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.
Shortcrust pastry can have many stumped. It's too crumbly, it’s too soggy, and the sides shrink are common problems that I hear. This 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 homemade 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 shortcrust 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!
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 pastry can be used for any pies or tarts for your dessert
- Great texture. As with any shortcrust pastry, it's super 'short' means 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.
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 for the dessert that you are wanting to create.
Frequently asked questions
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 its more crumbly nature instead of being rolled, it's generally pressed into its tart tin with your fingertips.
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 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.
My top tips would be:
Add water sparingly.
Don't overwork the dough.
Allow the pastry to chill.
Fill the pie weights to the brim of the pastry.
Bake at high heat.
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.
- Butter: Some recipes call for half butter and 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 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 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!
*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.
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)
TIP: Instead of cubing your butter, you can grate it instead.
TIP: make sure your hands are cold before doing this and work as quickly as you can to prevent the butter from warming up.
Tip: This can be done with a pastry cutter too.
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. (Image 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)
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. (Image 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 cling film/cling wrap and refrigerate for minimum 30 minutes for the dough to rest. (Image 11)
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. (Image 12 & 13)
Place your tart tin on top of your dough to check that it's large enough to run up the sides of the pan and over the side. (Image 14)
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:
EITHER: 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.
OR: 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)
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)
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. (Image 18)
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:
EITHER: Using your rolling pin, roll firmly over the edge of the tart tin trimming the excess dough off. (Image 19)
OR: Use a sharp blade knife and run it around the top edge of the tart tin to trim the excess off. (Image 20)
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. (Image 21)
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 than 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 from 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.
Prick the base of your tart with a fork all over. (Image 22)
Prepare your sheet of greaseproof paper large enough to cover the tart shell. Grab your pie weights to be ready to use. (Image 23)
Line the base of the pastry with baking paper. (Image 24)
TIP: Scrunch the paper up so that it will mould into the inner edges of your tart.
Fill the paper with your pie weights making sure the weights sit right up the sides of the pastry. (Image 25)
Baking your dough
Par Baked Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (Image 26 & 27)
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. 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 still feels slightly soft when pressed.
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 Sweet Short Crust Pastry (Image 28 & 29)
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. 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.
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.
Sealing your Sweet Short Crust Pastry Base
For the egg wash: You’ll need one beaten egg mixed in with 1 teaspoon of water
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 it to cool completely before filling.
- 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 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 use.
- Work quickly: This follows 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 flaky layers.
How to store and freeze
Storing uncooked dough
To store: 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.
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 by 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 the 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.
If you tried this Sweet Shortcrust Pastry or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
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Sweet Short Crust Pastry Recipe
- 440 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 80 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 220 g unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 30-60 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.