So this is the recipe I most use. It's the most basic of the basic, and can be modified to suit your needs pretty easily by adding sugar for a sweet pastry, and other elements such as cinnamon, ground ginger or parmesan cheese. But honestly, I tend to use it plain most often. With a mixer, it takes two minutes to throw together. The key is to make it ahead of time: two hours at minimum but preferably overnight, and it can be frozen for weeks.
There are innumerable handy tips that can improve the quality of your pastry, and I wont pretend to be an expert and cite them all here. Instead, I recommend checking this handy shortcrust pastry guide. The one critical tip I will impart is: use chilled ingredients, the colder the better. Using butter straight from the fridge is one of the reasons I use a mixer rather than rubbing it into the flour by hand, which would frankly be very tedious. It also minimises the amount of body heat I transfer to the dough, because you want to handle the dough as little as possible.
- 225g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 125g unsalted butter
- a few tablespoons of iced water*
Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and put in the fridge or freezer, depending on when you wish to use it.
When you're ready to use the pastry, roll out the ball into a disk or rectangle, and line your tin or dish with it. Prick the bottom all over with a fork, line with baking paper and add pie weights or dry rice or legumes and pre-bake in a hot oven (about 200 C) for about ten minutes. Then go ahead and make your pie or tart according to your recipe.
*NB I made a double dough today, some for now and some for later, which is reflected in the photos.