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How To Make Shortcrust Pastry

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Creating and using home-made shortcrust pastry is a foolproof way to improve your dishes and add a level of sophistication that can't quite be achieved using shop-bought, frozen pastry. Yet for many would-be pastry chefs the idea of making shortcrust pastry is enough to bring out a cold sweat. However, applying a few simple rules and methods, shortcrust pastry can be perfected.
What you'll need: 
To make 175g/6oz of fresh shortcrust pastry:
Large mixing bowl
Spatula or spoon
125g/4oz plain white flour
Pinch of salt
55g/2oz butter
30-45ml cold water
Use plain flour as its low gluten content will prevent the mixture hardening when mixed. Sift the plain flour into a large, clean bowl before adding a pinch of salt. The sifting process will aerate the flour and help to create a lighter pastry.
Cube the butter before adding it to the flour and salt mixture. Knead the mixture with your fingers until it resembles large, coarse breadcrumbs. Work relatively fast to avoid the mixture melting and becoming greasy but ensure that no large lumps remain.
While kneading the mixture lift it and allow it to fall back into the bowl. This will continue the process of aeration vital to creating a light pastry.
Add about half of the water. This will allow the mixture to bind when mixed with a spoon or spatula. The mixture should be wet enough to bind all of the flour and lift any remaining flour from the bottom of the bowl. Add a touch more water if necessary.
Roll the pastry into a ball and wrap it in cling film. Place it in the fridge for 20-25 minutes before use.
Once removed from the fridge the pastry should have a fairly thick texture similar to plasticine. This will make it easy to work with.
By using a minimum of ingredients and very little time, fresh shortcrust pastry can be made. This renders ready-made frozen pastry obsolete. Try it next time a recipe requires pastry and you'll be amazed at the difference in both taste and texture.
Don't be afraid of adding additional water if the mixture is too dry.
Though some recipes advocate adding egg yolk, its addition is an unnecessary hassle.


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