Dear Debbie I feel your pastry pain!
by Anna Buckley
Have you thought about making the perfect pie or tart only to be put off by the laborious task of making pastry. The rubbing-in of butter and flour, letting the dough rest, rolling the dough, refrigerating the pastry shell, blind baking, removing the baking beads, baking some more blah, blah, blah….I HAVE DISCOVERED THE EASIEST SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY IN THE WORLD and it requires none of the above and you will produce a perfect pie crust every time!
I have stopped buying magazines. Well almost. Cooks Illustrated is the most exquisite foodie magazine in the world. My daughter gives me a subscription every birthday. I look over the beautiful illustrations, read the detailed recipes, always with a deeper understanding of the science of cooking and vow to get around to cooking up their recipes one day.
It was a Saturday and friends were coming over to dinner. The rather mummified granny smiths in the fruit bowl were needing to be used so an apple pie was the obvious answer. I knew I needed to start the tedious pastry process early or the pie wouldn’t be ready in time. Groan! Until I remembered the pastry recipe I’d read about in the magazine a week ago. Andrea Geary, the cook, the inventor and author of the pastry article you are my hero. This pastry worked spectacularly and it was easy as pie! (sorry?! but I had to go there)
My only problem was the slight adjustment of measurements and for all you non American cooks a tablespoon of butter = 14 grams and I’ve used salted butter rather than adding extra salt as original recipe required. I have converted the recipe to make it easier for us Australians but if you need to reference the original I’ve shown it above.
SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY
1+1/3 cups of plain flour
1/4 cup castor sugar
140 grams of salted butter (melted)
Turn oven to 180c (350f) before you start pastry.
Mix flour and sugar in bowl.
Pour over melted butter.
Mix till all ingredients are combined.
And a crumbly dough is formed.
You will need a 23 cm (9 inch) non stick, removable base, tart pan. As the pastry is high in butter and all the flour is coated in fat you will NOT need to use any cooking spray or baking paper to line pan. It just does not stick!
Tip 2/3 of the crumbly dough into pan.
Work from the centre, pushing and flattening dough firmly to base of pan till a smooth flat pastry is formed (in the same way you would a cookie crumb crust for a cheesecake). Unlike traditional pastry this dough benefits from warm hands, making it easier to spread the rather crumbly dough over the pan.
Tip remaining dough around edge and repeat process up fluted sides of pan. Remember to press firmly into flutes, checking that pastry is even and no thin bits are formed. Smooth off top with fingers so that edge of pastry is level with top of pan.
And that is the most beautiful bit of pastry dough ready to go straight into the 180 c (350 f) oven!
Place tart pan on baking tray. If you put tart pan directly onto wire rack in oven you run the risk of knocking this fragile pastry and inadvertently splitting or tearing it. This way you only have to handle the baking tray and not accidentally disturb pastry.
Place tray in bottom third of oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Remember to check that pastry is cooking evenly and turn if hot spots are developing. You may need to turn oven down towards the end if crust is getting too brown.
During baking I noticed trapped air between pastry and pan was causing dough to balloon out slightly. This was easily fixed by pricking with a fork. Be careful not to create large holes in pastry if you will be using a runny filling. For the apple pie it made no difference.
And there it is, crispy and golden and ready for you to add whatever delectable tart filling you’d like. (I’ll give you the apple filling recipe and other pastry porn at a later date).
P.S. The Debbie in the title is my dear friend and blogger from Virginia, Debbie Spivey from The Mountain Kitchen. You can read her hilarious account of what happened to her Mushroom Quiche here.
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