This basic pastry is used in many popular recipes, from mince pies to quiches; it’s also one of the easiest pastries to start with. The uncooked dough can be frozen or kept in the fridge for a couple of days. Makes 400g (14oz).
Place the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and whiz briefly. Add half the beaten egg and continue to whiz. You might add a little more egg, but not too much as the mixture should be just moist enough to come together. If making by hand, rub the butter into the flour (1) until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs (2) then, using your hands, add just enough egg to bring it together (3). With your hands, flatten out the ball of dough until it is about 2cm (3/4in) thick (4), then wrap in cling film or place in a plastic bag (5) and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or, if you are pushed for time, in the freezer for 10–15 minutes.
Sweet shortcrust pastry: In place of the pinch of salt, use 1 tablespoon of icing sugar.
Soured cream shortcrust pastry: Replace the egg with 2 tablespoons of soured cream (or crème fraîche), adding just enough to bring it together.
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