes that I love making and eating
Treacle tart with a hint of orange
Spiced smoked cod and fennel tart
Caramelised onion & smoked cheese quiche
Wild mushroom tart
Beetroot, shallot and goats cheese tart in walnut pastry
Cauliflower cheese tart