Shortcrust pastry is a type of pastry often used for the base of a tart or pie. It does not puff up during baking because it usually contains no leavening agent. It is possible to make shortcrust pastry with self-raising flour, however. Shortcrust pastry can be used to make both sweet and savory pies such as apple pie, quiche, lemon meringue or chicken pie.
It is based on a "half-fat-to-flour" ratio. Fat (lard, shortening, butter or full-fat margarine) is rubbed into plain flour to create a loose mixture that is then bound using a small amount of ice water, rolled out, then shaped and placed to create the top or bottom of a flan or pie. Ideally, equal amounts of butter and lard are used to make the pastry, ensuring that the ratio of the two fat products is half that of the flour. The butter is employed to give the pastry a rich flavor, whilst the lard ensures optimum texture.
Sweetcrust pastry is made with the addition of sugar, which sweetens the mix and impedes the gluten strands, creating a pastry that breaks up easily in the mouth.
In both sweetcrust and shortcrust pastry, care must be taken to ensure that fat and flour are blended thoroughly before liquid is added - this ensures that the flour granules are adequately coated with fat and are less likely to develop gluten. Overworking the dough is also a hazard. Overworking elongates the gluten strands, creating a product that is chewy, as opposed to 'short', or light and crumbly. It is important to work quickly when making the pastry and to handle the dough as little as possible when combining the ingredients. For the best results, ensure that all of the ingredients are chilled and that a knife or pastry blender is used to mix them together. Once the dough is formed, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling so that the gluten gains elasticity on coming into contact with the water. The pastry should be rolled out at room temperature.
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