Short crust pastry is easy to make and is the first thing you need to make many delicious pies, flans and pastries. If you haven't tried it before, with a little practice you will soon be making perfect light crumbly pastry. Just follow these easy step by step instructions with plenty of hints and tips to help you along the way.
I am all for ease when it comes to cooking, but I won't compromise on quality or taste which is why I make most recipes that we eat from scratch. Although, when it comes to pastry, I usually buy ready made puff pastry but I never buy shortcrust. It always shrinks even the ready rolled stuff. So why bother buying shortcrust pastry when it is easier and better to make your own.
How to Make Shortcrust Pastry
Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour.
Using your fingers rub in the butter. Try to use just your finger tips and use a light rubbing movement to break up the butter into smaller pieces and mix into the flour. Lift your hand up from the bowl. This it will help to incorporate air into the pastry to give it a light texture.
Continue rubbing in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add most of the water and start to bring the mixture together with your hands.
Use a gentle kneading motion to bring the pastry together, adding the remaining water if the mixture seems too dry. Take care not to over work the pastry or it will become tough.
Cover your pastry and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before rolling out and using as required.
Making Shortcrust Pastry in a Food Processor.
You can make shortcrust pastry in a food processor if you have one.
Place the flour and butter (cut into cubes) in the bowl of the processor and blitz in short bursts until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the water and blitz again in short bursts until the mixture comes together to form a dough
Carefully remove the dough from the processor, wrap and allow to rest in a cool place for at least 15 minutes.
Shortcrust Pastry Hints, Tips and Variations
- This is the basic method for all short pastries. The butter to fat ratio may vary according to the recipe to make a shorter, more crumbly texture or richer flavour but the method is the same.
- Traditionally shortcrust pastry was made with half butter (for flavour) and half lard because that gives a "shorter", crispy pastry. Now I make my pastry with all butter as I like the flavour. I use a lightly salted butter for all my cooking. If you use unsalted butter add a pinch of salt to the pastry with the flour.
- General rule of thumb for shortcrust pastry is to use cold ingredients and keep the pastry cold while making and resting. If you use butter straight from the fridge you may find it a little harder to rub in, so slightly warmer butter if fine. If it is too warm the butter will begin to melt as you rub it in and will make the pastry oily.
- Handle the pastry as gently as possible. Over worked pastry will become tough.This is also true when making pastry in a food processor. As soon as it comes together to form a dough, stop processing as it can quickly become over worked.
- Many recipes say chill for 30 minutes. So long as the pastry hasn't become too warm while making, I find 15 minutes in a cool place is sufficient. If you chill the pastry too much you will find it is hard to roll out. I find the chilling after rolling far more important if you want to avoid shrinkage, so don't skip that step.
- It is easier to add a little more water to pastry when bringing together to form a dough, than it is to rectify if you add too much, so add most, but not all, of the water. The amount of water needed may vary slightly from time to time.
- For a sweet pastry, stir in a little caster or icing sugar after rubbing in the butter.
- An egg yolk instead of some of the water will make a richer pastry.
- Replace some of the flour with ground almonds or hazelnuts for a delicious sweet pastry.
- Pastry with a higher fat content or with added ingredients may become a little harder to handle. If you find them very soft and difficult to roll, try rolling between two sheets of baking parchment or cling film.
- Do not stretch or pull the pastry when rolling as it will loose its shape when baked.
What Went Wrong?
Difficult to roll
- Not enough water
- Self-raising instead of plain flour
- Too much fat
- Over handling
Shrinkage during cooking
- Over handling
- Stretching while rolling and shaping
- Not allowed to rest for long enough
Hard or tough
- Over handling or repeated re-rolling.
- Too much liquid
- Too little fat
- Cooked at too low a temperature
- Not fully cooked
- Pie filling too hot when covered by the pastry
- No vent to allow steam to escape from a pie
- 250 g plain flour (all purpose)
- 125 g butter ,cut into cubes
- about 3 tbsp cold water
- Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour.
- Using your fingers rub in the butter. Try to use just your finger tips and use a light rubbing movement to break up the butter into smaller pieces and mix into the flour. Lift your hand up from the bowl. This will help to incorporate air into the pastry to give it a light texture.
- Continue rubbing in until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
- Add most of the water and start to bring the mixture together with your hands.
- Use a gentle squeezing motion to bring the pastry together, adding the remaining water if the mixture seems too dry. Take care not to over work the pastry as it will become tough.
- Cover your pastry and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before rolling out and using as required.