After creating a series of tarts and encountering ok but not amazing pastry bases, I thought I would change tactics. Although simple to establish, a pastry can make or break any work of baking art. So after consulting various books, websites, aunties, friends and reflecting on past failures, I think this sweet pastry really hits the spot!
4oz (115g) unsalted butter at room temperature
3oz (85g) icing sugar
3 egg yolks
9oz (255g) good quality (organic preferably) plain flour
2 tbsp of cold water
Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl so that it is consistent and smooth. A little at a time, sift in the icing sugar until the two are combined.
Crack two of the eggs into a small bowl and little whisk for a minute or so.
Add the eggs to the butter and icing sugar, roll up your sleeves, hit play on your iPod and beat the mixture until your favourite song has finished.
Sieve the flour into the mixture and, using your fingertips, rub the mixture together. You will create a crumbly mixture, but not fine breadcrumbs - as similar recipes that use the method might produce - because the ratio of flour to butter is not quite right, and with the eggs involved, it is simply too wet.
Add the water and press the mixture together until it comes together to form a ball.
Lightly flour (plain flour) a clean, dry work surface and knead the pastry for a minute, no longer - we want to keep the pastry as cool as possible, as this keeps its elasticity low, which is the key to a good pastry.
Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, making sure you flatten the pastry slightly with the palm of your hand, as this will make it easier to roll later.
This quantity of pastry will be sufficient to line the base of a 23" tin. To do this, roll out the pastry out on a floured surface - remember to flour your rolling pin too, otherwise it will stick - to around 3mm in thickness. To get the pastry into the tin, roll the pastry onto the pin and then lay and un-roll over the tin. Gently lift the pastry and press into the edges of the tin. Once in place, run your rolling pin over the tin to remove any excess pastry. Whatever tin you are placing the pastry into, remember to refrigerate it for 30 minutes, in its tin, before baking. The third egg should be whisked and brushed over the base, to seal it, after the pastry base has been blind-baked.
When you are ready to blind-bake and fill the pastry base, follow the recipe of your choice - lemon tart, pecan pie, treacle tart and pumpkin pie would all work perfectly with this sweet pastry base!