Friday focus: Basic shortcrust pastry dough

 

My mum was my first “cooking inspiration.” She attended the “École Hotelière” (cooking school) in France when she was young. Her ambition was to become a waitress, but at first she had to train both in the kitchen and as front-of-house. As a result, my mum can not only serve an amazing meal with style, she can also cook like a trained chef. To this day, she still uses a couple of notebooks, filled with recipes she learnt at the École Hotelière, all handwritten in her best and clearest style. I even have quite a few of those recipes in my own folder, which I have photocopied from these notebooks, which are quite a few years old, but I won’t tell you how old or else, my mum might be cross at me giving away her age! J

 

Despite the fact that she worked full time and raised me on her own from when I was 9 years old, my mum always put fresh meals on the table and did not rely on ready-made food. Like a lot of French people, she used simple and fast recipes that made the best of a few fresh ingredients, like soups or mixed salads. And sometimes, when she had a bit more time on her hands, she would tackle more sophisticated recipes which would wow, not only me, but friends that would come for dinner parties. And guess what, she still does! When you go and eat at my mum’s, you will certainly eat well J

 

 

 

 

I use a lot of my mum’s recipes and I am very faithful to them. One such recipe is for the basic shortcrust pastry dough – one plain and one sweet, but they both start the same.

 

 

 

Basic shortcrust pastry dough (plain)

 

Ingredients:

 

200g plain flour

 

Pinch of salt

 

100g cold butter, diced

 

1 egg

 

Cold water

 

Method:

 

Put the flour, salt and butter in a mixing bowl, and rub the flour and butter together with your fingers until you reach breadcrumb consistency. Add the egg and start bringing the ingredients together with your fingers. Add the cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together as a dough (I usually only need to add a couple of tablespoons.)

 

Transfer your dough to a floured surface and shape into as disc (you do not need to knead pastry dough.) Wrap in clingfilm and put into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. This enables the butter to slightly set again and relax the gluten in the flour.

 

You can then roll out your dough as required on a generously floured surface. This plain dough is very easy to handle and does not break easily, so there’s no need to be too delicate with it. It will be very easy to transfer from your working surface to your tin; I usually wrap it around my rolling pin and move it this way. But if you were just to grab it with your hands to transfer it, it wouldn’t be the worst for it!

 

This is my pastry dough of choice for quiches, such as this Mini Caramelised Onion and Goat’s Cheese Quiche:

 

 

 

Basic shortcrust pastry dough (sweet)

 

Ingredients:

 

200g plain flour

 

Pinch of salt

 

100g cold butter, diced

 

80g caster sugar

 

1 egg

 

Cold water

 

Method:

 

Put the flour, salt and butter in a mixing bowl, and rub the flour and butter together with your fingers until you reach breadcrumb consistency. Add the sugar then add the egg and start bringing the ingredients together with your fingers. Add the cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together as a dough.

 

Transfer your dough to a floured surface and shape into as disc (you do not need to knead pastry dough.) Wrap in clingfilm and put into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. This enables the butter to slightly set again and relax the gluten in the flour.

 

You can then roll out your dough as required on a generously floured surface. This sweet dough is slightly more fragile because of the addition to sugar. However, don’t let that scare you: it is still a robust dough. Once rolled out, I advise you to use the rolling pin trick to transfer the dough from your working surface to your tin.

 

This is my pastry dough of choice for any sweet pies, such as these Classic Apple Pie and Mini Rustic Apple Pie:

 

 

 
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