Sunday, 6 January 2008

The simplest shortcrust sweet pastry

Seeing as it's January again and I've got the constant feeling of being full still from Christmas tomorrow is time to get back to my healthy eating and water drinking routine, so we had friends over last night for the last bit of indulgence before I get back on track and I made homemade pizza and then lemon and lime tart for a simple meal that still looked good and was tasty.

I'll start with the pastry as the tart was definitely the highlight of my evening. It's from Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef which I think is Jamie's first book and everything I have ever made from this book has been gorgeous and it's one I go back to time and time again for the basics as there are fantastic bread recipes in it and also stock, homemade pasta and risotto.

The pastry is a shortcrust sweet pastry and is definitely the easiest one I have ever worked with out of Avoca, Rachel Allen, Gordon Ramsey and Nigella Lawson as it's so pliable and doesn't break to easily when it's handled so if you haven't made pastry before then this is a good one to start with I think.

This recipe says it will make enough pastry for 2 12 inch/30cm tart moulds but I used a 10 inch round tin and a 11.5 x 8.5 rectangular tin and had some pastry to spare. It's easy to make less or more of this pastry aswell as I have made the ammount for 1 tin before aswell and the recipe says you can make more too which I am sure would be no difficulty.

So here's what you need

  • 250g/9 oz butter
  • 200g/7 oz icing sugar (I find icing sugar makes a nice dough compared to doughs using castor sugar)
  • medium pinch of salt
  • 500g/just over 1lb flour (I used plain white but I'm sure any white is fine as long as it's not self-raising)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp cold milk or water (I used milk)
This pastry can be made by hand or in a processor and I used a bit of both as my processor is tiny and everything wouldn't have fitted in and mixed properly.

Cream together the butter, icing sugar and salt and then rub in the flour (or pulse if using the food processor).

I creamed in the food processor and then rubbed in the flour by hand. Normally if I'm making pastry I grate in the butter (I think this is a trick I saw Nigella do at some stage but can't remember exactly where it's from) and find this makes the rubbing in much easier than having to break down cubes of butter. Add in your milk or water and gently work together to form a ball. Then lightly flour the ball and form into a large, short, fat sausage shape then wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least an hour.

The idea behind this pastry is not to handle it too much as then it will get too elastic and be all chewy and it'll shrink in the oven.

This bit of the recipe is a bit unorthodox I think as after the hour you take the pastry out of the fridge and cut thin slices off (approx 1/8 inch thick or thicker if you want but you'll need to adjust your baking times) and place them in the tin like a jigsaw. Push the pieces together with your fingers until smooth and either clean off the excess from the edges or leave it on.

Put the pastry in the freezer and allow to rest again for at least another hour. Putting the pastry in the freezer should allow you to bake it blind without the need for baking beans but to be honest I'd have to be pretty confident it wouldn't all puff up on me so I haven't tried it without the baking beans but I am sure if Jamie says it'll work then it will I just need more faith I think.

If you are using the tart shell for a baked tart then you should cook it at 180/gas 4 for 10 mins so it's lightly coloured and then another 5-10 mins with the beans removed. The recipe in the book talks you through baking the shell blind without the beans and in which case if you have more faith than me you should bake it at the same temperature for 12 mins if you are making a cooked tart so the pastry is only lightly baked and for 15 mins if you are making a non-cooked tart.

This is a pastry I think everyone can make and I hope that if you have thought that making pastry is difficult up to now that this is really simple and you can manage it for any kind of a sweet tart you've had in mind.


Kristen said...

Happy New Year!
I wanted to let you know that you have been matched in the adopt a blogger event. Please visit each others websites and revisit the initial adopt a blogger post as a reminder of the expectations for this event.
Thanks for participating and have fun getting to know each other!
Please let me know if you have any questions.

Dine and Dish

Your match:

Adopt a blogger post:

Sarah Caron said...

Hi there!

Wow, sounds like a great crust. I love shortbread, but am terrified of making pie/tart crusts of any kind. Perhaps this is the year to get over that fear and try this great recipe!

I am your Adopt a Blogger partner, by the way. I look forward to reading more of your blog in the coming months. Keep up the good work!


Anonymous said...

I am going to try making shortcrust pastry,but i don't know ho you know when the pastry is cooked. If you could explain this to me it would be great.

Rachel said...

Hi anon, if you follow the instructions in the post then the tart shell should be cooked perfectly.

If you're not sure baking blind is when the pastry is "weighed down" by baking beans or in my case dried butter beans on top of greaseproof paper.

The pastry will look slightly golden and when it cools it'll be crumbly. Hope this helps and it works out well for you so make sure you let me know.

noramcloughlin said...

pls would you mind explaining this:

Putting the pastry in the freezer should allow you to bake it blind without the need for baking beans but to be honest
pls can u reply by email?