Not sure about making Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry? I share my BEST shortcrust recipe with a step by step guide to making perfect pastry every time… (optional dairy free)
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The need for a step by step guide to making Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry
Good Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry is an essential recipe in any baking repertoire. It’s something I’ve been making for years. Yet recently, it struck me that I had not shared the detail of how I make it or why my pastry is so reliable.
Actually, I was prompted to write this post after so many readers commented on how good my pastry looks and asked for the secret. Well… There is no secret. But there are some tips and tricks and helpful wisdom that I can share.
If it’s easy to make and easy to handle gluten free shortcrust pastry you’re after… that bakes crisp, a little flaky and perfectly short, then read on… Because below I share my step by step guide to making the BEST gluten free shortcrust pastry, with pictures to guide you from bowl to bake.
The things we hate about Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry…
When you think of gluten free shortcrust pastry, what comes into your head? If you are anything like me, your first thoughts (usually based on experience of both making and eating it) are…
- Gritty in texture.
- Super-fragile… or ultra ‘bendy’… or rock hard when baked.
- Dough that breaks when you roll or move it.
- Having to use tricky and cumbersome processes (like sticking it to clingfilm and flipping it over) to transfer to a baking tin.
- That it’s usually baked extra thick (because that’s the only way people can get it to hold together).
- Not actually that appetising and leaves you wanting what everyone else has…
Not in my house! Why? Because at Gluten Free Alchemist, we don’t accept anything that isn’t at least as good as its wheaty-cousin… And that means we only bake and eat great pastry!
What’s so good about this Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry recipe?
This gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe breaks the rules… Take all the pet-hates above and flip them on their head. Because this recipe…
- Is super-easy to handle… soft, flexible and maleable.
- It doesn’t break as soon as you roll it, or the second you try and move it.
- … So, you can roll it more thinly for a nicer and more balanced case and crust…
- … And still move it with just the aid of a rolling pin (just like in the pre-gluten free baking days).
- It bakes super-short, crisp and dry, yet doesn’t fall apart the second you bite into it… but is still melt-in-the-mouth good.
- The texture is to die for…. No grittiness with a mild yet smooth flavour. Seriously, I’ve been known to make tiny little baked pastry shapes with the end-bits that I eat on their own as snacks.
Tips and Tricks to making great Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry – A Step By Step Guide
Does Flour Matter?
The short answer to this is yes, but with a caveat.
I have found that the best flour to use for making gluten free pastry is usually one that is balanced for protein, starch and ensures adequate structure to make up for the missing gluten. Thus, basic recipe gluten free shortcrust pastry at GFHQ is usually made Gluten Free Alchemist rice-free blend B (which you will find at the bottom of my Flours and Flour Blending Page).
It ensures a flour mix that is super-soft, and dough which is easy to handle and robust. With a better nutritional balance and higher protein content, it is also less impactful on carb and sugar spikes… And without a reliance on rice flour, it is less gritty and more pleasant to eat. The instant you dip your finger-tips to rub fat into flour, you will feel the difference. Light, soft and just like wheat flour felt.
BUT… I am well aware that not everyone can be bothered to faff with flour blending. And, that some will think I’m off my trolly suggesting it… So, the pastry recipe can also be made with other commercial flour blends too. Whatever your usual brand, it’s fine to use… Just be aware that the pastry dough may handle differently; that more liquid may be needed due to increased absorbency of some flours; and that the end-texture may not be as good.
Do I need to add Xanthan Gum to the pastry flour blend?
My gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe includes the addition of a little xanthan gum as this will help to bind the pastry dough. If choosing to use a commercial flour blend that already contains xanthan gum or an alternative binder (check the ingredients), then leave the xanthan gum out of the recipe.
If unable to tolerate xanthan gum, substitute with an alternative such as psyllium husk. As a general rule, use twice as much psyllium husk powder as you would xanthan gum, but the texture of the resulting pastry may vary and be slightly softer.
What fat should I use to make perfect pastry?
For the most perfect gluten free pastry, a mixture of butter and lard is ideal. The combination works to offer light, buttery pastry which also has the short dryness that is expected. It is an age-old combination used by my mother, grandmother and generations before. It simply works!
If needing to make dairy free pastry, simply sub the butter for a similar, good-quality dairy free block alternative, such as Stork Baking Block. Lard is dairy free.
Can I use all butter to make this pastry?
Yes… The recipe does also work with 100% butter/dairy free butter alternative, but the texture may not be quite as crisp.
Tips for evenly rubbing fat into flour for Perfect Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry
If you’re anything like me, your hot fingers will have you dreading the bit where you ‘rub the fat into the flour’ to make pastry… The sticky mess that ensues can make getting an even ‘breadcrumb’ texture tricky.
Well… here’s the good news. There are tips and tricks that will make this bit easier and will help you on your way to perfect gluten free shortcrust pastry.
Here’s what you need to know…
- Cube the butter and lard (or alternatives) nice and small.
- For this pastry, there’s no need to grate the butter as suggested in some recipes. It’s not necessary and is messier and more time consuming.
- Once the cubed butter has been added to the flour in the bowl, chill the whole bowl in the fridge for half an hour before ‘rubbing in’. The chilled bowl and ingredients will ‘hold’ the coldness while you ‘rub’, making the process way easier.
- If it’s a super-hot day, try to make the base pastry dough earlier in the morning or in a cooler area of the kitchen.
- Just before rubbing the fat into the flour, wash your hands in cold water.
- Work quickly, squishing the butter cubes into the flour and rubbing between your thumb and fingers as you go. Keep turning the flour over so that the butter meets dry flour. And lift your hands above the flour as you rub so that the ‘rubbed’ mixture drops from a slight height for lightness and to keep the mixture cool.
- When you think you are done, give the bowl a gentle side shake to bring any remaining lumps to the surface… Then, quickly rub those in until you have the texture of ‘coarse sand’.
- If you still can’t bear the thought of ‘rubbing the fat into the flour’ by hand… Use a food processor or blender. Add the flour and cubed, cold butter to the processor bowl and pulse until you have an evenly mixed coarse sand texture.
Adding the right amount of liquid to the pastry dough
Getting the right liquid quantity for the perfect gluten free shortcrust pastry dough partly comes with experience. However, the amounts of liquid stated in the recipe have produced consistent results when all other ingredients are as first advised.
I always use UK large-sized eggs, which are equivalent Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’.
If the dough feels too dry as you are bringing it together, simply add additional cold water the tiniest amount at a time. Equally, if it feels way too sticky or wet, add a very light sprinkling of flour. Bear in mind that the flour will continue to absorb liquid on ‘resting’ and that you will use flour to dust the surface when rolling. These processes may additionally dry the dough.
Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry – sweet or savoury?
The base recipe for my gluten free shortcrust pastry is the same whether you are making it for a savoury or sweet bake… But… For a savoury pastry add ½ tsp fine sea salt and for a sweet pastry, add 1 tbsp icing sugar. And yes… you can add caster sugar instead, but I always use icing sugar as it is ground extra fine, so will dissolve more quickly when in contact with moisture and will distribute more evenly through the pastry dough.
The sugar added will not make the pastry very sweet… But will bring a very slight hint of sweetness that complements the bake.
To chill or not to chill the dough?
Many recipes advise the need to chill and rest pastry before rolling. With gluten free shortcrust pastry, I have found this to be a mixed requirement. It is definitely good to allow the pastry to ‘rest’ for 10 to 20 minutes to allow the optimum absorption of moisture into flour. But chilling has never really helped me roll pastry or improved the end result. Once chilled, gluten free pastry dough has to be brought back to room temperature before rolling… And it tends to be more crumbly and difficult to handle, whatever the recipe used.
The only time I see chilling as a distinct advantage, is in very warm climates or on super-warm summer days. Then (and probably only then) would I recommend it as helpful.
So… While it’s really up to you whether to chill the pastry dough, resting for a short period usually benefits the final result. And if you do choose to chill, be sure to bring the pastry back to a maleable temperature before rolling.
Rolling and using my Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry dough
Good news! If sticking to the full gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe, this dough can be rolled and used in the same way as its wheat cousin… That means
- flouring the surface that you’re rolling on… *
- Lightly flour the top of the dough, or dust the rolling pin…
- Roll to a sensible thickness, (this shortcrust pastry doesn’t need to be super-thick)…
- Lift periodically with the help of the rolling pin and re-flour (if necessary) as you go…
- Transfer the piece to the pie tin with the aid of just the rolling pin (no flipping cling film required).
- And finally, gently ease the pastry into the tin by lifting at the sides and easing into the base with finger tips.
- Carefully smooth the base edge with either the pad of a finger-tip or a ball of pastry trimmings dusted with flour.
- Trim the top edge by running a very sharp knife around the top edge.
See the round tart tin? That’s a full 10 inches!…
* The observant will note that in the process pictures, I have laid clingfilm on the surface before rolling. It’s not necessary, but I am a bit OCD and it makes it so much easier to clean up after. And yes… I know it won’t save the planet and I promise to use less in the future.
If you do see any cracks or holes in the pastry at this pre-cooked stage, take a small thinly-rolled off-cut of pastry and fit it over the crack. Gently smooth it into the surface of the pastry using a wet finger until it has melded and covered the offending area.
If you aren’t using a pie tin, just follow your recipe as usual to cut, shape and use the pastry. It’s fine to bring the pastry off-cuts together with a gentle knead and re-use. However as with wheat pastry, the usual rules apply… Too much ‘working’ will result in tough pastry. So, do what you can to limit it.
How to blind-bake gluten free shortcrust pastry
Blind-baking is essentially baking the pastry crust on its own and is used particularly when making tarts that have a wet filling. It ensures evenly-cooked pastry and helps to avoid leaky tarts and soggy bottoms. Blind baking for gluten free shortcrust pastry is the same as for wheat pastry.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to what you need to know…
- Gently prick the base of the raw pastry case with a fork and chill for a good 30 minutes before cooking.
- Cut a piece of baking paper a little larger than the pie (enough to come up the sides) and scrunch tightly. Scrunching will make it easier to fit into the pastry base so that the baking beans fit right into the edges.
- Unfold the baking paper and fit it snugly into the uncooked pastry base.
- Fill with ceramic baking beans (or dried pulses/beans) to weight the pastry dough down.
- Bake as instructed in the recipe (usually baking at a particular temperature for a period of time, before removing the beans (to enable the pastry to dry and crisp), completing the bake at a slightly lower temperature). Make sure you have a heat-proof dish ready to tip and cool the hot beans.
- Keep a very close eye on the second stage of blind-baking to make sure the edges don’t brown or ‘catch’. The pastry is ready when it is dry and crisp. Any bubbles that have formed should be gently pricked with a skewer or tip of a sharp knife… Then follow the next tip…
- Top TIP : Particularly if filling with very liquid ingredients (such as quiche and custard) – Once blind-baked and while still hot, brush the inside of the pie case with a little egg white (or egg wash) and pop back into the oven for a couple of minutes to ‘set’. This creates a seal to the case that will help avoid any untoward leaks.
Ready to make my Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry Recipe?
I hope my step by step guide has helped take a little of the fear out of pastry-making. Below, you’ll find my basic gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe. If you make it, let me know! Leave a comment, rate the recipe and tag me on social media with your amazing bakes.
And if you’re looking for inspiration to use your gluten free shortcrust, there’s lots to be had on my dedicated pastry index pages –
Basic Gluten Free Shortcrust Pastry
- 220 g Gluten Free Rice Free Flour blend GFA Blend B – See NOTES
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- ½ tsp fine sea salt (for savoury pastry) OR 1 tbsp icing sugar (for sweet pastry)
- 55 g unsalted butter cold and very small-cubed
- 55 g lard/Trex cold and very small-cubed
- 1 large egg UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
- 2 tbsp very cold water (up to 2½ if more needed)
- Weigh the flours, xanthan gum and salt (or sugar) into a large bowl and mix together until evenly combined.
- Add the butter and lard/Trex (both cut into very small cubes) to the bowl.
- Chill the bowl with the ingredients for about half hour, before rubbing the fat the into the flour mixture using finger tips, until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. (See Main BLOG POST for tips).
- In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1 tbsp of very cold water and then pour into the crumb mixture.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the crumb mixture using a table knife until it begins to clump together.
- At this stage, set the dough aside (at room temperature unless in a very warm room/climate, in which case, refrigerate) to rest for 10 to 20 minutes. This will enable the dough to fully absorb the liquid.
- Once 'rested', start to bring the dough together with hands. If the dough feels very dry, add a little more very cold water (a tiny bit at a time) and work it into the dough with the knife. If it feels very sticky, add a tiny sprinkle more flour and work through with hands.
- Bring the mixture together and press into a ball.
- If not using immediately, wrap and refrigerate. And when ready to use, take from the fridge, bring to room temperature and knead very lightly to enable it to become 'rollable'.
© 2019-2022 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist
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