Shortcrust pastry is not difficult to make but takes a little practice and there a few tricks which make it easier. Having a food processor helps enormously as it takes all the work out of rubbing in the butter, which can be tiring on the hands. Pastry, unlike bread dough, should be handled as little as possible or it becomes tough. It also helps to use cold butter and water.
Pastry needs to be weighed down in the oven or it can bubble up. Prick the base with a knife to let any air out, then line the pastry with tinfoil or greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. I usually use two boxes, which adds up to a kilo in weight. You can alternatively use dried beans such as chickpeas although they may burn if used repeatedly.
Many bakers advocate lengthy chilling periods for pastry. I’m too impatient to wait for my pastry to chill and it becomes difficult to roll when it is very cold. If I could give you one piece of pastry advice, it would be to weigh it down in the oven!
This makes one pastry case, nine inches wide and 2 inches deep.
120g plain flour
60g cold butter or vegan Stork block
5 tablespoons cold water
Flour to roll out the pastry
Pre-heat your oven to 180C. Rub the butter into the flour, by hand or using a food processor. Add the water, tablespoon by tablespoon. It should be soft, but not sticky. Rolling it out on flour will make it a little dryer. Shape into a ball and place onto a clean, dry floured surface.
Roll out into a circle, big enough for the pastry to hang a centimetre over the edges of the tin. This way if the pastry shrinks in the oven, it won’t spoil the appearance of your tart. Place the pastry into a greased tin – the easiest way to do this is to lay your rolling pin down of the circle of pastry and fold one half over it. This will allow you to pick the rolling pin up, with the pastry dangling either side. Put the pastry into the tin and tuck it in neatly.
Don’t worry if it cracks in places. You’ll most likely have excess pastry hanging over the sides so you can trim these off and do a patch-up job, using a bit of water to stick everything in place. Prick the pastry several times to let any air out, preventing it from puffing up.
Place a large rectangle of tinfoil inside the unbaked pastry case and fill with baking beans.
Bake for 45-minutes to one hour. The lengthy baking time is due to the tinfoil covering the pastry. The pastry should be golden brown in colour.
Melt 50g of chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl balanced on top of a pot of gently bubbling hot water. Using a pastry brush (a silicone one is best), brush the chocolate over the bottom and sides of the pastry case. This prevents the tart developing a soggy bottom and sides. You can neatly trim any overhanging edges to make the tart look a bit neater. Now you’re ready to fill your pastry case!