Basics: Shortcrust Pastry 101…
We’re gonna be serious here for a minute. Having goals is important.
Don’t worry, this lecture won’t last long. It’s just something I’ve come to realise lately. If you don’t have a goal, where are you going? How do you know what to do to get there?
Lists are important to. They help you to organise your actions in order to achieve your goals. I know I over do it on the lists. But they keep me focussed and (mostly) stress-free.
I’m not one who’s big on resolutions, but since I’m big on goals and lists, I made a few of those.
I’ll share one with you, because if you’re gonna be around here you’ll hopefully be doing it to.
My goal is to know everything there is to know about gluten-free baking. So we’re gonna start by learning the basics. Now I know not all of you are gluten-free, don’t pout. We’ll still be talking about ice-cream and custard and well… non-gluten-free stuff. Plus, the majority of recipes are adaptable back to using gluten, as they came from gluten-full recipes in the first place. But if you feel like you’re not being heard, or you want some advice on the original recipes, just ask. I love talking to you.
We’re starting with pastry. Rich shortcrust to be precise. What does the ‘short’ mean? Basically, it means crumbly. Shortcrust is a term that encompasses a few different types of pastry.
You get Pâte Brisée, which is a basic shortcrust pastry made with a fat to flour ratio of 1:2 and water to bind.
Pâte Sucrée (sweet shortcrust / rich shortcrust) also has a fat to flour ratio of 1:2, as well as sugar for sweetness and flavour, and egg for richness and to bind.
Lastly, Pâte Sablée is the richest and shortest of the shortcrust pastries. This is due to the high ratio of fat to flour, the high amount of sugar and often the addition of whole eggs and yolks. It is one of the most flavourful pastries, but also the hardest to work with as you have to keep it well chilled.
The relief is that being gluten-free doesn’t hinder you when it comes to making shortcrust pastry. It actually makes life easier. When making shortcrust with gluten flours you have to be really careful not to over work the gluten in the dough. If you do you can end up with tough pastry. Gluten-free flours take that chance away and you end up with perfectly crumbly pastry.
Quick note on Xanthan Gum:
Xanthan gum is useful in gluten-free baking as it replaces some functions of gluten. It’s helpful when making pastry, as it improves the cohesiveness and flexibility of the dough, making it easier to handle and roll out without breaking.
A few tips for making and working with pastry:
- Keep your butter chilled and use iced-water where necessary. You don’t want the butter to melt while you’re rubbing it into the flour as you want the mixture to resemble fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the liquid parts gradually so you can control the consistency of the resulting dough. Gluten-free flours often absorb more liquid than gluten containing flours, so watch for the right consistency (soft, but not sticky) instead of sticking strictly to the amount in the recipe. If you need to add more, add more.
- If you’re using flours containing gluten, don’t over-mix or knead the dough as it can result in tough pastry. Gluten-free flours won’t have this problem.
- Chill the dough thoroughly before rolling out. This keeps the butter firm and the dough manageable.
- After lining your tin with the dough, let it rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before baking. This is more important and in fact essential when dealing with doughs containing gluten. The rest period allows the gluten strands time to adjust to their new position after being stretched during rolling out. This will reduce the chance of the dough shrinking during baking. Resting in the fridge also allows the fat in the dough to firm up again after rolling out, which produces flakiness. So it’s beneficial for gluten-free doughs as well.
Gluten-Free Rich Shortcrust Pastry:
- 225 g gluten-free flour mix (see below)
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- pinch of salt
- 25 g castor sugar (aka. superfine sugar)
- 110 g butter, chilled & cubed
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp cold water
Flour Mix: (from Seriously Good! Gluten Free Baking by Phil Vickery)
(makes 1 kg)
- 700 g rice flour
- 200 g potato flour
- 100 g tapioca flour
(Whisk the flours together and store in an airtight container.)
Sift together the flour, xanthan gum, salt and sugar. Make sure they’re well combined.
Add the butter and rub it into the dry ingredients with your fingers until you have the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. You can use a food processor if you prefer the quicker, less hands-on option, it will produce the same results.
Lightly beat the whole egg, yolk and water together in a small bowl.
Make a well in the dry mixture and add about 2/3 of the wet mixture to it.
Use your hands, or a fork, and mix the dry into the wet, gradually pulling more into the center well as you go. Just before you form it into a ball, add more of the wet mixture if you think the resulting pastry is too dry. You want it to be nice and soft, able to form a ball but not too sticky.
Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 20-30 min.
Roll out the pastry to the desired thickness on a lightly floured surface (tapioca flour works great). I try to get mine as thin as possible as I don’t like to eat a thick chunk of pastry.
Cut to the desired shape and place it into your tin.
Press the pastry into your tin, being careful not to break it. If you do it’s ok, just patch up with extra pastry. Make sure you get into all the groves of the tin.
Long nails don’t help. Short is best. Trust me. I found out.
Trim the excess with the back of a knife and allow to chill in the fridge.
While it’s resting, pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
Place a sheet of grease-proof paper into the tart and fill with dry beans, rice or in my case, fancy pants ceramic balls. (you don’t need them, I just got a jar as a gift so why not?)
Bake for 8-10 min, then remove the paper and beans and bake for about 5 min more. The colour you’re looking for is a nice light golden brown.
Cool in the tins before removing them.
Phew! That’s Shortcrust 101 done. I think sleep is in order…