Last month, a reader named Annette was looking for a recipe to replicate the crust used in the strawberry pie at My Place Pie Place, a West End restaurant on Portage Avenue that is now closed. She loved its shortbread-like taste and texture. While we don't have that exact recipe, we do have two recipes for pie crusts that are buttery, sweet and a little crumbly, like shortbread. I adapted a recipe from The Smitten Kitchen for the first version. Thanks to Linda Snider from Glenboro for the second.
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Shortbread Pastry 1
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
125 ml (1/2 cup) icing sugar
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
125 g (1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 egg, beaten
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt. Spread the diced butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. Add the egg, a little at a time, pulsing after each addition, and then process in long pulses, about 10 seconds each, until the dough just starts to form clumps. Pat the dough into a 22-cm (9-inch) tart pan with removable sides, pressing it gently and evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Prick pastry all over with a fork. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. Makes one 22-cm (9-inch) tart crust.
Tester's notes: This pastry was shortbready, being a bit sweet and quite tender. And I love a pat-in pastry crust, as I find that rolling out dough can be a bit of an ordeal.
The freezing process means you can blind-bake the tart shell without using pie weights. To completely pre-bake the tart shell, butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, onto the pastry shell. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, and bake in the centre of the oven at 190 C (375 F) for about 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil. If the crust has puffed up, gently press down with the back of a spoon. Then bake for about 10 minutes more, watching carefully, until the pastry is firm and golden-brown.
For my tart, I pre-baked the pastry for 20 minutes at 175 C (350 F). Then I let it cool, poured in a custardy fruit filling and baked for about 30 minutes more. It worked beautifully.
Shortbread Pastry 2
250 ml (1 cup) butter, softened
125 ml (1/2 cup) icing sugar
500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 ml (1/4 tsp) baking powder
In medium bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In small bowl, mix together flour and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir flour mixture into butter mixture just until dough starts to come together. Pat gently into a 22-cm (9-inch) pie plate. Prick pastry all over with a fork, and bake at 175 C (350 F) for about 15 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
Tester's notes: Very rich and buttery, with a taste and texture like a shortbread cookie. I used a 24-cm (9.5 inch) glass pie dish that was fairly deep, froze the pie shell for 30 minutes, and then baked it at 175 C (350 F) for about 20 minutes (checking after the 15-minute mark) until dry and lightly browned at the edges. This pre-baked pastry shell could be filled with strawberries and cream.