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WEAK DOUGH

Today we will talk about the last great base of the pastry, the "weakest" of all and from which it derives its name: the PASTA FROLLA.

18 February 2021

Friends of Erre4m, welcome to this new post. Today we will talk about the last great base of the pastry, the "weakest" of all and from which it derives its name: the PASTA FROLLA.

As with all the bases we have already mentioned, shortcrust pastry also has ancient origins. According to some historical research, the birth of this cake, which is very common especially in our country, dates back to around the year 1000 in the maritime city of Venice. Venice was at that time the European commercial centre with the East; in fact, the cane sugar used to prepare the cakes came from the East. More recent evidence indicates that shortcrust pastry was widespread in northern Italy during the Renaissance, while more reliable written sources tell us that in the seventeenth century this product was known and prepared throughout Italy and even in the kitchens of the courts beyond the Alps.

As with all ancient preparations, the ingredients of shortcrust pastry are simple: flour, fat, sugar and eggs. Shortcrust pastry is used as the base for a variety of sweets, starting with tarts, as well as biscuits of every type and shape. There are countless variations of shortcrust pastry recipes, which indicates the antiquity of this sweet base.

We can, however, identify three basic recipes for shortcrust pastry: classic shortcrust pastry, sablè shortcrust pastry and bottom pastry. What distinguishes these three types of shortcrust pastry is the ratio of butter to sugar, in relation to a constant, which is the amount of flour that is the basic ingredient. Let's take a look at these indications in detail.

In classic shortcrust pastry the ratio between the fat part and sugar is equal and their weight is half that of the flour. Example: 50 g fat, 50 g sugar, 100 g flour. This type of shortcrust pastry is mainly used for the preparation of various types of biscuits.

Sablè shortcrust pastry, on the other hand, has an increase in the amount of fat and a decrease in the amount of sugar: 60 g of fat, 40 g of sugar, always with a constant 100 g of flour. It is excellent for the preparation of baked cakes and tea biscuits.

The bread for fondant is the opposite of sablè shortcrust pastry, that is, we have an increase in sugar and a decrease in the fat part: 40 g of fat part, 60 g of sugar, on 100 g of flour. Suitable for cooked pastry that will then be filled with creamy products.

As we can see, in these three recipes the ingredient that gives moisture to the dough is missing, that is, the eggs.

In shortcrust pastry the quantity of eggs is calculated by adding the weight of the solid ingredients and dividing the result by 10/12.

Let's see in detail:

  • In the above mentioned recipe of classic shortcrust pastry by adding the weight of the three solid ingredients: flour, fat and sugar the result is 200g; to find the weight of the eggs we have to divide 200 by 10/12 and the result is 20g of eggs.
  • The same operation has to be done for the sablè shortcrust pastry but there is a small point to make. In the recipe for shortcrust pastry sablè there is an increase in the amount of fat compared to the recipe for classic shortcrust pastry. The greater amount of fat in the recipe means that this type of shortcrust pastry has a greater, albeit relative, amount of moisture, so the amount of eggs must be reduced slightly in order to obtain a softness of shortcrust pastry similar to that of classic shortcrust pastry, i.e. 25% of the weight of the eggs must be removed. Let's see the example: 200g total solids, divided by 10 = 20g eggs - 20% = 16g
  • For the shortcrust pastry for bottoms the discourse is opposite to that of the shortcrust pastry sablè. By increasing the amount of sugar and decreasing the amount of fat, we will have a decrease in the starting humidity of the solids, so at 200g of the weight of the solids divided by 10/12, the result will have to be an increase of 4 grams of eggs to compensate for the decrease in fat.

There are also three methods of kneading the shortcrust pastry, let's see them:

  1. CLATIC METHOD: the fatty part is kneaded with the sugar and flavourings, then the liquids are added and the flour is added to finish. This method is recommended for shortcrust pastries low in fat, resulting in a structure that is not very crumbly and "glassy".
  2. SANDY METHOD: also known as the inverse method, first the flour is mixed with the fat and flavourings, then the liquids are added and finally the sugar is added. This process is ideal for recipes rich in fat and generates a crumbly structure and indicated when working in a warm environment.
  3. WHIPED METHOD: is the same as the classic method as a sequence of insertion of ingredients only that the fat is whipped with sugar and flavorings, then the liquids are added slowly and flush so that the whipped mass incorporates them slowly and finally the flour is inserted gently and by hand to avoid disassembling the dough. This method is used for those shortcrust pastries that after kneading remain soft and creamy and can be used with the use of a pastry bag.

Also in shortcrust pastry the function of each single ingredient is very important in relation to the finished product. Let's see them:

  • FLOR as seen at the beginning is the basic ingredient of the recipe. The flour to be used in the shortcrust pastry must always be weak, i.e. low in gluten proteins, in order to obtain a dough that is not very elastic and resistant...i.e. crumbly and crumbly. If you have a flour with high strength we can lower it in two ways:
  1. Replacing part of the amount of flour with starches: potato starch, corn starch or rice. Starches do not contain gluten;
  2. Using the sandblasted method. This method allows the fat to envelop the glutinous proteins with a layer that is impermeable to water. In fact, we know that gluten is formed when the gluten proteins are wetted with liquid. Therefore, by waterproofing them, we lower their binding power.

  • FAT PART this ingredient is the one that makes the dough friable as well as giving it taste. The greater its quantity, the greater the friability; on the contrary, if we reduce it, we reduce the friability. First of all, we can mention butter, which, thanks to its consistency, makes the pastry very plastic and gives it a characteristic taste; then there are the vegetable margarines, which have a consistency similar to butter but leave a sense of patina on the palate because they have a melting point above 40°C and do not melt in the mouth; the oils, which produce a pastry with a lower quantity of fat because they are liquid. Granulated sugar produces a crunchy pastry because its crystals are not dissolved in the dough and, remaining whole, will caramelise during cooking, creating a crunchy texture. Icing sugar facilitates the formation of a more ductile and malleable shortcrust pastry. Raw cane sugar makes for a more colourful shortcrust pastry with a pleasant molasses taste. Honey can be added to the recipe replacing it up to a maximum of 10% of the weight of the sugar in order not to alter the consistency of the pastry and also because honey is a reducing sugar tends to significantly color the pastry during cooking

  • EQUIDS eggs are the main ingredient to moisturize the shortcrust pastry; they favour the homogenization of the fatty matter with the sugars and help to bind the structure both during kneading and baking thanks to their proteins. Eggs can be used either whole or red or white. If we use the yolk (which contains 50% water) we will have to increase the dose because it contains less water than the whole eggs (75% water) so if the recipe provides 100g of whole eggs we will have to replace them with 167g of yolk. If we want to use the egg white (88% water) instead of 100g of whole eggs we will have to use 88g. We can use other liquids such as water, milk, cream or fruit purées, but we know that since they do not contain binding proteins, they produce a more fragile pastry. 100g of eggs are equivalent to: 75g water or fruit puree, 90g milk, 125g liquid cream.

To finish, some great little tips. It is necessary to avoid kneading the shortcrust pastry for a long time, otherwise we will obtain an elastic and resistant pastry that will be hard when baked and will tend to ovalise significantly.

After kneading, the shortcrust pastry must always be left to rest in the fridge so that the flour proteins relax after kneading and the fats recrystallise. The minimum resting time is 5 hours, but the recommended time is 12 hours.

The shortcrust pastry to be rolled does not need excessive amounts of flour, little on both sides and often allows a more than satisfactory work. I also recommend rolling out the pastry using either baking paper or a silicone mat as a base, as this will prevent the pastry from sticking to the work surface.

After rolling out the pastry, in order to obtain products that do not deform, it must be left to rest for about an hour at room temperature or in the fridge.

Finally, the shortcrust pastry must always be cooked slowly to obtain a homogeneous hazelnut colour and to cook to the core of the product which would otherwise produce a raw flour taste or soften too quickly when in contact with moist products such as creams, jams or the humidity of the environment itself. So the shortcrust pastry should generally be cooked at 170°C if we use a static oven and making sure to open the oven door slightly so that the product dries out completely; or at 150-160°C in a ventilated oven.

That said, I leave you to your pastry tests...see you next time!

Blog edited by Enrico Gumirato pastry chef and trainer.

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