The art of the perfect shortcrust

Sunday 25 September 2011

Pastry was always something that bemused me, in fact it bemused me right up until a masterclass my Mum gave me a few weeks ago.

Apparently the secret is all in not 'over working' it. This is something you hear regularly, in all cooking and baking books- but what does that actually mean?

Well, I can reveal the art of the perfect shortcrust pastry is down to cold hands, as little water as possible (you'd be surprised how little you need to bring it together) and, rather than butter (shock horror), a mixture of margarine and vegetable shortening.

The not overworking it' bit basically translates as 'as little handling as humanly possible'. This means - and this is a good tip from my Mum - using a knife to create your breadcrumbs of flour and fat, getting your hands really cold by running under cold water, adding only a tiny amount of water (less than you think it needs), and then bringing it all together as quickly as possible - with no kneading. So the only time your hands touch the pastry are when you are bringing it together.

The recipe I use (from Delia, with extra tips from my Mum!) is as follows...

4 oz plain flour
1 oz margarine (I use Stork)
1 oz vegetable shortening (I use Trex)
2 tablespoons of water

Sift the flour ino a large bowl. Add the fat. Using a table knife, cut the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. At this stage, wash your hands under very cold water and dry them. Then add the water to the flour and fat mix, mixing with the spoon. Squash it all togetger very quiky with your hands and wrap in cling film.

Leave in the fridge for at least half an hour before rolling out and using.

I love using this pastry in traditional jam tarts - just like we used to make with my Mum when we were small. I prefer raspberry jam but you can use whichever you prefer (or have lying around). Simply roll out your pastry, cut into small discs and place the discs into greased mince pie tins. Add a dollop of jam and whack in the oven for around 12 minutes.

It's probably advisable to wait for a few minutes before devouring as there is danger of mouth-scalding with boiling sugar.

1 comment:

Eke said...

The crust on your lamb pie was seriously perfection. Consider this my stamp of approval.

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