Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Basic short crust pastry recipe for sweet tarts using the rub in method.
Ever wondered what it feels like to make pastry dough purely by hand and why you would do that when you have a machine with a paddle or a food processor? One of the obvious reasons is that it is always a benefit to understand your ingredients by feeling them with your hands, such as why some people enjoy kneading their own dough rather than letting the machine do all the work.
The "Rub-in Method" simply refers to the process of incorporating butter or other solid fats with the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) by "rubbing" the fat
'in" to the dry ingredients until they resemble fine bread crumbs, then slowly incorporation any liquid (water/eggs) to form a short crust pastry dough.
This method is effective in creating a "short crust" because when you rub in the fat and dry ingredients (particularly the flour), the fat starts to coat a portion of the flour particles that contain the gluten forming protein, which is the glutenin and gliadin protein. (Gluten only forms when both the glutenin and gliadin protein link together in the presence of liquid)
Gluten is great if you are making bread where you want strength for holding the bread structure without it collapsing, and gluten makes the product tougher and chewier in texture. But when you are making something delicate like tart/pie crust, you want less strength so that you can cut through your pastry with a fork, not a hammer.
While the two main gluten forming protein are protected by the fat around them, this prevents them from linking in to each other to form gluten when liquid is added. Although, some of the protein still get a chance to escape the fat and come together, but by coating the fat around most of the flour, less gluten forming protein will have that chance. Without the ability or minimum chances for both the protein to link in to one another, the pastry becomes "shorter". This means that when you cut or bite in to them, they are not tough and breaks apart easily and is crumbly. This method is very similar to making scones and also the reason why liquid are always added last.
To avoid tough pastry dough, a lower protein wheat flour is desirable, such as Plain Flour, which has a protein level of between 7%- 9.5%. Although gluten is not desired in making short crust pastry, "some" gluten is needed in order for the pastry to come together to form a dough as well as having the extensibility for it to be able to be rolled out/stretched. Therefore, Hi ratio flour or cake flour are not recommended because of its very low protein level that are usually around 6-8%, which can make it really hard for the pastry to form in to a dough that can be stretch with a rolling pin. A high protein flour (Baker's Flour) has a protein level of between 11.5%-14% can yield a really tough tart pastry.
Stand mixer with paddle attachment or food processor, mix until they resemble crumbs before adding in the liquid.
If you want to get a few tips and tricks on how to line a perfect tart shells, visit my "How to line tart shells" post.
Also check out the post on "Baked Lemon Tart"
The below recipe contain some almond meal purely for flavour, if you want your tart pastry to be nut free, simply substitute the almond meal to plain flour.
This is a small batch pastry dough, and make roughly around 12 x 7 cm tart (with 8.5 cm cut out discs).
Basic Pâtè Sablée
Plain Flour 250 g
Icing Sugar 80g
Almondmeal 30 g
Unsalted Butter 150 g
Eggs - cold 50 g
Salt 1 g
1. Cut butter into small cubes, ensuring they are cold but soft enough that you can pinch the butter but not warm that it melts in your hands.
2. Sift all the dry ingredients, add in the butter cubes and with your fingertips, rub in the butter in to the dry mix and keep doing that until there are no more lump of butter and the mix resemble fine breadcrumbs.
3. Add in the cold egg, and with a wooden spatula, start by gently stirring the egg in to the dry mix and fold the dry mix on to each other without being too vigorous and keep doing this until the mix comes together to form a smooth dough. Check out the video below.
4. Gently flatten the dough and wrap in cling film, store in the fridge to chill before rolling.
5. Excess pastry can be rolled out again and re-use.