Shortcrust pastry that’s manageable on a weeknight without a messy food processor? I know, it sounds like a ridiculous expectation, but I promise it’s not as crazy as it seems. I’d practice it on the weekend first, but 3-2-1 perfect shortcrust pastry is definitely achievable on a weeknight.
And of course there’s nothing wrong with chucking some frozen pastry into your Kmart Pie Maker and calling dinner done. There are times when only done-for-you convenience will do – getting a meal to the table is achievement enough, and I love you for it any way you manage it!
But if you love flaky, buttery, shortcrust pastry that’s more than just an edible container, please just give this a try. Once you’ve tasted the mind-blowing goodness that is perfect, fast, handmade pastry I want you to come back and tell me that you love me, too.
Method, not recipe
Pastry in my 3-2-1 way is a method, not a recipe. You learn it once and have it forever.
It takes 10 minutes or less to make, is easy to clean up, and tastes like real pastry at the end – flaky and divine.
That said, learning any new skill is generally not a weeknight chore – so I’ve listed this one under Weekend Cook as well and suggest that you take your time at first.
Ditch the food processor
Everyone will tell you that shortcrust pastry blitzed in the food processor is just as good as handmade, and faster and more reliable. If you’re a Thermie fan I know it will be even harder to convince you to go by hand!
For anyone who’s using machines to make pastry right now, here are three reasons I stopped using a processor for pastry:
- It’s hard to judge consistency when you’re blitzing the mix, especially if you add egg like in most processor recipes. This means you won’t know until you’ve tipped it out whether it’s too sticky or dry. Adjusting this in the processor bowl is tricky.
- The processor blade action quickly starts building up gluten and too much gluten equals tough pastry even if your consistency is perfect. You won’t believe the difference between hand-made and machine-made until you taste it.
- The clean up! If processor pastry was as fast to clean up as it is to make, I might still be giving it a go – but it’s just painful even if you’re using the dishwasher. It’s not like the processor (or even the Thermie) spares you the extra flour on the bench for rolling out, either.
3-2-1 perfect shortcrust pastry
The magic formula for 3-2-1 shortcrust pastry is this:
3 parts of plain flour
2 parts of butter
1 part of water
That translates to 300g of flour, 200g butter, 1 glass of cold water. The amount of water is on standby. You’ll add it bit by bit and you may not need it all. Also, it’s fine to use cold from the tap without faffing about to make it icy, but if your fridge can give you colder water, that’s fine too.
The 300g flour ratio will roll out to a sheet about 25% bigger than a standard frozen sheet of pastry.
It’s a good quantity for:
- the base of a family quiche or tart dish like this one from our MamaBake archive
- the fairly thick top of a casserole dish
- coverage for four main course size sausage rolls or pasties – yes, you can use your Kmart pie maker!
To cover both the top and bottom of a family size pie dish, with extra for decoration, double the amounts and keep the same 3-2-1 ratio: 600g flour, 400g butter, 200ml water (which is probably still just a large drinking glass, don’t stress too much about it). In fact, there’s a little ‘scale’ button on this recipe that will double or triple the quantities for you if you ever feel a bit mathematically challenged (NUMERAL!)
Kids in the kitchen jobs
Here are some jobs I would potentially give to kids for this recipe, but you know yours best.
- Weigh flour and butter
- Measure the tap water
- Chop the butter roughly (avoid cubes as they’re harder to rub in, thin slices are great)
- Depending on their age, do some or all of the rubbing (very little hands won’t get far, but it’s worth offering)
- Mix with the knife while you add little bits of water
- Add little bits of water while you mix with the knife
- Wrap and roll out pastry – and make little shapes to bake from leftover scraps
- Pick up the baking beads when they get knocked all over the kitchen floor!
- Cutting the baking paper to size – check this video for the way I cut the paper to fit a round pan.
3-2-1 Perfect Pastry
- 300 g plain flour
- 200 g cold butter chopped roughly
- 1 glass of cold tap water
- Optional - a teaspoon of salt for a savoury dish a tablespoon of icing sugar for sweet.
- Read this method to the end - this is your first instruction!
- With the flour in the bowl, toss in the chunks of butter and gently mix them to cover.
- Using both hands, dip into the mix, scoop up some of the floury butter and loose flour and gently rub your thumbs over your fingertips while letting the ingredients drop back into the bowl.
- You will be making a gesture that looks like the universal symbol of rubbing cash between thumb and fingers, only holding your hands flatter and using them both at the same time.
- You scoop, you rub, it drops, you scoop again. You’ll get into a rhythm and within a few minutes you won’t be looking at lumpy white flour, you’ll be looking at flat smears of flour coated butter that get more yellow as you go on.
- Do not, as most recipes say, keep going until it resembles breadcrumbs. You aren’t making crumbly pastry. You are making flaky pastry. While most of it does indeed turn into soft crumb sized pieces, you stop when the larger bits still look flat and flaky, and while you can still see some streaks of bright butter threaded through.
- Clean your hands, add one teaspoon of cold water to the bowl and use the knife to ‘cut’ the water through the flakes. You’re slicing it gently through the mix, not stirring.
- Remember, you may not need the full amount of water in the ratio, or you might need a touch more. Add water one tablespoon or so at a time and stop when the crumbs and flakes start forming up together as big blobs as the knife moves through.
- Once larger pieces start to form, test the consistency by pressing them together with your fingers. If the big blobs stick together and smaller crumbs stick as well, stop the water immediately.
- PRESS the pastry into one big ball or disc. Never knead pastry as you’ll make it tough by creating too much gluten.
- Wrap the dough up nice and tight in plastic wrap and pop it into the fridge until you need it. If that’s more than a day away, put it in the freezer instead.
- If you can still see slight butter streaks when you’ve wrapped it up, congratulations! Those streaks create the divine flakiness that you simply cannot get from commercial or home-processed pastry.
- Follow your recipe for how to shape, blind-bake, and bake the pastry.