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Shortcrust pastry for the terrified

With her new book ‘The Garden of Forgotten Wishes’ about to emerge into the world, Sunday Times bestseller Trisha Ashey shares some of her best baking tips. You need never be terrified of shortcrust pastry again! 

It’s dead easy to make shortcrust pastry – all you need is flour, cooking fat and water. Plain flour is best, but you will still get an edible result with self-raising or wholemeal flour. Cooking fat or lard – you can use butter but it tends to disintegrate while rolling.

The rule is that you need half the weight of the flour in fat. So if you have eight ounces (sorry, I am not metric) of flour, you need four ounces of fat. Other than that, you need some water. You are not going to put sugar in your pastry, because if you are putting in a sweet filling, you don’t need it and if you are putting in a savoury filling, you certainly don’t need it. Thick, sweet, chalky white pasty in supermarkets is an abomination. Decide what you are going to make. Maybe you have a cake or tart baking tray and can make tarts, or a large flan dish, or an enamel plate or two. It just needs to be heatproof.

Grease whatever you are going to use. Turn the oven on to a medium heat to warm up.

In a large bowl put your flour (sieve it in if you have a sieve) and your fat, cut into chunks. Now, start to rub the fat and flour between your thumb and fingers and allow yourself to go into a trance for ten minutes. The fat will rub into the flour and it will end up like fine breadcrumbs. You have put air into it at the same time, to make your pastry lighter. When it is all rubbed in, add a little cold water, a little bit at a time until you can gently gather the pastry together into a ball. If you overdo the water, add more flour.

Dust a clean surface with flour, and your rolling pin (or clean bottle or whatever you can find to use instead) and roll out the pastry fairly thinly so you can cut circles out of it with your cutter, or a tumbler or cup, if improvising and making tarts. If using a dish or plate, drape pastry over it and cut off excess round the edges. Gather any leftover bits together.

Fill the tart or tarts, but be frugal with jam etc. because it will bubble over if you overfill. You can use: jam, lemon curd, treacle, that jar of leftover mincemeat, or for savoury ones, a little grated cheese and tomato puree or finely chopped onions.

Bake in the medium-low oven until the pastry is just pale gold – keep an eye on it.

The excess pastry can be wrapped in cling foil and will keep in the fridge for a day or two. You can use it to cover a casserole, or top a fruit filling in a pie dish. Or cover a potato, cheese and onion bake. Or cover your large treacle tart with a lattice of pastry strips before baking…improvise, have fun!

 

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes 

Purchase Links: You can get the UK edition HERE and the US edition HERE

All Marnie wants is somewhere to call home. Mourning lost years spent in a marriage that has finally come to an end, she needs a fresh start and time to heal. Things she hopes to find in the rural west Lancashire village her mother always told her about.

With nothing but her two green thumbs, Marnie takes a job as a gardener, which comes with a little cottage to make her own. The garden is beautiful – filled with roses, lavender and honeysuckle – and only a little rough around the edges. Which is more than can be said for her next-door-neighbour, Ned Mars.

Marnie remembers Ned from her school days but he’s far from the untroubled man she once knew. A recent relationship has left him with a heart as bruised as her own.

Can a summer spent gardening help them heal and recapture the forgotten dreams they’ve let get away?

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