On the face of it, pastry should be such an easy thing to make. A simple mixture of flour, fat, salt and water shouldn’t cause too many difficulties!
However, for years I never seemed to be able to get the hang of making light, melt in the mouth shortcrust pastry. All too often my pies would end up encased in a rock hard crust that no one enjoyed!!
So, not one to be defeated easily, I set about finding the right combination for me and I can honestly say that this recipe for shortcrust pastry is easy to make, light and melts in the mouth, perfect for you Christmas Mince Pies!
So, if like me your pastry skills are letting you down, give this recipe a go and enjoy some lovely homemade mince pies this year 😉
The Very Best Shortcrust Pastry Recipe
285g (10oz) plain flour
55g (2oz) self raising flour
115g (4oz) butter
55g (2oz) lard (lard really makes a much lighter pastry but you can use white vegetable fat if you prefer)
cold water (70g – which is just a drop or two under 2.5 fl oz)
For mince pies you will also need a jar of mincemeat – either homemade or your favourite shop bought variety.
This pastry mix should yield enough for 18 mince pies.
There are still a few rules to follow – keep everything as cool as possible and don’t be too heavy handed with the pastry when it is mixed. Pastry becomes tough when it is handled too much as the gluten in the flour starts to form.
So, to make the pastry, mix the plain and self raising flours together with the salt in a bowl then add in the butter and lard.
Use your fingertips to quickly and lightly rub the fats into the flour. Only use your fingertips as these will be cooler than the rest of your hand, ensuring that the fat doesn’t melt as you rub it into the flour.
Make a well in the flour and pour in most of the water – don’t use it all at the start as flours have different absorption rates and you may not need all of the amount suggested in the recipe.
Mix together with a blunt knife (a butter knife or similar) and continue to add water until the dough comes together but not sticky (it should hold together and feel soft when pressed into a ball). Too much water will make your pastry tough and not enough will mean that your pastry will be crumbly and difficult to roll out.
Tip the pastry out of the bowl and gently bring it all together into a smooth ball (do not knead it as you will make it tough – remember the gluten!)
Cover the pastry and leave to rest in the fridge for t least an hour.
When you’re ready to make your mince pies (or any other pie that you are making) roll out the pastry to 3mm (1/8″) thick
Cut out large rounds to fit inside your 12 hole pie tray and smaller ones for the lids.
Place a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry case. Don’t overfill as the mincemeat will just bubble up and spill out, burning onto your tray…makes washing up a nightmare!
Moisten the edges of each pastry lid with cold water and press onto the bases, sealing the edges as you go.
To make your mince pies extra special use some cutters to make shapes to stick onto the tops. We used some lovely, fine detailed snowflake and holly cutters (link below) to add an extra bit of festive cheer 😊 These are great as the also emboss detail onto the surface so they are more that just a shape cutter.
Brush the tops with milk and bake in a pre-heated oven until light golden brown…be careful not to over bake as this will also make your pastry tough and brittle when eaten.
Finally, when your pies have cooled, dust the tops with icing sugar for full on festive magic!