How To: Make Perfect Shortcrust Pastry
Camilla Stephens founded Higgidy, an award-winning handmade pie company, in 2003. She reveals the secret recipe for her award-winning pastry for GBF readers!
Traditional shortcrust pastry is made up of simple ingredients: two parts plain flour to one part fat, such as butter, plus a tiny amount of cold water. At Higgidy, we’ve had lots of practice making shortcrust pastry, so here is our trusted recipe, which is both delicious and easy to handle.
For the ultimate savoury flavour, we add cheese. This makes the pastry taste great and gives it a gorgeous golden brown colour when baked, but you can leave it out if you prefer a more traditional approach. To make a richer pastry, add a touch more butter and an egg yolk. The pastry can be made easily by hand or using a food processor.
200g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
Generous pinch of salt
100g unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into 1cm cubes
30g Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
1 egg yolk, beaten
About 3 tablespoons ice water
How it’s done – by hand
Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
Add the bits of butter and lightly rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the Parmesan, if using, and rub again until the cheese is mixed in evenly.
Add the wet ingredients (egg yolk mixture and measured ice-cold water) and mix with a round-bladed knife until the mixture just comes together to form a dough.
Dust a surface with flour and tip the pastry out onto it, then knead very briefly into a ball. Try not to handle it too much at this stage, or the butter will get warm, and the pastry will become tricky to use and may turn out tough and chewy.
Wrap in plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before using.
How it’s done – in a food processor
Making shortcrust pastry in a food processor takes just minutes. Pulse the flour, salt, butter and cheese, if using, together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk beaten with the ice-cold water and pulse until the mixture just comes together to form a dough, adding a tiny bit more water if you think it’s needed. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
If you’re feeling adventurous…
Once you’ve mastered the basics you can experiment with adding extra flavours such as nuts, herbs, or seeds – see the suggestions below. Stir in once the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, just before you add the egg yolk and water and tip your dough out onto a floured surface for kneading. Be aware that some additions, such as moist herbs or oily nuts, can make the pastry harder to handle. Try the following:
A tablespoon of finely chopped fresh herbs – woody herbs such as thyme, rosemary and oregano work best. Avoid wetter herbs like chives or parsley, and remember to remove any stalks before chopping.
Add some granulated sugar to make sweet pastry, ideal for desserts. You could fill a sweet tart with crème pâtissière and then top it with fresh fruit.
A couple of teaspoons of seeds, such as sesame, poppy, black onion (nigella) or caraway. These add flavour and texture to the pastry. The darker-coloured seeds look pretty too
Spices, such as a pinch of saffron threads, paprika or dried chilli flakes. These taste delicious and give the pastry a beautiful colour
40–50g finely chopped walnuts, pecan nuts or hazelnuts. You can add these to both savoury and sweet shortcrust pastry
Grated unwaxed lemon, lime, or orange zest, to give sweet shortcrust pastry some zing. Use your finest grater to achieve the best distribution through the pastry, and add the zest to the flour before rubbing in the cubed butter
Recipe taken from Higgidy: The Cookbook: 100 recipes for pies and more by Camilla Stephens (Mitchell Beazley, £20.00) Photography: Dan Jones
Camilla Stephens founded Higgidy in 2003 after being inspired by companies like Innocent and Green & Blacks and driven by the desire to share her home-cooked pies with everyone. Inspired by her family’s love of her culinary creations, she set up Higgidy, producing handmade award-winning pies near her home in West Sussex. This home-cooked philosophy remains at the heart of the Higgidy Kitchen and of all the recipes Camilla and Higgidy’s 300-strong team create – using top-notch ingredients from trusted suppliers and finishing each product by hand.
Why not use this pastry recipe to make Alex Hollywood’s mouth-watering sausage and mustard pie?
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