Sweet shortcrust pastry

By at home

pastry jamesmartin 10 2 12Want to know how to make the perfect shortcrust pastry case, which you can then fill with your favourite sweet filling? Acclaimed pastry chef, James, shows you how it’s done…

You will need:
● 115g cold unsalted butter, cubed
● 225g plain white flour
● A pinch of salt
● 2tbsp caster sugar
● 2tbsp ground almonds
● 1 egg, lightly beaten, plus extra to glaze

  1. Place the butter, flour, salt, sugar and ground almonds in a food processor, and process until you have a fine breadcrumb texture. Don’t overwork it. Add the egg and half an eggshell full of cold water. Mix well, using the pulse mode, until the pastry balls. Again, don’t overwork it.
  2. Turn the pastry out of the processor and knead very gently, just to bring it together. (If you have doubled the mixture, divide the pastry in two.) Flatten the dough slightly (this makes it easier to roll when chilled), wrap in clingfilm, then chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes – an hour or two would be better.
  3. Grease a 23cm diameter x 3cm deep flan ring or tart tin. Lightly flour the work surface (using separate flour to amount used for recipe). Roll out the pastry to make a circle that’s about 4cm larger in diameter than the flan ring.
  4. Carefully roll the pastry on to the rolling pin and then unroll it over the flan ring, taking care not to stretch the pastry too much. Ease the pastry into the ring and use your thumbs to gently push it into the bottom and corners of the ring. Do not leave any creases in the outside or air between the pastry and the ring. Leave about 1cm overhanging the top edge of the ring, then trim off with a sharp knife or roll a rolling pin over the top to remove the excess. Use your thumb to squeeze up the top edge again (the pastry will shrink back a little during cooking).
  5. To make the edge more decorative, pinch it with your thumb and forefinger. Using a piece of well-floured leftover pastry, push the bottom of the flan into the corners so it’s nice and flush. Chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/Gas 6.
  6. Cut out a round piece of greaseproof paper 4cm larger than the flan and place it inside the pastry-lined flan tin. Fill with baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes, or until the top edge is slightly brown. Then remove the paper and beans and turn the oven down to 170˚C/Gas 3, and cook for a further 10 minutes – until the pastry is set but not coloured. Remove from the oven, brush with beaten egg (to stop the pastry getting soggy when you add the filling), and put back in the oven for 2 minutes to seal. Allow to cool for a little while before adding the filling.

This article was first published in at home with James Martin in December 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

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