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!

80 thoughts on “How to Make Perfect Shortcrust Pastry

  1. alexpaton

    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.

    1. frugalfeeding

      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 :P I really hope it does, buying it is needless.

  2. Sara

    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!

  3. GretalRabbit

    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

  4. LeeAnn

    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.

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  7. Susan

    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/

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  9. Kimby

    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!

  10. thekalechronicles

    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

    1. frugalfeeding

      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.

  11. Meghan

    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).

  12. baconbiscuit212

    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 . . .

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  17. happygoodtime

    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.

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  21. ohmygoodygoodness

    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!

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  24. Mel

    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!

  25. paul

    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

  26. Susan

    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!

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