Learn the secrets of the perfect pie crust and start with this Shortcut Pastry recipe.
Everyone has a weakness for the perfect pie—succulent, crisp, golden pastry surrounding an infinite possibility of fillings. In Pie (Mitchell Beazley, 2013), author and food stylist Angela Boggiano shows you how to master the basic art of pastry making and how to transform even the most frugal filling into a luxury. Use this excerpt to introduce yourself to the basics of homemade pastry dough, and follow up with an easy Shortcrust Pastry recipe.
You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Pie.
For me, the best bit of a pie is the golden crust, so the more there is of that the better. Making pastry isn’t difficult if you follow a few simple rules and master the basic techniques—there’s a lot of truth in the old saying “as easy as pie.” Homemade crust always has a better flavor than store-bought and it’s this taste and texture that make the process really worthwhile and quite satisfying. One of the benchmarks of cooking, however, is authenticity, and mastering the classic cook of the “turned-out” pie-shop pie can become a labor of love. Producing a beautiful homemade pie involves a number of stages and it can’t be simply bashed out. So, whether you opt for making your own or using store-bought, pastry dough will always require a little patience and respect.
Here are my golden rules for achieving perfect results when making your own pastry dough:
1. Handle it lightly
2. Keep it cool
3. Bake it in a hot oven
This is a great all-purpose plain pastry that is robust and easy to handle. The proportions to remember are half fat to flour, with enough liquid to combine. I’ve tried other quantities but I always end up coming back to this pastry mantra and it works perfectly every time. This is the simplest and most widely used pastry and is suitable for either sweet or savory pies. The mixture of butter and lard or shortening really is the best combination for flavor and texture, producing a light, crisp texture and delicious, buttery taste. If you don’t want to use real lard simply substitute a white vegetable fat shortening—you will find a whole selection to choose from. When making a sweet pie, add 2 tablespoons of superfine sugar to the dough mix.
• 1 3/4 cups plain flour
• Pinch salt
• 1/ 2 stick butter
• 1/4 cup lard (from sustainably raised animals) or shortening
• 2 to 3 tablespoons water, to mix
1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut the fat into cubes and add this to the flour. Use your fingertips to rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water very gradually, stirring it in with a knife. When the dough just sticks together, knead it lightly until it forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes in the refrigerator. It can be left in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Alternatively it can be frozen until ready to use.
2. Once you have the basic mixture you can flavor it with toasted ground spices, chopped fresh herbs or toasted and finely chopped nuts. Makes 10 ounces of pastry dough
Reprinted with permission from Pie by Angela Boggiano and published by Mitchell Beazley, 2013. Buy this book from our store: Pie.
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