Does shortcrust pastry require baking powder?
That’s some question! Good enough to split up pastry lovers!
Some always add it and some never use it! Who’s right and who’s wrong? Both!
We can use baking powder depending on how we want our shortcrust pastry:
- Do I need a shortcrust pastry for jam or apple tarts?
- Do I need a shortcrust to line moulds that will hold perfectly?
- Am I going to bake biscuits?
First of all, let’s see what is baking powder (or baker’s yeast).
Baking powder is usually made of tartaric acid and sodium bicarbonate, which produce carbon dioxide during baking.
Besides baking powder there are other different leavening agents such as:
- Cream of tartar – it must always react with sodium bicarbonate; this mixture forms the so-called baking powder
- Sodium bicarbonate – it is added alone as a leavening agent only when the recipe already contains acids like yoghurt, fruit juices, fermented buttermilk, etc.
- Ammonium carbonate – it is used alone because it tends to decompose with heat
All these substances are used to increase the volume of sweets; in the case of shortcrust pastry they can add to its friability, too.
Do I need a shortcrust pastry for jam or apple tarts?
In this case I will add yeast to the dough because my cake should be high, soft and really crumbly.
Flour must always be low-protein / low-gluten (or ‘weak’); if gluten-rich flour is used the dough becomes elastic preventing the formation of carbon dioxide and bashing the cake.
Do I need a shortcrust to line moulds that will hold perfectly?
No yeast is required in this case!
A well-balanced shortcrust pastry used for lining a cake tin must stay draped on the tin rims and edges without shrinking:
adding yeast would make the pastry edges shrink and collapse precisely because of carbon dioxide production.
In this case I recommend using adjustable stainless steel cake rings and micro-perforated silicone mats to facilitate the outlet of steam, thus improving both the baking and stability of the shortcrust pastry.
Am I going to bake biscuits?
The same rules apply:
- My biscuits must hold their shape perfectly without spreading or distorting: very well, I will mix them without baking powder.
- I want especially crumbly biscuits which increase in volume: in this case to get maximum friability (for cut-out biscuits, loaves, etc.) I can add yeast or make a whipped shortcrust.
For the baking situations above that do require baking powder, please remember one basic rule:
YEAST MUST BE WEIGHTED!!!!!!
Adding a random amount is not an option. Let me tell you why:
- Pinching in the throat. If there’s one thing that is really annoying it’s biting into a dessert that tastes of chemicals. Too much yeast affects taste negatively and leaves a persistent unpleasant sensation in our throat.
- Not enough or too much leavening. If you do not weigh yeast you cannot repeat good results over time: once your tart is thin and the next time it is high.
Make sure you always read the amounts called for on the sachet, bag or can.
Containers usually read “recommended dose for a certain amount of flour”: as a rule I generally put a few grammes less.
Have a good dessert!!