How to make shortcrust pastry

How to make shortcrust pastry

by Great British Chefs8 December 2014

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.

The basis of shortcrust pastry is 'half fat-to-flour', of which butter is the most common fat used, with a small amount of ice cold water added at the end to bring the pastry together. Many recipes use a 50:50 split of butter and lard, as lard improves the texture of the pastry, though the flavour won't be quite as rich and buttery. Another option is to use vegetable shortening, which means that the pastry is also suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.

Pastry-making is a pastime which favours those with cold hands - cooks often work on a marble slab to help keep the pastry cool. It is important to keep 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, it will be too crumbly and be hard to roll.

  • 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
If using your hands, use a knife to lightly cut the butter into the pastry, then use your fingertips to 'rub in' the butter. Lift it up from the mixing bowl and let the crumbs drop back into the bowl from a height to incorporate air and keep the pastry light
Add a tablespoon of ice cold water to the food processor and lightly pulse. Repeat this until a dough just starts to come together. If using your hands, add a tablespoon of cold water to the mix and slowly bring the dough together with your fingers. Once the dough has just started to form a ball, turn out onto a work surface and knead lightly to form a dough. 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
Use your hands to squeeze the pastry together and roughly shape into a small, thick pancake-shape. Don't over-knead the pastry, as this encourages the development of gluten, giving the pastry a hard texture
Wrap in cling film 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


Shortcrust pastry can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, Martin Wishart makes a Rhubarb and creme fraiche tart while Tom Aikens uses it for an Asparagus and chervil quiche. Nathan Outlaw adds cheddar to the pastry for his Chicken and mushroom pie.

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