How to Make Perfect Shortcrust Pastry

Although I have the utmost respect for my fellow food bloggers, I’ve found that an awful lot of people shirk their pastry making duties. The excuse is invariable – making shortcrust pastry is difficult. Well, quite frankly, it isn’t – there are lots of rules, but if they are followed one’s pastry should be perfect every time. The other thing which makes my mind boggle is the inclusion of eggs or sugar in shortcrust pastry. A good shortcrust should contain nothing but plain flour, butter, water and a pinch of salt, whether intended for a savoury or sweet filling. Happily, such a recipe is also exceedingly frugal, as you shall soon see!

As mentioned in another post, Delia is my baking Goddess and her top tips for making shortcrust pastry are thus:

• The quantity of butter in the pastry should be no more than half of the amount of flour. It should also be at room temperature when used.

• The butter should spend as little time in one’s bare hand as possible.  If the butter beings to melt it becomes oily and lowers the quality of the pastry. As such, one should cut the butter and flour together with a knife, before bringing it together with the hands as quickly as possible.

• The water used in making shortcrust pastry should be as cold as possible. The quantity of water used will be different in every case, but Delia recommends starting with 1 tbsp and going from there. The consistency wants to be soft and malleable. Again, bring the dough together with a knife and only finish with hands.

• Due to the gluten content of flour based dough, the raw pastry must be rested before use. Rest it in the fridge for 30 minutes and bring it back to room temperature before use.

• Treat the dough delicately when rolling, if you bash it about it might tear, the same goes for moulding it into the case. To get the dough to match the shape of the case press it into position using a small ball of dough in your fingers – this approach will avoid tearing. Remember, shrinking will occur so make sure the pastry rises slightly above the casing. This is something I didn’t do quite so well.

• Prick the base of the pastry before blind baking, ensure baking beans are used to avoid any unwanted bubbling. This should take no longer than 12 minutes at 190C. Remove the beans and greaseproof paper before returning to oven to allow the pastry to turn golden brown – this should take between 3 and 5 minutes. This is vital, otherwise your tart shall end up with a soggy bottom. No one likes a soggy-bottomed tart.

Basic Shortcrust Pastry Recipe:

Makes plenty for a 9-10 inch flan tin

Ingredients:

• 150g plain flour

• 75g butter

• A pinch of salt

• A dash of water

Cost: Pretty much negligible, the amount the above recipe makes would cost around 30p to make. How delectable!

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81 comments on “How to Make Perfect Shortcrust Pastry

  1. cookinginsens
    September 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    You’re absolutely right frugal.

    Love,
    Rosemary the Shirker

  2. ceciliag
    September 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Oh I could not agree more.. no-one wants a soggy bottom! This is how I make mine too (except my knife is the food processor) and no to sugar ever.. lovely c

    • frugalfeeding
      September 21, 2011 at 11:46 pm

      Nope, not in every day life anyway… hmm. Tut with the processor! Cheat 😀

  3. ambrosiana
    September 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    One of the most helpful post I have ever read!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  4. alexpaton
    September 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I’ve been thinking about pastry a lot recently, I blame The Great British Bake Off which at times make me recoil in horror. Food processors & pastry, tish tish. However the inclusion of egg “Rich shortcrust” encourages even colouring & sugar well that’s just sweet pastry it’s not my preference but I’m not opposed it. I also leave a 1 cm overhang & chill before blind baking because it reduces shrinkage. After removing the baking beans I would always glaze the case with egg wash up to 3 times to create a water tight finish thus preventing a soggy bottom after filling. Any excess can be trimmed after baking & before filling by running a super sharp knife along the top of the tart tin. Always worked a dream for me & it gives a perfect top edge. I agree more people should make shortcrust rather than buying it especially given that nearly everyone has the ingredients on hand. Hopefully your post will encourage a few more people to have a go.

    • frugalfeeding
      September 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

      It’s very good. my girlfriend is addicted to it. I know though, I don’t agree with the processing but it does save time I guess. I find that if you bake it well enough you needn’t egg wash it. I usually leave more of an over hang, but I kinda forgot 😛 I really hope it does, buying it is needless.

  5. Kay aka Babygirl
    September 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    I absolutely love your crust and this recipe. I will definitely try my hand at this.

  6. Sara
    September 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Ha, I recently did a post on this too, though as an American I guess I called it “pie crust.” (I have a Delia cookbook even from my time in the UK!) I overbought on butter this week (it’s all “going bad” in a few days, I hate it when I rush and don’t check the sell-by dates) so you’ve reminded me I should make some batches for the freezer!

    • frugalfeeding
      September 21, 2011 at 11:53 pm

      Delia is so good. Glad to hear you’ve done the same. Yes do, it keeps for ages anyway!

  7. GretalRabbit
    September 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Have you been watching the Great British Bake-Off? Every episode is full of ‘soggy bottom’ jokes :)

    I’m rubbish at pastry, I think I’ll have to give another go soon- thanks for the tips :)

    xGretalRabbitx

    • frugalfeeding
      September 21, 2011 at 11:53 pm

      I do sometimes, it’s very good. My girlfriend adores it. I got her into it. Please give it a go! Let me know if it all works well.

  8. HerMoveableFeast
    September 22, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Great baking tips!

  9. Flip's Foodie Files
    September 22, 2011 at 2:01 am

    I am so excited you posted this! I’ve been looking for a good recipe and this looks perfect! I can’t wait to try it this weekend. Thanks so much, and I love all the pictures, so helpful!

    • frugalfeeding
      September 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Awesome! Let me know if it turns out ok!

  10. Bluejellybeans
    September 22, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Thanks for that FrugalFeeding! I will take your advice for next pie.

  11. thecompletecookbook
    September 22, 2011 at 9:47 am

    What a lovely post – just about the pasty – love it!
    Have a super day.
    :-) Mandy

    • frugalfeeding
      September 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm

      I thought it was important! Plus it’ll save space etc on future posts and I won’t have to type it out for every tart/quiche recipe I do!

  12. bakedcottonstar
    September 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Great recipe, I love making pastry, well worth the effort – can always freeze the extras if you make more than you need!

    • frugalfeeding
      September 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm

      I think it;s so much fun. I don;t know why more people don’t!

  13. ChgoJohn
    September 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    A very helpful post. Thank you!

  14. LeeAnn
    September 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Yes! Store bought crust is such a shame. It’s really easy to make homemade crust, I don’t understand why people shy away from it. Thanks for your recipe and tips, I’ve always used ice cold butter and used my hands to crumble it in, but maybe I’ll have to use room temperature butter and try the knife (or fork or pastry cutter) method next time.

    • frugalfeeding
      September 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      The problem with that method is that you’ll still get some melting occurring which needs to be avoided. If the better gets too oily the crust won#t be so short and crisp.

  15. Rachel (tea and chocolate)
    September 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Well, I’m afraid of making a pastry crust after totally failing the last time I tried it. But you definitely make it look doable! I’ll try some of your tips next time.

    • frugalfeeding
      September 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm

      Just follow the guide and it’ll be perfect!

  16. paintmepicasso
    September 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Finally! A pastry recipe that doesn’t feel too daunting to try! Please may I reblog?

    • frugalfeeding
      September 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm

      Of course you may! Link me back though 😀

  17. thecrunchysoup
    September 22, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Thank you! I recently made a pandowdy (where a soggy top is preferred). Breaking out my store bought crust made me cringe….thanks!!!!

    • frugalfeeding
      September 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      Tut! I’ve never heard of a pandowdy though…

  18. Lynielicious
    September 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    too simple…. must make…. thanks for sharing!!

  19. Susan
    September 23, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Hi there! I make a classic shortcrust slightly differently, using cold butter, which makes the crust flakier, flour, and ice water. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with using a food processor (it cuts the butter into the flour faster, thus keeping the fat from breaking down) but I don’t have one in London so I make all my pastries by hand. However, I do deviate from this formula on occasion. Both sugar and (in some instances milk) create a different texture — more like a shortbread — which is nice for freeform tarts such as (ahem!) my rustic berry tart: http://susaneatslondon.com/2011/09/22/rustic-raspberry-tart/

    • frugalfeeding
      September 23, 2011 at 7:54 pm

      Everyone has their preferences I suppose. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sugar, only if you’re trying to make shortcrust… I suppose shortbread is slightly different.

  20. The Southern Lady
    September 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    A very helpful post and no one likes a soggy crust. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

    • frugalfeeding
      September 23, 2011 at 7:56 pm

      No problem. I found the tips very helpful too.

  21. Kimby
    September 23, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I like your way of telling folks how to make pastry better than mine — “if you bash it about it might tear” is SO much more descriptive than “handle the dough gently.” :) Thanks for an excellent tutorial. And hear, hear on using just four basic ingredients. No sugar, eggs or (gasp) vinegar in mine, either!

    • frugalfeeding
      September 27, 2011 at 9:56 am

      Pastry just doesn’t need those ingredients. If one does it properly then there is no need.

  22. thekalechronicles
    September 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Point of agreement: shortcrust or “pie crust” as we call it here in the States does not require sugar.

    Suggestion for a crisper bottom crust: brush it with a little reserved egg white from your tart filling (just a bit). This will seal the crust against liquid from the filling. It works with any kind of tart or pie — fruit pies, pecan tart, quiche.

    I’ve found it easier to cut butter into flour with two knives, rather than one, but a pastry blender works even better: that’s that implement with a half circle of wires or thin metal bands.

    Lastly, for a variation on shortcrust that uses less butter and comes out tender, flaky and non-greasy, try Swedish pie crust, which includes egg and vinegar (but no sugar) — I don’t know what the vinegar does technically, but this recipe makes terrific crust. I learned it from me Ma. Check it out by going to Kale Chronicles and reading the crust part of “Gravenstein Apple Pie.” Cheers! — Sharyn

    • frugalfeeding
      September 27, 2011 at 10:06 am

      I simply don’t agree with the egg washing, it doesn’t need it if one knows how to blind bake properly. In my opinion, there is no reason to add any extra ingredients to the mix if one makes classic shortcrust meticulously. Unless one would prefer a shortbread crust, in which case sugar is ok.

  23. Meghan
    September 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Great instructions, and I couldn’t agree with you more on using just the basic ingredients. A few of my old cookbooks have instructions for an “easy” pastry crust, which includes egg and vinegar. I’m not sure how adding more ingredients makes it simple. I’m like you, I like to stick to the basics: butter, flour, water and salt (and sometimes a pinch of sugar for a sweet tart or pie).

    • frugalfeeding
      September 27, 2011 at 10:22 am

      Simple is ALWAYS better with pastry. You’re only cheating if you have to add extra ingredients to rectify problems.

  24. cookingkos
    September 30, 2011 at 3:56 am

    I usually avoid making pie crusts because it always seems too finicky. This seem manageable. Will try next week.

    • frugalfeeding
      October 3, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      They really aren’t, follow this – it’s fool proof

  25. baconbiscuit212
    October 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    I love the classic pâte brisée! Thank you for posting this!

    Actually, I might be the world’s worst baker (lopsided cakes, overdone edges and liquid centers, cracks as big as the faultlines), but I love tarts and set out a long time ago to perfect them.

    Do you chill your tart crust in the fridge before baking? I do that when I am not rushed and find that it cuts down on shrinkage . . .

    • frugalfeeding
      October 3, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      I do if I have time. Did I not write that in? Sometimes I forget things! Glad you liked.

  26. Meredith
    October 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    I will try your method for crust, if you try my latest favorite method that seems born out of frankenstein’s laboratory. It does come from a trusted source! And no extra ingredients!

    http://tspsa.wordpress.com/category/recipes/2011/08/21/right-under-our-noses/#entry

  27. Cook Quilt Make and Bake
    November 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Just stopped by to check how long to blind bake my pumpkin pie crust … feels like good time of year for it :)

    • frugalfeeding
      November 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      To be honest, any time of year is good for it 😀

  28. happygoodtime
    November 22, 2011 at 2:49 am

    I’m prepping for my yearly pies, and this post was really helpful. I’m always buying pre-made pastry for the convenience factor, but you’re right – this really doesn’t seem so difficult.

    I’m attempting tiny pumpkin pies tomorrow, and this recipe shall be my pastry!

    Great tip about the shrinkage. I’ll keep a lookout for that.

    • frugalfeeding
      November 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm

      Thank you. I always try to be helpful :D. Good luck with the pies, I hope they turned out well.

  29. ohmygoodygoodness
    December 19, 2012 at 2:11 am

    I have been making a version of your British hand pies for my best friend who is from Wiggan. I have been using store bought pastry because I was nervous about making it. After seeing this post, I have the courage to make my own! Thank you so much for the instruction and pictures!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 20, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      That’s quite all right. You must make it, it’s so simple!

  30. narf77
    December 20, 2012 at 3:43 am

    You made a map of Tasmania out of shortcrust pastry! Well done 😉

  31. Mel
    August 25, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Wish I found this before I made a version today with egg and very cold butter, done in a blender…..
    My Quiche Lorraine is ruined, because the pastry is the texture of shortbread cookies :(
    Thanks for the tips, will try again!

  32. paul
    November 9, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Sorry but the best pastry is 200 grams of plain flour 100 grams of best butter and pinch of salt and water it makes a far superior pastry than that of yours

    • frugalfeeding
      November 9, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Hi Paul – I hope you realise that you’ve literally just repeated my recipe back to me but with larger quantities?

  33. Susan
    November 10, 2013 at 2:27 am

    Is there a difference between ‘shortcrust’ pasty and what I’d call regular pie pastry? I don’t do a lot of pastry, so am not sure if these are interchangeable.

    Thanks!

    • frugalfeeding
      November 11, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      This is a perfect pastry for pies of any sort, if that helps?!

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