Thursday, 15 September 2011

Shortcrust Pie Pastry, as easy as 1- 2- 3 (even when it's gluten-free!)

It rhymes!

Oh gosh I want an iPhone. Not for angry birds or even for Google maps (which I actually do need given how often I get lost), but for all those gimmicky chef-y apps. My bank account/frugality/stinginess forbids me from getting one though.

If you've got one though, do get the Ruhlman Ratio app- "Forget about teaspoons, ounces, cups and (shudder) fractions; it's all about the 'parts'. This is a refreshing, illuminating and perhaps even revolutionary look at the relations that make food work. " I think it's ingenious! And I'm not saying this in hope that he comes across my blog and decides to give me the app (and come to think of it, the iPhone) for free, though that would be nice.

Pie is supposed to be as easy as pie, but everyone's kind of scared of it, and so was I, but it's really not that scary. According to Ruhlman, it's as easy as 1-2-3 -- 1 part liquid, 2 parts fat, 3 parts flour, plus keep everything cold. And with that you're pretty safe. You can then start thinking about all the additional things to do to make it different or better:

Liquid- cold water's fine, but I sub some of it for apple cider vinegar for a flakier crust, some people suggest vodka too which sounds like a great idea!
Fat- Lard will give a flakier crust, but butter gives more flavour. You can do half half. I like mine all butter and I find it flaky enough. You can use unrefined coconut oil (it's also a semi-solid) for a vegetarian version. Don't use shortening, hydrogenated vegetable oils are horrible.
Flour- White pastry/AP flour (organic, unbleached if possible) is the standard. But the brilliant wonderful people behind the Gluten Free Canteen confirms you can make this totally gluten free too, as long as you keep to the ratios BY WEIGHT. I'm not celiac, but I notice a worrying pattern with pimples when I eat too much wheat (unless it's in sourdough but I don't think sourdough will work here, as much as I love it). I've made normal pie crust a lot of times and so I decided I'll just do the same thing with their suggested gluten-free flour blend, since the ingredients called for are quite simple, no unpronounceable things like xanathan gum. In fact, when making shortcrust pastry, you want to reduce gluten formation, so gluten-free is quite fine.)

Homemade Shortcrust Pastry
for a 9" pie with top and bottom crust, or a quiche with lots of leftover dough for convenient future baking
300g flour (white pastry or spelt or gluten-free flour, really, they will all work fine!)
200g grassfed butter
70g water
30g apple cider vinegar
pinch of sea salt

1. Extra steps, to be done in order before you start, for the obsessive compulsive:
- Stuff the mixing bowl, a fork, and the bag of flour into the freezer.
- Chop up butter into little cubes and put into the freezer. If you freeze it before cutting, you're going to have a hard time.
- Put a cup of water into the freezer (it won't turn to ice that quickly don't worry)

2. Measure out flour and sift into the mixing bowl.

3. Add the chilled butter cubes and "cut" them into the flour with the help of the fork and rub/toss with your fingers quickly, until you get a mixture resembling coarse crumbs. Or you can use a food processor, even Martha Stewart does.

4. Make a well in the centre, and mix in the vinegar and ice-cold water slowly. Combine till it just comes together into a ball of dough, be flexible with the ratios, I sometimes find I need more or less to form a dough. Don't overwork, don't knead, see it's easy.

5. Split into half, wrap with clingfilm, and refrigerate for at least 2h or for a quick fix, freeze for 30 min. You can also just conveniently leave your dough to freeze till whichever day it is you feel like baking.

From here on you proceed with whatever pie recipe. This is what usually happens as a guide:

6. Flatten ball of dough into a disc between 2 sheets of clingfilm, flouring if necessary (with tapioca starch if GF), before rolling out from the centre (roll, turn, roll, turn... don't go over the edge or you get flimsy edges) until it's bigger than your pie pan.

7. Place dough into pie pan. You can partially roll up the dough with the rolling pin to pick it up, if it breaks or if your dough doesn't want to be picked up, just press it into the pie pan, whatever, it will still taste good!

Make-Do Kitchen 1: The clingwrap roll-ing pin..

8. Trim the edges (keep the extra for patchwork). If it's a quiche pan, use a chopstick to fit dough into the ridges. If it's a pie pan, crimp the edges by pinching. Refrigerate for at least 30 min.

Make-Do Kitchen 2: The chopstick

9. If it's a quiche or tart, poke holes, pre-bake the pastry at 180 degrees celsius for 20 minutes, with parchment paper placed over, and dried beans or rice poured over to weight it down. If it's a filled pie, you don't have to because the crust definitely cooks, but do remember to cut slits on top if it's a fully closed pie or your pie will explode.

Make-do Kitchen 3: The kitchen towel pastry brush
Brush surface with an egg beaten with some water or milk for a glossy bakery-like finish.

For quiches/tarts
(Make-do kitchen 4: Dried green beans as baking beans)

For filled pies
(you can also do a lattice or have fun forming the top crust with cutout shapes, as long as there's 'ventilation')

And a close-up of the result:

Delicious, buttery, light, flaky pie crust!

And yes a recipe for a pie of sorts is coming up soon!


  1. Great post and nice piture tutorial. Crust looks flaky. Nice!

  2. Awesome looking pastry... and wonderful recipe for gluten free pastry too. No longer do such delights have to be the domain of only the gluten tolerant! :) I always wondered - once you've "baked" the beans, are they ruined then? Or can you still boil them up and eat them as usual?

    As for the iPhone? Bleh - I had one, I switched to a SonyEricsson running Android. So much more customisable, so much cheaper, and the Android app store is huge - I'm sure you could find all the chef apps you wanted there :)

  3. LOVE this step by step post, and also the tips with the ingredients too! Though to be honest, the photo above step no7 made me LOL. Did you use a mouse to draw and write that? They look cute don't worry hahaha... I've never used apple cider vinegar or VODKA for pastry but now it seems like I should! =)

  4. Wow, amazing post and thanks for the tip on Ruhlman Ratio app!

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  5. Shu Han - great blog... happy to have found you - thanks for visiting mine! I'll keep checking in to see what you are up to in the kitchen!

  6. YUM. This looks amazing! Thank you so much for checking out my blog - and for posting beautiful looking recipes like this!!! :D

  7. quay po cooks: thanks! that was the crust made with normal flour though!

    charles: I don't know for sure, but I don't boil them up anymore. I mean, people who use rice will end up with toasted rice, which I'm sure will taste ok or maybe even better when cooked up, but it's definitely different! thanks for the iphone review. Shall check out the androids, they're a lot cheaper that's for sure! I just go gaga over apple...

    winston: hee hee yes I did. I didn't want to take a video.. yup do try the acv/vodka, somehow it makes the crust extra tender and flaky!

    luiz: i assume you have an iphone then? ):

    claudine: thanks! it was lovely reading your blog too!

  8. Hey Shu Han, way to go on this one girl!!
    What a perfect step by step and the info about ratios is great too.
    I've followed it at times and thrown it out the window too
    just to try my instinct and test uncharted waters...haha, sometimes working out amazingly
    and other times a complete flop! That's the beauty of creating though :)

    Xanthan gum is helpful when you want to make baked goods that are less crumbly and stick together nicely - like a moist cake.

    For pie crusts & scones, they can do without!

    Hope you're having a great Saturday
    xo Emily

  9. That looks incredible pastry and can just about taste it from here. On the iPhone - I finally got one after depriving myself of it for so long. It took my 9-yr-old daughter to show me how to load tunes today. Apps? That's beyond me. Although if I spent less time cooking I could perhaps finally get my head around it. There's just so much stuff! Would much prefer this apple pie than work out the other apple stuff.

  10. I am amazed by the chopstick trick! A neat side pattern is what I often have problems with. I will certainly never forget your advice.
    The ratio idea is wonderful for all those, who are fed up with cups, grams etc.. Sometimes I try to count tablespoons and prefer it much much more than cups or grams.
    Thanks again for sharing the chopstick trick!

  11. Super informative post; I love all the step by step pictures. I'll have to try the pie ratio out; it sounds so easy! And I'm definitely getting the app.

  12. emily: thank you, yup i've definitely made more than my fair share of flops! thanks for the description of the use of xanathan gum, i'll keep that in mind!

    jill: haha i want both the edible and inedible apples!

    sissi: I forgot where I picked it up from too, but glad to pass on the trick(:

    kyleen: yes the ratio thing is a great tool! and he has loads others for things like pancakes, muffins, cakes, etc. very useful.

  13. Hi Shu Han,

    Does the receipe really need apple cider vinegar? Can it be without?

    Lynette :)

    1. Hey lynette! Sorry for the incredibly late reply, I'm a douche. You don't have to use acv, most importantly, the liquid must be ice cold! The acv makes it even more 'short' in my opinion, but you can def do without. Good luck!

  14. I made this shortcrust for cornish pasties and a topping for a chicken pot pie, and it turned out delicious! Even my husband couldn't tell it was GF! Thank you!