Learn how to make basic French Sweet Shortcrust Pastry with my detailed guide full of tips, images and instructions. With just a handful of simple ingredients, it bakes up to a buttery, short, perfect base for tarts, pies and galettes.
This is the one type of pastry that I use most frequently when baking tarts and pies. The combination of beautiful homemade buttery, melt-in-your-mouth sweet shortcrust pastry with whatever type of filling you choose, is magical. My Mascarpone Tart and Mini Lemon Meringue Tarts are such examples.
But for many, making pastry can be tricky. It's too crumbly, it’s too soggy, and the sides shrink are common problems that I hear. That's where this guide comes into play. After years of making pastry, I'm excited to share all that I know with you.
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, buttery pastry like a pro. So pull up a chair and enjoy reading this post.
- ❓ What Is Sweet Shortcrust Pastry?
- 🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- 𓇫 What Are The Different Types Of French Pastry?
- 🧾 Ingredients Needed
- 👩🏻🍳 How To Make Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
- 🤔 When To Par Bake, Or Fully Bake Pastry?
- ⏲️ How Long To Bake The Pastry For?
- 🖌️ Sealing the Tart/Pie Base
- 💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- 📋 Recipe FAQs
- ❄️ Storage and Freezer Instructions
- 🥧 More Pie & Tart Recipes
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
❓ What Is Sweet Shortcrust Pastry?
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Shortcrust pastry is a mixture of plain flour, a type of fat, usually butter or lard, and egg, to add richness, sugar for sweetness, and water for moisture.
Combine these ingredients together in the right way and you'll have the perfect base for the dessert that you're wanting to create.
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Amazing taste. The taste is rich and sweet in the same measures. Made with butter and eggs the rich nature of those ingredients shines through. The powdered icing sugar adds the perfect sweetness to the tart crust.
- Versatile. This sweet pastry can be used for any pies, tarts galettes, and hand pies.
- Great texture. As with any shortcrust pastry, it's super 'short' which means deliciously flakey. This is exactly what we want.
- Brilliant base recipe. Add extra flavour to whatever you are baking in your pastry. Lemon or orange zest, ground nuts such as pistachio or hazelnuts, or finely chopped herbs like thyme or rosemary all made great additions.
𓇫 What Are The Different Types Of French Pastry?
You’ve probably heard lots of fancy French names and wondered what they’re all about when it comes to pastry. Here's a little run down.
- 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 such as Lemon Meringue Tarts.
- 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 its more crumbly nature instead of being rolled, it's generally pressed into its tart tin with your fingertips. as in my Strawberry Sablée Breton Tart.
- Pâte Brissée - This is the standard all-butter shortcrust pastry that you can use for sweet and savoury recipes. It's made in much the same way as Pâte 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. I use this pastry in my Pecan Pie Tart and Caramel Pie Recipes.
🧾 Ingredients Needed
As with anything, there is 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 affect your dough such as the quantity and temperature of your ingredients. I've made notes that are worth a read below.
- Butter: Some recipes call for half butter and half shortening, but I prefer to use all butter. That all-butter taste can’t be rivaled in my opinion. I use unsalted as I like to add the salt into the recipe but by all means, use salted butter 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 is why we first need to add as little water as possible but secondly knead the dough as few times as possible.
- Egg: The egg helps bind the ingredients together but also provides richness.
- Icing Sugar (Confectioners' Sugar): As this is Sweet Shortcrust Pastry, the dough requires sweetening in the 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 Shortcrust Pastry
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
So without further ado. Let's get into the step-by-step process of how we made this amazing dough.
Make The Dough By Hand
STEP 1. Rub the butter into the flour. Into a large bowl sift the dry ingredients: flour, icing sugar, and salt (Image 1). Add the cold, cubed butter (Image 2).
- Instead of cubing your butter, you can grate it instead.
- Use a pastry cutter rather than your fingertips.
- Make sure your hands are cold before doing this and work as quickly as you can to prevent the butter from warming up.
STEP 2. Add egg and water. 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 (Images 5 & 6).
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 (Image 7).
Turn the dough out onto your lightly floured work surface. There will still be lots of crumbly bits (Image 8).
STEP 3. Bring the dough together and refrigerate. Press the dough just a couple of times to gather all the crumbs into a ball. Then shape it into a disc lightly with your hands (Images 9 & 10).
TIP: Forming the dough into a circle now makes it easier to roll out into a circular shape later on.
Next, wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes for the dough to rest (Image 11).
Roll The Dough Out
STEP 4. Roll out dough. 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 (Images 12 & 13).
Place your tart tin on top of your dough to check that it's large enough to run up the edges of the pan and over the side (Image 14).
Line the Tart Pan
I'm showing you today how to line your sweet shortcrust pastry dough into a regular fluted tart pan with a removable base. In my experience the metal tart or pie pans with either the shorter or taller sides are best to create that golden underside. But if you have experience in ceramic or glass pans then you can use this dough in those too.
STEP 5. Prepare dough in the tart tin. 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:
Option 1: 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 (Image 15). Then unfold the dough flat.
Option 2: 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 unfold the dough (Image 16).
STEP 6. 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 (Image 17). Do not stretch the dough otherwise, it will shrink during baking.
Use your finger to gently press the dough into the fluted grooves of the tart tin. Taking the time to do this will ensure a neat finish afterwards (Image 18). There'll be plenty of dough overhanging the sides.
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.
Trim Excess Pastry
STEP 7: Remove excess dough. Now that your dough is neatly into your tart tin there are two ways of removing the excess dough:
Option 1: Use your rolling pin and roll it firmly over the edge of the tart tin trimming the excess dough off (Image 19).
Option 2: Use a sharp blade knife and run it around the top edge of the tart tin to trim the excess off (Image 20).
STEP 8: Refrigerate. Chill the dough again in the fridge for an hour before adding filling to the tart base and baking, blind baking the base, or fully baking the base- more on that below! The butter in the dough has a chance to firm up and the gluten has a chance to relax. Chilling the dough will help maintain its shape when baking (Image 21).
🤔 When To Par Bake, Or Fully Bake Pastry?
As mentioned above, once your dough is lined in your tart pan and has been chilled, it's then ready for the continuation of your recipe. But you may question whether you should add your filling directly into the base and bake straight away or if you need to blind-bake the pastry before.
There is nothing more disappointing than an underbaked or soggy pastry bottom!
You need to refer to the type of filling in your tart or pie, and this will give you the answer!
- Base and filling baked as one. Fruit fillings like an apple tart do not require the base to be blind-baked or fully baked beforehand. When the filling isn't too liquid and requires the same amount of cooking time as the pastry, then the two can be baked at the same time.
- Par baked pastry. Wet fillings such as custard, and quiche require the tart base to be blind-baked so that the base has a chance to partially cook and develop a dry layer before adding in a liquid filling. The base then continues to cook in the oven with the filling but is distinctively separate maintaining a crispy base.
- Fully baked pastry. Fruit curds or no-bake pie fillings such as banoffee pie, French Silk Pie, or Chocolate Ganache Tart require the tart base to be fully baked before adding in the filling as the base won't have another chance to be baked in the oven.
What is Blind Baking?
I've gone into detail in my Blind Baking Guide but in brief, blind-baking is the process of partially or fully cooking the tart base or pie crust before adding in the filling.
This is needed to maintain the signature buttery, crisp flakiness of pastry when baking with it with a high liquid content. Without blind baking, the moisture from the filling inhibits the pastry from cooking and will result in soggy pastry.
The raw dough in the tart or pie pan is lined with parchment paper or foil and filled with pie weight and baked. This added weight makes sure the pastry doesn't bubble up and rise and holds its shape.
Steps to Blind Baking
Step 1: Dock the pastry. Once the tart base is lined with the dough, it's trimmed and chilled, use the tines of a fork to prick holes all over the base (Images 22 & 23).
The fork holes allow the steam to escape from the dough and stop it from puffing up and rising.
STEP 2: Line the uncooked dough. Cut a piece of parchment paper or aluminium foil so that it's larger than the tart/pie pan and overhangs the edges. Line the uncooked tart/pie pan with the paper so that it fits snugly inside (Image 24).
If using parchment paper, spray it lightly with water and scrunch it up. When you open it up again it will fit easily across the base and up the sides of the pan. Plus you can reuse it time and time again.
STEP 3: Add weight to the paper. Use ceramic pie weights (baking beans), rice, lentils, or even sugar (or a combination), and fill the paper with the weights. Make sure you add enough so that the weights sit right up the sides of the tart to hold it in place (Image 25).
⏲️ How Long To Bake The Pastry For?
Par Baked Pastry
STEP 1: Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for 15 minutes until the pastry is firm. Remove from the oven and using the sides of the parchment paper, lift out the paper and pie weights and set aside to cool.
STEP 2: Return the pastry to the oven for a further 7 minutes until the pastry is just starting to turn brown around the edges but when you touch it still feels slightly soft when pressed (Images 26 & 27).
Remove from the oven and cool slightly before adding your pie filling and return to the oven for the recommended time as per your recipe.
Fully Baked Pastry
STEP 1: Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for 15 minutes until the pastry is firm. Remove from the oven and using the sides of the greaseproof paper, lift out the paper and pie weights and set aside to cool.
STEP 2: Return the pastry to the oven for a further 13-15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown (Images 28 & 29).
Let your pie crust cool completely before filling it with your choice of no-bake filling.
🖌️ Sealing the Tart/Pie Base
The first way to prevent soggy pastry bottoms is to bake the pastry for a 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 watertight barrier. This is essential to stopping that liquid from turning your crisp pastry into a soggy, chewy mess.
STEP 1: Make an egg wash: You’ll need one beaten egg mixed in with 1 teaspoon of water or milk.
STEP 2: Brush egg wash onto the pastry. 5 minutes before the 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 it to cool completely before filling.
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- Prepare: gather all the 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 the dough is to keep everything as cool as possible. The butter has to be cubed and cold. And the water is ice cold. Run your hands under cold water to keep them cold too.
- Work quickly: This follows from the above point. If the dough gets too warm, your crust will end up greasy and heavy instead of light and crispy. The quicker you work, the cooler your ingredients will stay.
- 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. Try not to overwork the dough.
- Rest & Chill time: It's imperative to rest the dough in the fridge to allow the gluten in the flour to relax, and the butter to firm up and cause less shrinkage later and create beautiful flakey layers.
📋 Recipe FAQs
My top tips to avoid this problem would be to add water sparingly, don't overwork the dough, allow the pastry to chill, fill the pie weights to the brim of the pastry and bake the pastry at high heat.
Shortcrust or all-butter pastry is made with only butter, flour and water and used for both sweet and savoury recipes. Sweet Shortcrust is also made with butter, flour, water, sugar and occasionally eggs and flavouring such as vanilla. It's perfect for sweet, tart and pie recipes.
The recipe makes enough for the base of one 23cm (9-inch) tart base or pie pan. To make enough dough for a double pie crust (base and top), simply double the recipe using the scale slider on the recipe card.
❄️ Storage and Freezer Instructions
- Uncooked dough: Once shaped into a disc, the shortcrust dough can be kept well wrapped in clingfilm for up to three days in the fridge. When it comes time to roll it out, let it sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes (weather depending) until it is soft enough to roll out.
- Uncooked dough: Wrap the shortcrust dough tightly in plastic wrap and then place it in an airtight 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).
- Baked tart shells: Cool the pastry shell completely. Gently wrap the individual pastry cases in clingfilm and then place them in an airtight container or sealed zip lock bag. Freeze for up to one month.
- To Thaw: Remove the frozen dough from the freezer and thaw in the fridge (this can take up to a day). When it comes time to roll it out, let it sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes (weather depending) until it is soft enough to roll out.
🥧 More Pie & Tart Recipes
If you tried this Sweet Shortcrust Pastry Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you!
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry Recipe
- 220 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 40 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 110 g unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 15-30 ml ice cold water
- Rub the butter into the flour. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Add the butter and toss until the cubes are coated. Rub the mixture together between your fingers until it reaches a breadcrumb consistency with a few hazelnut-sized pieces of butter still visible.
- Add egg and water. Make a well in the centre and add the egg. Using a fork, mix the egg into the flour. Add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the ice-cold water, and use your fingertips to bring the dough together. If the dough isn’t clumping together, add more water sparingly.
- Bring the dough together and refrigerate. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured countertop, and use floured hands to shape the dough into a ball, taking care not to overwork it. Flatten slightly into a disc, and wrap well in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to let the dough rest.
- Roll out dough. Remove the chilled dough disc from the fridge and set it aside on your countertop for 15 minutes or so to allow the dough to warm up slightly so it’s easier to roll out. Trying to roll dough that is too cold will cause the edges to crack. To roll out, lightly flour your countertop and rolling pin, and using firm, even strokes, roll from the centre outward, turning the dough a quarter turn every few strokes. Roll the dough out to the thickness of a coin (⅛-inch (3-mm) thick) and into a 12-inch (30-cm) circle.
- Prepare dough in the tart tin. Flour the base of a 9-inch (23-cm) shallow fluted tart pan with a removable base, and gently lift the dough and place it into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to push the dough up the sides of the pan and into the grooves. Using a sharp knife, trim off the excess dough from the rim. Refrigerate the prepared tart shell for at least 1 hour to allow the dough to relax further. (My preference is to leave the shell overnight in the fridge and continue with the recipe the next day. If you do this, cover it well in plastic wrap to ensure that the dough doesn’t dry out.)
- Blind bake. Only continue on with this step if parbaking or fully baking your tart shell is required. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Once the dough is chilled, prick the tart base all over with a fork, and then line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights all the way up the sides. Blind bake for 15 minutes, and then remove the parchment paper and pie weights.
- Return the tart back to the oven and bake for a further 7 to 10 minutes, for a par-baked tart base or for a further 15 minutes until golden brown for a fully baked tart base. Remove from the oven, and leave the tart shell to cool.
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.