The small miracle that is shortcrust pastry

Making shortcrust pastry, like riding a bicycle, is daunting and seemingly impossible at first, but it’s actually surprisingly easy and once you get the hang of it it makes life so much easier.

The beauty of shortcrust pastry is that it only requires four very simple ingredients: flour, butter, salt and cold water. That’s literally all you need. Needless to say this is an incredibly cheap way of using up all the leftover veg in your pantry (think butternut squash, goats cheese and caramelised onions…..or zucchini, spinach, feta and pesto tart. Yum.)

“Why has no one told me this earlier?!” I hear you shout at your computer screen, “Why have I wasted so much time and money buying ready-made short crust pastry?”

Take solace in knowing you will never have to buy ready-made pastry again if you follow these simple steps (makes around 300g pastry):

Ingredients:

  • 100g plain flour

  • pinch of salt

  • 110g butter

  • 2-3 tbsp cold water

Instructions:

  • Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl

  • Add the chopped butter and quickly rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

  • Add the water and stir using a knife until the dough just binds. You can add more cold water if it is too dry, but avoid the mixture actually feeling wet.  

  • Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for around 20 minutes

  • Press into greased tin or ceramic dish.

  • Baking time varies depending on the water content of your toppings, however 20-40 minutes is a generally good amount of time. Basically until the crust looks golden.

  • If you are adding water-filled contents as toppings or fillings to the pastry (Spinach, mushrooms and zucchini, or fruit fillings for example), it might be a good idea to ‘blind bake’ the pastry for 5 minutes or so. This essentially involves pricking the base of the pastry a few times (not too many though or the filling will leak), placing baking paper over the pastry and filling the paper with dry lentils, rice or baking beans, and placing in the oven at 180° to harden for around 10 minutes. This prevents the wet filling from making the base of the pastry soggy.

Image and baking wisdom via BBC Food

– Anna