Lesson 1 – Ingredients
Pastry ingredients are not expensive, they are readily available everyday staples.
Normally plain or all purpose flour is used. It gives a crumbly, crisp pastry that can be rolled quite thinly.
Wholemeal flour gives a nutty flavour to pastry but on it’s own will make a heavy pastry. Use it mixed half and half with plain flour to lighten the texture.
Self-raising flour is used to give a more ‘cakey’ texture and is good used with fruit pies. The addition of a little SR flour also lightens heavier pastry like suet or cheese pastries.
Standard shortcrust pastry contains 1/2 quantity fat to flour.
Any solid fat can be used depending on the flavour and strength of pastry you’re after.
Block butter gives the richest pastry with a buttery flavour.
Lard gives strength, but lacks flavour.
Other fats that can be used are margarine, vegetable shortening and coconut oil. Always try and use solid fats rather than ‘spreadable’ fats to make pastry.
This is because
- The ‘spreadable’ fats won’t harden sufficiently while the pastry is resting, making it harder to roll and handle without cracking.
- The fat within the pastry will melt at a lower temperature, risking the pastry melting before it has a chance to set during the cooking process.
- If the room is warm and/or your hands are hot, the fat in the pastry will melt more quickly, making it harder to roll and handle as you work it.
If your making pastry by hand, have the fat at room temperature, this allows you to rub the fat into the flour as quickly as possible to avoid over handling.
If you’re making pastry in a food processor, use the fat straight from the fridge. As the blade will cut the fat into the flour very quickly.
Your aim is to keep the pastry as cool as possible and to work as quickly as possible to achieve the best possible texture in the finished pastry.
Shortcrust pastry should contain as little liquid as possible, only enough to bind everything together. It should also be as cold as possible to keep the temperature of the pastry down, helping to keep the fat from softening as you work the pastry.
- Water gives a crispness to the pastry.
- Egg white also gives crispness.
- Egg yolk will make beautifully rich pastry which can be difficult to roll. It’s often a good idea to whisk a little water into egg yolks to enable easier rolling. You could also use the whole egg.
- You may come across recipes that use milk, cream or other liquids to bind.
Pastry which is too wet will tend to shrink a lot and become tough when cooked.
Lesson 2 – Mixing
Shortcrust pastry needs to be mixed quickly and gently to avoid it going tough. Here are two methods, by hand and in a food processor.