The base to any good tart or pie is perfect shortcrust pastry and, luckily for us, it’s incredibly easy to make from scratch.
This is my simple sweet shortcrust pastry tart shell recipe using just 5 ingredients and made using a food processor for speed, it could barely be easier. You can easily adapt the recipe to use it for savoury dishes like quiche and meat pies too.
What Is Shortcrust Pastry?
First of all, what exactly is shortcrust pastry anyway? Well, it’s a rich pastry dough used to make crispy and flaky pie and tart shells. It is used for both sweet and savoury dishes in everything from quiche to meat pie to fruit tarts.
There are a number of different types of shortcrust, all with fancy french names and slightly different ingredients and methods of combining them. My version is closest to what is called pâte à foncer. Since I don’t even know how to pronounce that, we’ll just stick with your good old flaky, easy to make sweet shortcrust pastry.
It also makes a fabulous pie or quiche pastry by omitting sugar and adding salt – see more below.
Ingredients In Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
Shortcrust pastry uses a combination of flour, sugar (for a sweet tart crust), butter, eggs and milk or water. Mine uses 2 egg yolks and milk for richness.
For savoury shortcrust, just omit the sugar in this recipe and add ½ teaspoon of salt.
How To Make Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
I use a food processor to make the recipe nice and quick. The other reason I like this method is so that the heat from my hands can’t melt the butter.
- Mix together flour and icing (powdered) sugar in the food processor so it’s evenly dispersed.
- Add the butter and process just for 7-8 seconds on low until the pieces of butter are about the size of a pea.
- Add the yolks and pour in the milk as the food processor is running.
This whole process takes less than 2 minutes.
- The next step is to tip the pastry dough out and pull it together. My favourite way is to do this straight onto a sheet of baking paper, then use the sides of the baking paper to pull the dough together so that you don’t have to handle it too much.
- Wrap it and refrigerate for a minimum of half an hour (45 minutes to an hour is even better).
How To Trim Excess Pastry
Before baking is the easiest way to trim the pastry since the dough is more flexible and less brittle. The downside to trimming the pastry before baking is the height of the tart will normally drop just slightly as the pastry will shrink a little on baking. As long as you let the pastry dough rest for long enough before rolling it out though, the shrinkage should not be too problematic. You can use the knife or rolling pin methods (below).
After baking, the pastry is a little more delicate but you won’t have to worry about shrinkage as the tart will keep it’s height, since there will likely still be overhang even after it has shrunk a little. It can sometimes give a neater edge too.
- With the rolling pin – you can only use this method before baking and with a sharper edge tin. Once the pastry has been pushed into all the edges and fitted up against the sides of the tin, simply roll your rolling pin across the top to cut the excess dough away.
- With a knife – This method works before or after baking. Make sure you use a sharp knife and with the tip towards the inside of the tart and the handle towards the outside, make gentle strokes of the knife, against the top edge of the tin, to cut away the overhang. Remember, after baking the pastry is more brittle so be delicate.
What Is Blind Baking?
Blind baking means baking a tart shell before adding the filling, either partially or completely (depending on how long you bake it).
This helps either when the filling could cause the base to become soggy (like the jam in this Strawberry Bakewell Tart) or when the filling won’t be baked like in this Fruit Custard Tart.
How To Blind Bake Pastry
- Once you’ve laid the rolled pastry into the tart tin or pie dish, prick the base all over with a fork. This process is called docking and it allows heat to rise through the pastry shell to keep the base flat.
- Now lay a sheet of baking paper over the base making sure it covers the sides as well and press it into the corners. Fill it with pie weights (or you can use rice or lentils instead) and bake for 15-20 minutes. (times shown are for a par-baked shell and a fully baked shell, respectively)
- Remove the baking paper and weights and bake for another 7-10 minutes (times shown are for a par-baked shell and a fully baked shell, respectively)
I always like to line my tart tin to make it easier to remove later – see the easy way to line the base here.
Oh, and if you use rice or lentils, don’t throw them out. They can be stored once they’ve cooled and used time and time again for all your tart shells.
Can You Make Pastry Ahead Of Time?
Yes, shortcrust pastry dough can be made 2-3 days ahead and stored, wrapped well, in the fridge.
Can You Freeze Pastry Dough?
Shortcrust pastry freezes well. Wrap it well in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
This way you can have batches ready to go for any special occasions, especially at times like Christmas or Thanksgiving when you need more time.
How Much Pastry Do I Need?
- For tarts and quiche – This recipe makes enough shortcrust dough to cover the inside of an 8 inch fluted tart tin about 5mm thick, with a little overhang so you can trim it off easily. Perfect for tarts like this Fresh Peach Tart or this Passionfruit Tart
- For pies – Use 1.5x this recipe for a thin crust 8 inch pie or double the recipe for a thicker crust. You will still have enough overhang to trim neatly and seal the edge around the lip of the tin. Leave the sugar out and add ½ teaspoon of salt for savoury pies like Mums Steak and Mushroom Pie or this Apricot Chicken Pie
Tips For Perfect Pastry
- Keep ingredients cold – the flakiness of the pastry is caused by the cold butter melting while baking and creating pockets of steam so it’s important to keep everything cold.
- Don’t handle it too much – for two reason. Firstly, the one above – you want to keep it cold and not warm it with your hands. Secondly, you don’t want to develop the glutens in the flour too much which comes with overhandling. Keep light hands and only pull it together as much as you need for it to stick together.
- Don’t skip the chilling time – I think you’re seeing the trend here. When you chill the dough, it helps to get that butter nice and cold again and it also gives the glutens a chance to relax. My preference is around 45 minutes but 30 minutes will get you there.
So, now you know how to make the perfect shortcrust pastry tart shell, what recipe are you going to bake?
Recipes With Shortcrust Pastry
How To Make Shortcrust Pastry
- 115 g unsalted butter cubed & chilled, ½ cup / 1 stick
- 195 g plain (all-purp) flour (1 ½ cups / 6.9oz)
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar (notes)
- 2 egg yolks from large eggs
- 2-3 tablespoon cold milk (as required) (notes)
- Place the flour and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz to combine. Add the butter and process for about 20 seconds until the butter pieces are about the size of a pea.
- Add the egg yolks and, with the processor running on the lowest setting, start pouring in the milk. Only use as much milk as you need for it to start clumping.
- Tip the dough out onto a sheet of baking paper and use the edges of the paper to help pull it together (so you don't warm it up with your hands). Gently pull it into a disk shape, wrap it in the baking paper and place it in the fridge for at least half an hour.
- Dust a clean work surface with flour and place the cold dough on top, then dust the top of the dough with a little flour too. Roll it out to a 10 inch circle about 5mm thick.
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / 160C fan forced.
- LIne the base of an 8 inch fluted tart tin with baking paper. Roll the dough over top of the rolling pin, then lift it and lower it over the baking tin and unroll it. Press the dough into the corners and up the sides. Roll the rolling pin over the top to trim off the overhang.
- Line the tart shell with baking paper and fill it with rice (or pie weights), making sure to press it right into the corners, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the paper and rice and bake for a further 10 minutes.
- I use a standard 20ml Australian tablespoon (= 4 teaspoons worldwide)
- All ovens vary – always test for doneness 3-5 minutes before the recipe suggests
- For best results, you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
- For savoury pies and tarts, leave the sugar out and add ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Water can be substituted for the milk
- This cooking time is for a fully baked tart shell to add fillings that won't be baked. If the tart shell is to be baked further with the filling, change the baking time to 15 minutes and 7 minutes respectively.
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