Sweet shortcrust is a cinch! Follow our recipe and you’ll soon be turning out impeccable sweet tarts for your friends and family. Okay, so there are things that can go wrong… and yes, it might take a few tries to get it perfect, but isn’t that a great excuse to start practising? Start with a tray of traditional jam tarts, or try our sumptuous chocolate tart, below – you’ll soon be baking sweet tarts in your sleep…
Making Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
Many people, even experienced bakers, are anxious about attempting sweet shortcrust pastry. But Pastry doesn’t need a technical approach, a steady hand, or perfect accuracy: in fact, what pastry really likes is to be left alone. So keep your work to a minimum, and the results will be wonderful. Here is a recipe for shortcrust pastry that is suitable for sweet tarts. It’s a little harder to work than plain shortcrust, because it has an egg yolk in it – which also makes it nice and crumbly.
- 175g (6oz) plain flour (not strong or bread flour)
- Generous pinch of table salt
- 85g (3½ oz) butter (choose good quality, unsalted butter)
- 50g (2oz) caster sugar
- The yolk of 1 large egg, beaten lightly in a cup
- 1-2tbsp double cream
For the best results, weigh out the butter, cut it into pieces in your mixing bowl, then sift the flour over the top, and put the whole bowl into the freezer for 15 minutes. Now pull it out – it should be nice and cold but not frozen – and add the pinch of salt. Then, using your fingertips, lightly rub the butter in, stopping when it looks like chunky breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the middle of the mixture. Tip in the egg and 1tbsp of the cream and work it in lightly with a wooden spoon or knife. If the dough isn’t coming together, add another ½ tbsp of cream – you may need all of the cream, or you may not. Gently gather the dough into a round, wrap in clingfilm, and put into the fridge to relax for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry to fit an 8-9” flan or tart case, lower it in carefully, trying to avoid stretching the dough, and refrigerate the case for another 30 minutes. Trim the edges, leaving a little extra overhang to allow for shrinking in the oven.
If the recipe calls for a part-baked case, you will need to bake it ‘blind’ before filling. To do this, line the case with foil or greaseproof paper, and fill it with dried beans or baking beans (specially sold weights). Bake at 190ºC for 10-15 minutes, then remove the paper or foil and bake until golden. Your tart is now ready to fill. NOTE: Follow the instructions for baking provided in your tart recipe – some tarts should be baked for less, if they are to have a second baking later.
An Easy Sweet Tart Filling to Try
You’ve got a golden baked pastry case – what should you do with it? Try this rich chocolate truffle filling. In a bowl, weigh out 14oz chopped dark chocolate and pop it into the oven you’ve just taken the tart case from; set the timer for 2 minutes, then check if the chocolate has melted. In a separate bowl, whisk together 7oz cream cheese (that’s a regular rectangular packet) with 150ml full-fat milk, 1tsp vanilla extract, and 75ml double cream. Sift over 1oz icing sugar and whisk in thoroughly. Now add the melted chocolate and fold with a metal spoon until it’s incorporated. Taste to see if it needs any more icing sugar. Pour the filling into your cooled tart case, and put in the fridge until it’s set.