I’m sharing with you today, my guide on How to Make Sweet Shortcrust Pastry. I’ve provided visual step by step images and detailed instructions so that you can follow along and learn exactly how to make this pastry by hand. In my guide, I also share lots of hints and tips that will help you produce beautiful flakey, butter pastry like a pro, for all those pies and tarts that you're itching to make.
Short crust pastry can have many stumped. It's too crumbly, it’s too soggy, the sides shrink are common problems that I hear. Which makes me super excited to share with you all that I know to make this incredibly tasty sweet shortcrust pastry. Home-made pastry hands-down beats store bought and is well worth the effort, I promise.
Out of all the different types of pastries out there, this is the one that I use most frequently when baking. I especially love baking tarts as they combine that beautiful home-made buttery, melt-in-your-mouth pastry you’ve just made with such an array of fillings. From no bake mascarpone tarts to baked fruit frangipane tarts ... the choices are endless in your options with sweet short crust pastry.
So pull up a chair and enjoy reading this post, it's jam packed with info for you. I want you to feel armed and ready in knowing How to Make Sweet Shortcrust Pastry like a boss by the end of this!
So, what is sweet short crust pastry?
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Exactly what is it?
It's basically the mixture of plain flour, a type of fat, usually butter or lard, egg, to add richness, sugar for sweetness and water for moisture.
Combine these ingredients together in the right way and you will have yourself the perfect base to the dessert that you are wanting to create.
What are the different types of pastry you can make?
You’ve probably heard lots of fancy French names and wondered what they’re all about when it comes to pastry
Pâte Sucrée - Or Sweet Shortcrust Pastry , is what I’m sharing with you today. It's ‘short’ in terms of its tender texture, with a light buttery, melt in your mouth quality. But with the addition of sugar it's sweet which lends itself to desserts. Easy to roll out, it requires chilling before baking.
Pâte Sablée - This is a rich, sweet crumbly dough with more of a cookie texture than a pastry. When translated ‘sablée’ means sandy and that's exactly what the texture of the pastry is like. Due to it's more crumbly nature instead of being rolled, it's generally pressed into its tart tin with your fingertips.
Pâte Brissée - This is your standard all butter shortcrust pastry that you can use for sweet and savoury recipes. It's made in much the same way as Pate Sucrée/Sweet Shortcrust Pastry but it has way less or no sugar content in it and most importantly no egg. When combined, the butter chunks can be seen throughout the dough so that during the baking they melt and create pockets of air between the dough layers. This creates the perfect flakey, ‘short’ texture that you need.
What are the ingredients in Sweet Shortcrust Pastry?
As with anything, there are a multitude of different ways of making sweet shortcrust pastry. This is my method with these ingredients that I’ve used for many years successfully.
The combination of these ingredients will produce the perfect dough for you. There are many variables that can effect your dough such as the quantity and temperature of your ingredients.
Butter: Some recipes call for half butter, half shortening, but I prefer to use all butter. That all butter taste can’t be rivalled in my opinion. I use unsalted as I like to add the salt into the recipe but by all means uses salted butter if if you like, just omit the salt later on.
Flour: Plain or all purpose flour is the way to go here. The gluten in the flour begins to develop as soon as the water mixes in with it and that why we firstly need to add as little water as possible but secondly knead the dough as few times as possible.
Egg: The egg yolk in particular gives the crust a lovely richness but also increases the crumbly texture of the dough. Different recipes ask for just egg yolks or a combination of egg yolks and egg whites. I’ve found that one whole egg and one egg yolk make the perfect consistency
Icing Sugar: As this is Sweet Shortcrust Pastry, the dough requires sweetening in a form of sugar. You can use granulated or caster sugar but I prefer powdered icing sugar as the lack of granules gives a much smoother dough
Salt: This is optional really. Why add salt when it’s a sweet pastry? With any of my baking I love the balance that comes with adding salt to a sweet dish. It's as simple as that!
Water: This needs to be ice cold. The reason is to then keep the butter as cold as possible. If the butter melts, the pastry will lose its flakiness which we definitely don't want!
How to make Sweet Short Crust Pastry
So without further ado. Let's get into the step by step process of how we made this amazing dough.
- Into a large bowl sift the dry ingredients: flour, icing sugar and salt.
- Add the cold, cubed butter
TIP: Instead of cubing your butter, you can grate it instead.
3. Rub the butter and flour between your fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
TIP: make sure your hands are cold before doing this and work as quickly as you can to prevent the butter warming up.
Tip: This can be done with a pastry cutter too.
4. Make a well in the mixture and add the beaten egg and yolk. Using a fork or a butter knife, combine the flour and egg as much as you can.
5. Add 2 tablespoons of ice cold water and use your hands to bring the dough together (Add a little more only if needed). To test if the dough is ready, squeeze a bit between your finger and thumb and it should clump together without being too crumbly.
6. Turn the dough out onto your lightly floured work surface. There will still be lots of crumbly bits.
7. Press the dough just a couple of times to gather all the crumbs into a ball. Then shape into a disc lightly with your hands.
TIP: Forming the dough into a circle now makes it easier to roll out into a circular shape later on.
8. Next wrap the dough with cling film/cling wrap and refrigerate for minimum 30 minutes for the dough to rest.
9. Remove the dough from the fridge and let sit for 20 minutes before rolling. Then on a lightly floured surface and with a floured rolling pin, roll out your dough.
10. Place your tart tin onto of your dough to check that it's large enough to run up the sides of the pan and over the side.
11. Dust the inside of your tart tin with flour. Now place the dough carefully into your tart tin. There are two ways of doing this:
11a. On the surface fold the dough in half and then into quarters. Lift and place into the tart tin with the centre point of the dough in the middle of the tart tin. Then unfold the dough flat.
11b. Place your rolling pin in the centre of your rolled out dough and fold one half over the top. Then lift the rolling pin and slide the tart tin underneath and un fold the dough.
12. Lift the edges overhanging the tart tin and let the weight of the pastry fall down, gently press the dough into the edges of the tart tin all the way around.
13. Then use your finger to gently press the dough onto the side of the tart tin into all the groves without stretching the dough. Taking the time to do this will ensure a neat finish afterwards.
TIP: Do not pull the dough up to stretch it up the sides of the tin. Remember gluten is like an elastic band, if you stretch it, it will only want to spring back, and cause shrinkage.
Two ways to trim excess pastry
Now that your dough is neatly into your tart tin there are two ways of removing the excess dough:
14a. Using your rolling pin, roll firmly over the edge of the tart tin trimming the excess dough off.
14b. Use a sharp blade knife and run it around the top edge of the tart tin to trim the excess off.
15. Now chill the pastry again by placing your tart tin in the fridge for an hour before baking. By doing this you are maximising your chances of the dough maintaining its shape
Now your pastry is ready to bake!
What is Blind Baking?
Alright so now your pastry is in its tart tin looking all lovely and neat. What next?
More often that not you’ll need to blind bake your pastry case. What do you mean I hear you saying. Basically it's the process of par baking or completely baking your pastry before adding the filling.
Why do we blind bake pastry?
If you fill the pastry with a custard filling and you bake it at the same time, due to the moisture of the filling the pastry will struggle to cook fully and you’ll end up with soggy pastry. Also if you have a no bake filling for your tart, then the pastry needs to be fully baked prior to finishing off the tart by filling it.
What are the steps to blind baking?
Some prefer to ‘dock’ the base of the tart (pricking holes with your fork) and some prefer to use pie weights when blind baking. I do both for safe measure! The fork holes allow the steam to rise from the dough and stop it puffing up and rising. The pie weights are heavy enough to stop that dough from puffing up and rising.
I use a mix of ceramic balls and rice as pie weights (or baking beans), as I find the combination of the two weights the pastry down and holds up the sides of the pastry well. Alternatively you could use solely pie weights or rice or even lentils or sugar. I store these in a jar and re-use them over and over. Make sure they are distributed evenly and reach the brim of the pastry.
16. Prick the base of your tart with a fork all over.
17. Prepare your sheet of grease proof paper large enough to cover the tart shell. Grab your pie weights to be ready to use.
18. Line the base of the pastry with the baking paper.
TIP: Scrunch the paper up so that it will mould into the inner edges of your tart.
19. Fill the paper with your pie weights making sure the weights sit right up the sides of the pastry.
Baking your dough
Par Baked Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
20. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C/350F for 15 minutes until the pastry is firm.
Remove from the oven and using the sides of the grease proof paper, lift out the paper and pie weights and set aside to cool. Return your pastry to the oven for a further 7 minutes until the pastry is just starting to turn brown but when you touch it it still feels slightly soft when pressed.
Remove from the oven and cool slightly before add your pie filling and return to the oven for the recommended time as per your recipe.
Fully Baked Sweet Short Crust Pastry
21. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C/350F for 15 minutes until the pastry is firm.
Remove from the oven and using the sides of the grease proof paper, lift out the paper and pie weights and set aside to cool. Return your pastry to the oven for a further 13-15 minutes until the pastry is golden-brown.
Let your pie crust cool completely before filling with your choice of no bake filling.
How to prevent a soggy bottom
The first way to prevent soggy pastry bottoms is to bake the pastry for the sufficient amount of time. That’s a given.
But what if you need to fill your pastry with a liquid filling like a custard or a panna cotta that will set over time? In these situations you need to SEAL YOUR PASTRY to create a water tight barrier. This is essential to stopping that liquid from turning your crisp pastry into a soggy, chewy mess.
Sealing your Sweet Short Crust Pastry Base
For the egg wash: You’ll need one beaten egg mixed in with 1 teaspoon water
22. Five minutes before your pastry is fully baked, remove it from the oven and brush with the egg wash covering the base and going up the sides of the pastry case. Ensure the egg wash is in all the holes. Return the pastry case to the oven to continue baking for 5 minutes. Allow to cool completely before filling.
How to Reduce Shrinkage
- Add water sparingly
- Don't over work the dough
- Allow the pastry to chill
- Fill the pie weights to the brim of the pastry
- Bake at a high heat
In Summary my Tips for working with pie dough
- Prepare: gather all your equipment that you’ll need ahead of starting. Get out your bowl, rolling pin, scales, pastry cutter, fork
- Weigh: Make sure to weigh out all your ingredients. Using your scales rather than measuring out in cups will make a far superior dough as your amounts will be accurate
- Cool: One of the most important rules for dough is to keep everything a cool as possible. The butter has to be cubed and cold. And the water ice cold. Run your hands under cold water to keep them cold too. If your kitchen is warm then chill your bowl and flour in the fridge prior to using.
- Work quickly: This follows on from the above point. If the dough gets too warm when making, your crust will end up greasy and heavy instead of light and crispy. The quicker you work, the cooler your ingredients will stay.
- Rest: It's imperative to rest the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes minimum. This allows for the gluten in the flour to relax and cause less shrinking later on.
- Don't knead: Tough pastry is the worst. It's difficult to roll, shrinks when baked and won’t be crispy and short like it should be. Adding just enough water for it to come together and pressing the dough together will be enough. Basically as soon as the moisture (water) hits the flour it forms elastic strands of gluten and the more gluten there is the tougher the dough is. That’s why we use as little water as is needed and try not to overwork the dough.
- Chill time: By resting the dough in the fridge allows for the gluten to relax and settle and also for the butter to chill. This will then allow for less shrinkage when you bake your dough and the pastry will maintain its shape and flakiness. The cold butter will then melt when cooking in-between the layers of flour and create small pockets which create the flaky layers.
Storing and freezing your Sweet Short Crust Pastry
Storing uncooked dough
Once shaped into a disc, shortcrust dough can be kept well wrapped in clingfilm for up to three days in the fridge. When it comes time to rolling it out, let it sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes (weather depending) until it is soft enough to roll out.
Freezing the uncooked dough
Wrap the shortcrust dough tightly in a clingfilm and then place in an air tight container or sealed zip lock bag and freeze for up to one month. If you have rolled out your dough and lined your pastry tin then you can follow the same steps for freezing (you will however lose the use of the specific tart tin doing it this way).
Freezing baked pastry shells
Cool the pastry shell completely. Gently wrap the individual pastry cases in clingfilm and then place in an airtight container or sealed zip lock bag. Freeze for up to one month.
To defrost uncooked dough or baked pastry shells
Remove the frozen dough from the freezer and thaw in the fridge (this can take up to a day). When it comes time to rolling it out, let it sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes (weather depending) until it is soft enough to roll out.
NOW THAT WAS EPIC RIGHT?!!
I know this is a monumentally long post and I applaud you if you've reached this far. Making pastry is NOT something to be intimidated of, if you understand it. My aim for this post was to provide you with enough information to explain the why’s behind certain ingredients and the necessary steps needed to make pastry. For me knowledge is power, power to succeed and that’s exactly what I want you to do. Once you’ve done it a couple of times you’ll be an absolute pro!
If you fancy making a tart then why not try my two favourite tart recipes:
Plum Frangipane Tart. Follow my steps here and Par-Bake your pastry. Then make a delicious frangipane filling for the tart and top with plums (or other fruit such as sliced apples or cherries), and bake for 45 minutes. Not scary right?!
Lemon Meringue Tarts. These six small tarts require Fully Baked Pastry shells as the lemon curd filling doesn’t require cooking after being poured into the pastry. The tart will set in the fridge and be ready to devour within a couple of hours.
How to Make Sweet Short Crust Pastry
- 375 g plain flour (all-purpose )
- 80 g powdered icing sugar
- ¼ tsp fine salt
- 200 g unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes
- 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 30-45 ml ice cold water
- Sift the dry ingredients, flour, icing sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add the cold, cubed butter into the flour and rub the butter and flour together between your fingers until it resembles a bread crumb consistency.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in your egg. Using a fork, mix the egg into the flour.
- Add 2 tablespoons of ice-cold water and use your hands to bring the dough together. Add more water sparingly if needed.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press the dough just a couple of times to gather all the crumbs into a ball. Then shape the dough into a disc lightly with your hands. Wrap the dough a couple of times with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes minimum.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Once chilled, let the dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes until it is soft enough to roll. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it’s the thickness of a coin.
- Ensure the dough is rolled out large enough to cover the base, the sides and enough for over-hang of your tart tin. Place the dough into the tart tin and with your fingers gently push the dough onto the sides of the tin into all the grooves. Using a sharp knife, cut the excess dough from the tin.
To blind bake
- Prick the pastry base all over with a fork and then line with greaseproof paper and fill with pie weights all the way up the sides. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the greaseproof paper and pie weights and return the pastry back to the oven.
- Bake for a further 7 minutes for a par-baked tart base or for a further 15 minutes until golden brown for a fully baked tart base.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.