After my first real failure at making short crust pastry, I made more than 4 pies with short crust pastry within a week. Yes, I was in the short crust pastry mood and managed to find a recipe that worked pretty good for me! As a result I made a beef pie, chicken and leek pie and a chocolate pie!
Once I got the hang of it, I learned that making a short crust pastry isn’t that hard at all, as long as you understand what you’re doing, that is.
Savoury pie crust recipe
So what do we do and need for a good pie crust:
- 300g flour
- 140g butter
- 1 egg (cool, directly from the fridge)
- 50 ml water (as cold as possible, add two ice cubes and let it cool for a few minutes)
- Cut the butter into the flour until you get a fine breadcrumb structure (top tip: use a stand mixer to do this, will save you a lot of effort with just as good a result!)
- Add the water and egg all at the same time
- Quickly mix through to shape a firm ball. It should have a slight tendency to crumble. If it's too dry add some extra water. If it's too wet add extra flour, if it's really really wet, it's better to start over again.
- Cool dough back in the fridge for 15-30 minutes. It shouldn't stay in too long, it's just meant to chill back the fats agani.
- Roll the dough out flat and place in pie shape. Cover the dough with parchment paper (or aluminium foil) and fill with baking beans (I use dry lentils, works just as well).
- Bake the crust at 180C for approx. 15 minutes. The crust should now be able to keep its shape.
- Take out the beans and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes. This is done to brown it of nicely.
Science of short crust pastry
As you can see in the recipe, it’s important to keep everything cold. And this is actually pretty important, so don’t try to take too many shortcuts here (especially in summer)!
The reason for keeping your dough cold has all to do with the fats (butter, shortening or another solid fat). The fat is rubbed in with the flour in order to create nice fat pockets within the flour. If you use slightly melted instead of cold fat, it will easily flow through the flour. This is not what you want. In order to create a layered structure, you want there to be little humps of fat. By keeping the dough cool, you make sure the humps don’t disappear.
Why do you want these pockets of fat? Once you put the cold dough in a hot oven the fat will melt, water will evaporate and you’ll get this great layered structure.
What’s more? Well, as I mentioned in a previous post, whether this recipe works for you greatly depends on where you live, thus what type of flour you buy. So keep a clear eye on your flour when mixing in the fats. If you’re not sure of a recipe, don’t add all fat at once. Stop adding fat when you have a crumbly structure. It’s not a problem to add the fat in several steps, only, keep in mind you should keep it cool enough.
Role of water and egg
So, fat is there to form a layer in between the flour and makes sure it gets this layered structure. What do the water and egg do? The egg will add some extra fat which will prevent your crust from becoming dry. The water is important to eventually form some sort of gluten structure. Fat will cover the flour particles, but will prevent the proteins in the flour (these are the gluten) from forming a network. However, you need some sort of network, else it will just fall apart.
Baking a short crust pastry
Short crust pastry often, if not always, has to be blind baked. Blind baking a pie crust means that you bake the crust without the filling in it. It’s generally done if the filling would interfer with the baking of the pie. Just like is the case for the short crust pastry. A moist filling can cause moisture to migrate into your still uncooked crust. This high amount of water will prevent the crust from becoming crunchy. By blind baking first, the crust is dried already, preventing most (but often not all) moisture from coming in. Furthermore, your flaky structure has already formed, so a little additional moisture doesn’t affect that too much anymore.
When baking my crusts I tend to cover them with parchment paper (this won’t stick to the crust) and fill it with baking beans, or, in my case, dry lentils. I’ve used these lentils for some time now, so they’re pretty dry already. The first time you use time, you might want to dry them a little extra in the oven. Reason for using lentils and not baking beans is mainly that I find baking beans to expensive…
There are several reasons for not putting the crust in uncovered and without any weights (lentils):
- The sides will slide down. As soon as the fat starts to melt it will try to sink. You’ll end up with a pie without any sides.
- To prevent the crust from rising up. Why would it do that? Mainly because of the evaporation of water in the dough. It will form a gas and push up the dough. (When making fried cookies, kurma, this is actually what you want to happen!)
For the recipe I used, you should blind bake the crust with baking beans first, then remove the beans and bake again. The main reason for doing this is to evaporate moisture on the top of the crust. It’s firm enough at this point to keep its shape, but not dry enough yet to withstand a moist filling.
So, hope that improved your understanding in pie crust a little more again. Do try it out and let me know whether it worked for you!