How to Make Perfect Short Crust Pastry
The easiest but most versatile pastry, short crust is definitely the pastry to learn about first! Other flavourings, such as cheese for savoury dishes and sugar with egg yolks for sweet pies, can be easily incorporated to suit different short crust pastry recipes.
Traditional Short Crust Pastry
- 225g plain flour
- 50g lard
- 50g margarine or butter
- half a teaspoon of salt
- 2-3 tablespoons cold water (preferably refrigerated)
Cool is the key word to making perfect pastry. Cool hands, cool work surface (marble is perfect) cool kitchen (before the heat of the sun) and cool utensils, make all the difference to the results. Although you can use a food processor (follow machine handbook instructions) to make short crust pastry, one common problem that is likely to occur is overworking of the pastry.
Start your perfect pastry by sifting the flour and salt together into a wide mixing bowl. Cut the fats up into pieces and add them to the bowl.
To mix the fats with the flour, use the time-honoured method of lightly rubbing these crucial ingredients together between your fingertips and thumbs. Lift the dry mixture up, above the bowl, with each movement and trickle it back through your fingers and into the bowl. Keep this action swift and light-imagine you are operating the strings of a fragile puppet or sprinkling a waterfall of magic dust-until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Perfect.
Now, you need to add some cold water. To do this evenly and slowly, use a cold tablespoon to take water from a chilled jug. Hold the spoon above the bowl and gently tap the water from it as you move the spoon in a circle. Add a little at a time.
Use a round-bladed knife to mix the dough together once the water has been added. The dough will form large lumps.
Use your fingers again to gather the dough together. It will soon leave the sides of the bowl clean as you move it and you will be able to gather the dough into one piece without too much handling. Remove it from the bowl and place the dough on a cool, lightly floured, board. Knead the dough lightly until it feels firm and looks smooth.
Place the ball of dough in a lightly floured sheet of cling film or a sandwich bag and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Your pastry is ready to roll. Use short light strokes-roll away from you, lift the rolling pin, then return it to the dough-avoid dragging and pressing movements. Move the pastry clockwise every few strokes to keep it an even shape.
Enriched Short Crust Pastry
Use 150g plain flour, 75g butter or margarine and a pinch of salt, then follow the same steps as described before until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and before adding any water. At this stage add the following ingredients, beaten together in a separate bowl.
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 and a half teaspoons caster sugar
- 3-4 teaspoons of cold water
Continue as before and use as recipes demand for flans, sweet pies etc.
Cheese Short Crust Pastry
This variation of short crust pastry makes delicious cheese straws, cases for vegetable pies and flan cases. Add a few poppy seeds to the dough if you fancy, too.
- 125g plain flour
- 50g butter or margarine
- 50g grated cheddar, gruyere or Cheshire cheese
- 1 egg yolk
- 2-3 tablespoons cold water
- salt and cayenne pepper or mustard powder
Sift the flour with a pinch of both salt and cayenne pepper, or mustard powder. Add the fat and rub in as before then blend in the grated cheese.
Beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water and add this to the dough mixture. Gradually add more water, to form a slightly stiffer dough, then knead and chill as before.
To make cheese straws with this cheese short crust pastry, roll it out thinly in a rectangle shape. Cut the pastry into strips and the required lengths, then place on a greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven (200C) for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese straws are a golden brown colour. Leave them to cool on a wire rack. Great munchies!