Please can you tell me how I can make great shortcrust pastry in my Kenwood Major? My attempts so far have produced an extremely short pastry that is really difficult to work with. I need to produce quite large batches. If the problem cannot be resolved a sure fire suggestion for divine pastry would be great. Thank you!
The problem with making pastry by machine is that it can be easy to add too little water, as the warmth of the machine will tend to bring the dough together too quickly, or too much water as it is easy to keep adding without feeling the texture of the dough. We would suggest that you do the "rubbing in" stage with the paddle/K-beater attachment of your mixer and add the water manually.
Cut the fat into roughly 1cm/1/2-inch cubes and add them to the mixer with the flour. Mix at slow speed (be warned - the flour can fly up and out of the bowl) until there are no large lumps of fat left and the mixture resembles cake-like crumbs. Lift the beater, take the bowl away from the mixer and add the water by hand, mixing the pastry with a palette knife or long, flat spatula. Stir quickly when you add the water and don't add quite all of the water at once as you may not need it all. Every so often stop and press some of the dough crumbs between your fingers, if they come together easily then you should have added enough water. Once you have a mass of craggy lumps of dough, turn this onto a clean work surface and bring it together by hand without kneading it too much. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour to let the dough rest. If you are making the dough the day before then let it come up to room temperature before rolling it out as if the pastry is too cold it will just break up when you try to roll it. You can chill the rolled and formed pastry again before baking.
Also keep everything as cold as possible, so chill the stainless steel bowl and the beater in the fridge or freezer before using and use ice cold water. A little acid can also help to tenderize the pastry so you can add a squeeze of lemon juice to the water that you are going to use. Some people also prefer to use Italian "00" flour for pastry. Nigella has several tips for making pastry, and a recipe using a food processor, in How To Eat, pages 41 to 43.