When cooking with pastry at home, it is important to select the right one for the job, as although the three most commonly used types (puff, shortcrust and filo) are quite adaptable, they will all give a very different result to the final dish.
Much sturdier than puff, shortcrust pastry is a combined dough of flour and fat, resulting in a crumbly texture, rather than flaky. As it has a much closer crumb structure, it can be used to construct robust cases and exteriors for pies and tarts, and can stand up to both wet and dry fillings.
To create this sturdy base, shortcrust is normally blind baked in the required tin before a filling is added, ensuring the pastry has mostly cooked and dried out first. Quicker variations, such as this caramelised shallot and goat’s cheese galette, don’t require blind baking, but be sure to check that the pastry is cooked underneath before serving.
Easily recognisable in many classic recipes, shortcrust pastry forms the base of savoury quiches, comforting pies and a whole host of sweet desserts, from a traditional Bakewell tart to festive mince pies or an elegant tarte au citron. This adaptable pastry is equally suited to making smaller pies and tarts, making it perfect for individual portions or canapés.
Filo pastry is notably different to both puff and shortcrust. Made with relatively little fat, the pastry comes in very thin sheets which usually need to be layered together to create a thin, flaky casing for fillings. The nature of this pastry makes it a popular choice if looking for healthier options, or when time is short, as it cooks far quicker than puff or shortcrust. On the other hand, it is very fragile, and can rip or tear easily when used, and again, is better suited to slightly drier fillings.
While both puff and shortcrust can be manipulated and shaped quite easily, the layers of filo pastry are not quite as flexible. Tart tins can be lined by overlapping the sheets and this creates the distinctive crinkled layers associated with filo. The layers are usually brushed with butter to help them stick together, but oil can be used for a vegan or dairy-free alternative. Filo can be used as a base for tarts and quiches, or in more exotic dishes, such as samosas or these Chicken, manchego and chorizo briouats.