How to make shortcrust pastry

How to make shortcrust pastry

How to make shortcrust pastry

29 November 2023

Homemade pastry, when done well, is in a different league to shop-bought varieties. Shortcrust pastry is one of the simplest and most satisfying types of pastry to make at home, and is well worth the extra effort for a buttery, melt-in-the-mouth base to homemade pies, quiches and tarts.

How to make shortcrust pastry


Homemade pastry, when done well, is in a different league to shop-bought varieties. Shortcrust pastry is one of the simplest and most satisfying types of pastry to make at home, and is well worth the extra effort for a buttery, melt-in-the-mouth base to homemade pies, quiches and tarts.

What is shortcrust pastry?

Shortcrust pastry is one of the easiest types of pastry to make. In its most basic form, it’s made by cutting butter into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. These crumbs are then brought together with some water, milk or a beaten egg. It has a very ‘short’ texture – meaning it’s crumbly and tender, rather than flaky and chewy. Shortcrust pastry is the type of pastry used for mince pies, tarts and quiches.

What are the different types of shortcrust pastry?

In English recipes, there are generally two different types of shortcrust pastry: sweet and plain. We have a whole separate guide to making sweet shortcrust pastry, also called sweet pastry, which you can find here.

In French patisserie, however, there are many different types of shortcrust pastry. Pâte brisée, pâte sucrée and pâte sablée are the three most common ones. Pâte brisée is most similar to English-style unsweetened shortcrust pastry, and is made as described above by cutting butter into flour and then adding liquid. Pâte sucrée is very similar to English sweet pastry, and is made by creaming together the butter and sugar first, and then adding the flour. Pâte sablée is made by first cutting butter into flour, and then adding sugar and liquid.

The nuanced differences between the textures of pâte sablée and pâte sucrée are described in more detail in our guide to making sweet pastry, but essentially pâte sablée uses more butter and is much more tender and ‘short’ than pâte sucrée. It is also harder to worth with, as it’s softer and so needs to be pressed into tart tins with your fingers rather than rolled out.

What is the difference between shortcrust pastry made with lard, butter and shortening?

Shortcrust pastry is generally made with half as much fat as flour, so it’s important to use a fat with a good flavour. Some recipes use a 50:50 split of butter and lard, as lard gives the pastry a particularly crisp texture. However, using all butter helps the pastry to be, well, buttery! Another option is to use vegetable shortening which, although less flavourful, gives the pastry a good texture and makes it vegan.

How to make shortcrust pastry




  • 125g of butter
  • 250g of flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp of water



Sift the flour and salt into a dish or food processor. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the bowl or food processor


If using a food processor, pulse the butter and flour together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. It’s important to pulse the dough rather than continuously run the motor so you don’t overwork the pastry


If using your hands, use a knife or pastry blender to lightly cut the butter into the pastry, then use your fingertips to 'rub in' the butter. This essentially means smushing the cubes of butter, then mixing them back in with the flour, and repeating until they break down into smaller and smaller pieces. Eventually the whole mixture will resemble breadcrumbs


Add a tablespoon of ice cold water to the food processor and lightly pulse. Repeat this until a dough just starts to come together into a ball. If using your hands, drizzle a tablespoon of cold water over the mix and then cut it into the mixture with a pastry blender or knife. Press the crumbs of the shortcrust pastry together into a ball – if they won’t stick together add a tiny bit more water, and then try again. Do not add too much water during this process – extra liquid will make the pastry easier to work with, but will result in hard, tough pastry


Turn the ball of dough out from the food processor or bowl onto a work surface. Bring the dough together and knead lightly to form a slightly smoother dough. Use your hands to squeeze the pastry together and roughly shape into a small, thick disc. Don't over-knead the pastry, as this encourages the development of gluten, giving the pastry a hard texture


Wrap the pastry and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using to allow the pastry to rest – this causes the gluten to relax, which helps to stop shrinkage when cooking. The pastry can now be kept in the fridge for up to a week. Fresh pastry also freezes well, and can be safely defrosted at room temperature overnight. When the pastry is slightly cooler than room temperature, it is ready to roll


Be sure to lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin before working with the pastry. You can also roll it out between two sheets of greaseproof paper

What is the difference between shortcrust pastry and pie dough?

America has its own pastry culture, distinct from both the UK and France. In the USA, most pies are sweet and made with a fairly flaky and chewy pastry called ‘pie dough’. Pie dough is made by leaving butter in large flakes and then (occasionally) folding the dough a few times to create layers. For shortcrust pastry on the other hand, butter is rubbed into flour until the texture is very fine and sandy, and the final texture is crumbly and brittle. The larger the pieces of butter, the flakier and chewier the pastry.

This is partly because of how the butter melts and forms layers in the oven, but also because you need less water to hydrate a dough which has butter evenly worked in throughout it. The less water you add, the less gluten is developed, and the crumblier the pastry is.

How do you keep pastry cool when making shortcrust pastry?

It is important to keep pastry cool, because if the butter is heated too much it becomes oily, which smothers the flour so the grains aren't able to absorb the water properly. If the flour can't properly absorb water, the pastry will become dense rather than ‘short’.

Using a food processor to cut the dough into flour helps keep the butter cold, as the metal blade is much cooler than your fingers. If you use a food processor, take care not to overwork the pastry once you add the water, as this can make it tough. You can also use a pastry blender or simply a butter knife to cut the butter into the flour.

If you have a very warm kitchen, it can also help to chill the blade of the food processor and the flour as well as the butter. Simply weigh out the flour you need and chill in the freezer in a metal container. Professional pastry chefs use marble boards to keep pastry cold, but for shortcrust pastry the process is so quick that they are generally not necessary.

How do I stop shortcrust pastry from sticking when I roll it out?

A surefire way to stop pastry from sticking as you roll it out is to roll out the dough between two sheets of greaseproof paper. This makes for easy clean up too! However, generally a light dusting of flour should be all you need to roll out shortcrust pastry. If you find yourself needing to add a lot of flour, your pastry might be too warm to roll out. Simply chill it in the fridge or freezer until it firms up and then try again.

It can also help to thwack the pastry with a rolling pin to soften the butter without warming it up. Simply whack the pastry firmly with a rolling pin into a fairly thick rectangle – the pastry should become much more pliable without warming up too much.

If you’re rolling out pastry in batches, keep the balls of pastry you’re not using in the fridge or freezer until they are needed, so they don’t go soft while you’re rolling out the first batch.

Do you need to blind bake shortcrust pastry?

If you’re making a larger pie or tart which has a very liquid filling – like a quiche – or cooking your tart at a lower temperature, it’s generally safest to blind bake it to prevent the dreaded soggy bottom. This is done by first docking the bottom of the pastry with a fork, lining the pastry with foil and then filling it with baking beans or rice. Bake the pastry filled with the weights then remove the foil and weights and bake again until the pastry is just shy of cooked through.

However, if you are using shortcrust for making smaller pies like mince pies, or just for topping a pie, you don’t need to blind bake the pastry.

What can you do with leftover shortcrust pastry?

Making pastry inevitably leads to lots of little scraps of dough from cutting out and shaping tarts and pies. Luckily, these freeze very well (see below) but they can also be useful for miniature pies. If you don’t have enough pastry for a whole tart, you could use the pastry to top a small pot pie or apple pie. Pastry scraps can also be turned into decorations for a future pie lid, and then frozen so that you can quickly put together a decorative pie next time.

Can you freeze shortcrust pastry?

Raw shortcrust pastry freezes very well – simply wrap it well and then freeze in a block. It will keep for several months, although if not very tightly wrapped over time it can start to get freezer burn. You can also freeze shortcrust pastry after shaping it and pressing it into a tin – this is useful if you want to prepare a pie or tart in advance.


Shortcrust pastry can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Mince pies are a classic, as are quiches and lemon tarts.

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