Shropshire Star

The Big Debate: The perfect pastry

It’s fair to say Brits love a pie but what’s the best pastry – shortcrust or puff? Andy Richardson and Heather Large battle it out...

Which is the pastry for you?

Heather Large: Shortcrust is the real deal

Savoury, sweet, hot or cold, pies are one of the ultimate comfort foods.

They have been around for centuries and their versatility has made them a favourite in households up and down the country.

As a nation, we eat £1billion worth of pies every year and that’s only those that are bought ready made or eaten in pubs and restaurants.

It doesn’t include the many more made from scratch by home cooks in kitchens every day.

Whether it’s chicken and mushroom, cheese and onion or steak and ale, it always seems more of an indulgent treat when it’s made with buttery, shortcrust pastry.

Yes, it makes it a hearty meal but that also makes it perfect for the winter months when we crave something that will warm us up from the inside out.

There are also advantages to shortcrust if you want to make a pie at home.

It’s said to be the easiest pastry to make from scratch, which is always a bonus.

It tends to have a firm texture and is less likely to leak, which makes it better for keeping the tasty filling inside. And no one wants a leaky pie.

In my opinion, puff pastry is absolutely fine if you want something lighter, such as a pie with just a lid on top of the filling. Although, whether that still makes it a pie, is a whole other debate...

Andy Richardson: Puff gives room for more

I love my three children equally, especially Sam. And I feel the same way about puff pastry. Shortcrust is majestic. But then so are flaky and choux. I’ve never been entirely convinced by filo, to be honest. It’s like edible parchment paper, but I digress. Oh yes, and lest we forget the lesser spotted hot water crust, or indeed the utterly decadent suet crust.

But when it comes to pies, there’s only one contender – puff pastry. It’s the butteriness, I think, as well as the lightness. And it’s also the thrilling mix of soggy-meets-crunch – for there’s habitually a layer at the bottom of the pie that’s stodgy and like mainlining carbs, alongside the crisp, floaty, snap of a golden brown top layer.

Shortcrust is just too dense. It’s too heavy. Eating a whole shortcrust pie is too much of a challenge. And the consequences are usually the sort of leaden-stomached, post-dinner slump that follows a Christmas dinner-sized feast of over-indulgence.

With puff pastry, you still have a chance of dessert. And so while shortcrust ought not to feel diminished, it’s got a different job.

Stick it on an apple pie – actually, no, don’t, use flaky instead. Use it with a pasty. Bake it into a tart, or a quiche. Even better, make a summer vegetable and feta galette – yes, galette. But leave pies to the ballerina-light puff pastry. Because when you’re tucking into a magnificent beef and ale number, you want to have room to finish it.

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