We were asked at the market the other day how we manage to get our tart and pie pastry to stay together long enough to bake. Here is our secret.
To understand pastry you need to know a little bit of the science behind it. Butter and flour are the main ingredients in shortcrust pastry. When regular flour is mixed with water, gluten is released and when you work the dough, the gluten gets more and more elastic. With bread and pasta you want a well worked dough to be as elastic as possible, but with pastry this is the opposite. When making a shortcrust pastry you want as little gluten elasticity as possible, which is why wheat and gluten-free pastry isn’t so difficult to get right.
Butter is the shortening agent. This is what makes the pastry crumbly and flakey. The more butter the more flakey the pastry. With wheat and gluten-free pastry the dough will be crumbly anyway because of the lack of gluten, so you can actually make a healthy pastry because you wont need as much butter. But because there is absolutely no gluten you need to be incredibly gentle and light-fingered with your pastry otherwise it will just fall apart.
When your making a regular shortcrust pastry you need to make sure everything is well chilled before you start your pastry. Keeping the butter chilled will help bring the dough together without having to knead the dough too much and over working the gluten. You then need to chill the dough again before rolling it out. With gluten-free pastry you can actually skip the first step. As there is no gluten, you’re in no danger of over working it however hard you knead it so you don’t need to make sure all ingredients and equipment is well chilled to start off with. You do though need to thoroughly chill the dough before you start rolling it out, otherwise you will have a nightmare and it will never hold together.
This is our Monkeypoodle sweet shortcrust pastry that we use for making tarts and pies. You need 225g plain gluten-free flour (Doves Farm do a good one), 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, 110g unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon icing sugar and 1 medium egg, beaten. Mix the flour, xantham gum and sugar together. Add the butter and rub together with the flour to form fine bread crumbs. You can do this in a food processor if you want. Then add the egg and a little water and mix it really well. You may need to add a little more water so you have a nice soft dough that holds together well. Wrap the dough in cling-film and refrigerate it for at least an hour before using it.
To roll out the dough we have a little trick that makes it super easy and helps prevents it from sticking or breaking apart. Roll out your pastry between two sheets of either cling-film or grease proof paper. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling-pin and work surface, and you can use the paper to easily lift the dough to place in your pastry tin.
You need to blind bake the case before you add your filling, otherwise you will end up with a soggy pastry. Line your tin with your rolled out dough. Cover with baking parchment and then fill the case with baking beans. Bake at 180℃ for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 160℃ and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Lift out the beans and baking parchment and then brush the pastry with beaten egg, making sure to cover any cracks and return it to the oven for another 5 minutes till the egg sets.
You now have a perfect sweet shortcrust pastry to use for any pie or tart of your choice.