- 00 flour 300 g • 517 kcal
- White sugar 150 g • 392 kcal
- Butter 120 g • 717 kcal
- Sea salt 1 pinch
- Vanilla seeds of 2 beans
- Egg 1 whole • 130 kcal
- Yolk 1
Basic shortcrust pastry is one of the main preparations of pastry-making and it is the basis for making cookies, tarts or stuffed cakes, and for this reason it must be soft and crumbly. Not everyone knows that shortcrust pastry is born first in a salted version for timbales and meat pies, and only after the ‘700 it has been proposed in a sweet version. The pioneers of this preparation were the Venetians.
Just few ingredients, but that according to the order in which they are amalgamated give a completely different result. Yes, because it is not only a matter of doses, but also of procedure. So, the same recipe in terms of ingredients, can be changed with a few gestures to always be perfect for any type of desired result.
How to make perfect shortcrust pastry dough
For the basic preparation of the shortcrust pastry dough you will need the following proportion of ingredients: 3:2:1; that is 3 parts of flour, 2 parts of sugar, 1 part of butter, then you must add the liquid part, usually the eggs, whose weight is calculated by adding the weights of the previous ingredients and then dividing them by 10 (for example 450 + 300 + 150= 900/10= 90).
Soften the butter at room temperature to make it amalgamate with the other ingredients. Pour the flour into the mixer bowl with a pinch of salt and the butter cut into small pieces (1). Blend until the mixture is sandy. Transfer the mixture into a bowl or upon a pastry board (2) and add the sugar (3).
Add the seeds of the two vanilla beans (4) and then the eggs (5). Work the mixture quickly, until you obtain a smooth and homogeneous dough. Wrap the dough in the food film (6), and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, remove the film and work it with a rolling pin to create a sheet of a few millimeters to lay on the cake tin.
What kind of flour do I choose for the shortcrust pastry?
The right flour will help you a lot in the preparation of shortcrust pastry. The rule to choose the ideal one is one and sovereign: you must prefer the one with the lowest protein percentage (not more than 11%). The most used flours are generally 0 type, 00 type and the corn flour, but you will get excellent results even with rice flour, buckwheat flour or wholemeal flours. The easiest flour to work is still the 00 type, and it is always preferable to choose a force (W) that oscillates between 150 and 180 (weak flour).
You can’t always read the flour strength on the flour packages available at the supermarket, so pay attention to the percentage of proteins as mentioned before, and avoid all those flours recommended for bakery (including the Manitoba flour).
Gluten-free shortcrust pastry
Preparing a fluffy shortcrust pastry without gluten is quite simple, because this is a pastry that is quite appropriate for alternative and gluten-free flours. You can use rice flour or corn flour to make the dough a bit more crumbly.
Also the sugar used in the shortcrust pastry can vary according to your needs, in fact you can use the refined sugar or the raw sugar, and also the stevia, the malt and the fructose. Also in this case the final result will change. For example, about the granulated sugar and the confectioner’s sugar: in the first case we will have a more crunchy shortcrust pastry, instead in the second one it will be crumblier.
The percentage of the sugar in the shortcrust pastry varies from a minimum of 25% to a maximum of 60%.
Eggs are our liquid component, and they have the function of amalgamate the dough and, consequently, we can replace them with other liquids such as milk, cream, yogurt, condensed milk, water, juices or even vegetable milks.
Eggs can be used whole or only egg yolks or only egg whites. The choice varies depending on the desired crumbliness: the yolks – being fatter – will accentuate it, while the egg whites are for a crispier shortcrust pastry. More generally, to make a soft shortcrust pastry for tarts it is always better to use whole eggs. There is also a version of shortcrust pastry that involves the use of firm egg yolks, it is the so-called ovis mollis.
As we have already said, the eggs contain fats, so the greater the percentage of butter (or its substitute) in relation to the flour, the lower the use of eggs will have to be. The rule is: if the butter is less than half the weight of the flour, we will have to increase the liquid part and vice versa; specifically, every 25 grams more than half the weight of the flour, we should add 10 grams of eggs, vice versa we should decrease them.
Butter, oil, lard or margarine?
The fat part of the shortcrust pastry can be absolutely represented by both butter and margarine, lard or oil (you can use both olive oil and rice oil, for example) and, depending on your choice, the taste and the final effect may slightly vary.
In general, the fat component inside the shortcrust pastry goes, for almost all the preparations, from a minimum of 30% to a maximum of 70% of the whole weight of the ingredients, but for the whipped shortcrust pastry and the biscuits it goes from 50 % to 80%.
If we use less than the recommended fats we risk that our shortcrust pastry is not very crumbly, vice versa, if we exaggerate we risk that the shortcrust pastry will immediately crumble after cooking.
You know when they say do not work the dough too much because you could damage the butter? Here, the temperature beyond which it should never go down is that of 13 degrees.
Variations of the shortcrust pastry
This was just the basic version, but the proportions – as mentioned in the introduction – can be changed; so we will have, for example, the Milanese shortcrust pastry (2:1:1), the Neapolitan shortcrust pastry (where the wheat flour is partly substituted with almonds flour) or the pate sablè (3:1:2).
Whipped shortcrust pastry
The whipped shortcrust pastry varies both in the proportions of the ingredients, in fact there is a high percentage of fatty part (it reaches 80% of the weight of the flour), and in the preparation as the butter will be whipped with the sugar and the egg whites.
Shortcrust pastry with cocoa
To obtain a shortcrust pastry with cocoa, simply replace part of the flour with dark cocoa powder (the best proportion is 100 grams of cocoa per 1 kilogram of flour). For this type of shortcrust pastry it is advisable to use confectioner’s sugar and whole eggs.
Salted shortcrust pastry
The shortcrust pastry is often used in savory preparations, as already mentioned it was born this way. Even in this case, however, there are different versions; there are those who use a classic sweet shortcrust pastry opting for the addition of the minimum amount of sugar, then there are those who make a variant absolutely devoid of sweeteners using only flour, butter and eggs with the addition of a pinch of salt. At times it could contain water, resembling more and more a pate brisée.
How to aromatize the shortcrust pastry
According to our tastes, we can add citrus peel, vanilla, essences, herbs, flowers or lyophilized fruit, as a rule together with sugar or flour, according to the type of procedure we will choose to follow. If you decide to add grains of dried fruit, the precaution to be taken is not to exceed the weight of the sugar (preferably confectioner’s sugar) so as to absorb the oils.
For a successful mixture, the ingredients should all be at room temperature (remember that the butter should not exceed 13 degrees).
A greater quantity of sugar and egg yolks, besides varying the consistency of the shortcrust pastry, will also determine its color.
Pay attention to the strength of the flour. Work the dough as little as possible, and if it crumbles and does not become a smooth and homogeneous dough – then it is “broken” – do not worry, just remedy by adding a bit of cold water or egg white (usually 2 tablespoons per 1 kilogram of flour). Always try not to skip the resting phase in the refrigerator, it will also help the taste. 😉 If you do not use all the dough, you can preserve it in the refrigerator until the next day, or freeze it so you can use it even after 3 months (but not more).
According to the order in which we are going to blend the ingredients together, the final result of our shortcrust pastry will also change; in fact, if we want to obtain a soft dough for the shortcrust pastry for tarts with custard, the recommended procedure will be to blend butter, sugar and eggs first and then add the flour and the aromas; if instead we will use our dough to prepare crumblier cakes we will opt for the so-called inverse method (the pate sablè one) where there is first the union between flour and butter to obtain the consistency of grains of sand (sandblasting) and then the subsequent addition of sugar, aromas and eggs.
Leavening agents such as chemical yeast (maximum 10 grams per 1 kilogram of flour) and baking soda (maximum 20 grams per 1 kilogram of flour) are usually used in a dough that requires little use of fats in order to provide for the lack of these and obtain a shortcrust pastry that is easier to cut. If you want to make cookies, be careful not to use baking soda as it tends to deform the shape chosen during cooking.
The cooking of the shortcrust pastry varies according to its final use: just for the basic cooking of the shortcrust pastry, the temperature must be 170 degrees and the cooking time of about 25 minutes; for the cooking with filling the temperature rises to 180 degrees and the time is extended up to 45 minutes.
For a uniform cooking, it is always preferable the electric oven, and possibly a convection oven because it will shorten the times as it will dry the dough sooner, and the baking sheet positioned in the medium/low part of the oven.