Sweet shortcrust pastry is a must in the repertoire of any baker. Beautiful and rich, sweet shortcrust pastry is perfect for pies and tarts – plus you can freeze it too!
Raising the popularity of pastry
If you’ve never made shortcrust pastry before, fear not! Shows like GBBO have been brilliant for showing different bakes, from cakes and biscuits to some incredible showstoppers over the years. But so often we also hear the criticism of “soggy bottoms” (thanks Mary Berry!) or talk of “tough pastry”. Contestants keep being told their pastry has been overworked, underworked, is too wet, too dry, too thick, not thick enough… the list goes on!
So I wanted to share with you some of my top tips when I make sweet shortcrust pastry to help you out. Honestly, once you’ve made it a couple of times, you’ll find it a doddle and wonder what all the fuss was about! 😉
So what can I make with sweet shortcrust pastry?
The list is endless really! A variety of pies, whether fruit-filled or seasonal like my mini mince pies, tarts like my jam tarts or even the classic cherry bakewell! I adore working with pastry, so expect plenty more bakes involving this pastry from me!
Top tips for making sweet shortcrust pastry
Making sweet shortcrust pastry takes just a few basic ingredients you likely already have at home: flour, butter, icing sugar, and egg. Whilst I’ve seen and made pastry without the egg, I actually really like the tender, richer results from using egg as part of making pastry, so this is now my go-to recipe.
There are a few ways of making this, but the golden rules are:
- Keep your ingredients cold (butter and water, in this recipe) as much as possible. I find this easiest to do without using the rubbing in method, but using a food processor or pastry blender instead, but this can come down to personal preference.
- Handle your dough less rather than more. You don’t want to knead your dough as you would for making bread, as this will lead to the gluten tightening up and making a tough pastry. Just as much as you need to bring it together and make sure it’s well mixed is good!
A few extra tips
- Chilling your dough is really important. This helps to relax the gluten in your pastry, preventing it becoming tough and chewy when baked.
- Chill again once rolled and shaped in your tin. This helps to reduce any shrinkage of the pastry when it bakes, as well as relaxing the dough again after being handled for shaping into the tin.
- Blind baking. Blind baking is when you prick your pastry in the tin, then cover it with parchment or foil and weight it down using baking beans or rice. This is a useful step to prevent your pastry from rising in the middle, reducing the space available for your filling. However, if you are using a more firm filling, such as mincemeat, I find blind baking is not necessary at all.
- Baking the pastry. If your filling is very wet before it’s baked (such as if you make a custard or lemon tart), or even if you’re not baking your filling (such as if you put a chocolate ganache in as the filling), then you need to bake your pastry first. This is so that you don’t end up with the infamous (thanks again Mary Berry!) soggy bottom, as the dough will just remain wet from your filling. In this case, you will need to blind bake your pastry first, then bake it uncovered until it’s golden and biscuit-y. Beautiful crisp pastry and not a soggy bottom in sight!