This pastry is the best in the world.
Sweet, crumbly, crisp yet substantial. Mum’s been making the recipe for a few years now, but neither of us can remember where the recipe came from. It’s outstanding. It’s practically shortbread. Buttery. Sweet. Can pastry be better than that, I ask you? There’s no other pastry I know of that I like to eat by itself.
It’s not like other pastry because there is no liquid binding it together, so it has to be squeezed together and firmly rolled out, but the upside? You don’t have to be gentle with it – no freezing of fats or handling with the tip of one icy finger. You treat it a bit roughly and in return, it charms you. You may find yourself thinking about little pies a lot more after trying this.
Preheat the oven to GM6/200C/400F
Into a large bowl, put 12oz plain flour and 8oz cold unsalted butter that you have cut into cubes.
Rub the butter into the flour. The proportion of butter is so high that you cannot always make it look like breadcrumbs, because you’ll struggle to find particles of flour that aren’t already combined.
Stir 3.5 oz sugar into it. (The original recipe used more, but that really was too sweet)
Now you want to bring it all together. Do not add liquid, really, it’ll be OK.
Squeeze it together into a lump, or series of lumps because now you have an option.
If you want lidded pies, keep a good 1/3 of the dough back. Place the 2/3 dough on a piece of clingfilm and have another piece of clingfilm ready. Squish the dough down a bit.
Place the other piece of clingfilm on top and repeatedly press the rolling pin on to it, to even and spread the dough out a bit.
Then start rolling it properly, but be quite hard on it to get it to stick together. It’s easier than that sounded! Then use a cookie cutter to cut out circles for your tin.
I’ll make an important point here. Really, it is important.
USE PATTY TINS. Do NOT use muffin tins, or funky shallow tins with steep sides to it, because you will struggle to get it out of the tin without collapsing. Patty tins (you know, old fashioned shallow jam tart tins) are perfect because of their shallowness and gently sloping sides. You can pile the filling high, but you need a shallow bottom (so to speak).
OK. Option 2.
Don’t even look at the clingfilm yet. Just gather a little handful of your rubbly dough and put it into the tin
Press into shape with your fingers. Squish, smooth, press. Easy-peasy!
If you want lids on those babies, see the clingfilm trick. Don’t try to quickly roll it out without using clingfilm. I did.
Then I scraped it off my rolling pin and got the clingfilm out again. Lesson learned.
The best thing? This (shortbread) pastry couldn’t care less how you get it from rubble to tin. It sorts itself out in the oven. The hand pressed method makes it a little thicker, of course, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing…
Into the bottom, put some lemon curd, some jam, some mincemeat or… I made a filling using dates and pecans. It’s bordering on pecan pie in taste…
Details of that tomorrow.
Lay your pastry lid on top, smoosh the edges of the bottom case up to meet it, brush with beaten egg and bake for 20 mins on GM6/200C/400F.
Let it sit in the tins for only a couple of minutes, then remove (use a small spatula) to a wire rack and dredge with caster or icing sugar.
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12oz plain flour
8oz cold butter, cubed
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
caster or icing sugar to dredge
Rub the butter into the flour.
Stir in the sugar.
Squeeze into a ball (or balls).
Either press into patty tins or roll out between clingfilm – firmly. There is enough to line and lid about 18 holes.
Fill with lemon curd, jam, mincemeat or another filling.
Roll pastry out again and cut out lids using a cookie cutter.
Press lids and bottom together.
Brush with beaten egg.
Bake for 20 mins at GM6/200C/400F until golden.
Carefully remove from tin(s) using small spatula.
Dredge with icing sugar or caster sugar.