This foolproof recipe for tender, flaky shortcrust pastry will allow you to make delightful pies, tarts, galettes, and tartlets in no time. Whole wheat and sweet variations included!
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For years, I was wary of making pie crusts from scratch. Everything about the process annoyed me: my attempted crusts would be too dry or too wet, they would crack badly when I rolled them out or upon baking, or they would turn out dry or tasteless—never flaky and delightfully buttery—no matter the amount of butter I used.
Part of it was inexperience: I’d never properly learned to make shortcrust pastry, so I didn’t know what to look for. No matter how many recipes I tested, (which all repeated the same advice over and over again—don’t cut out the butter too small, don’t overwork the dough, let it rest), it seemed like I couldn’t master the task. I would’ve gladly resorted to buying pre-made pie dough, except I couldn’t find 100% butter pastry where I live. So, for the longest time, I didn’t make pies at all. A tragedy, right?
A few years ago, I decided I’d tackle the task once and for all. If I’d mastered finicky things such as macarons and éclairs, surely I could make simple, humble pie dough, right? I went back to my reference books and truly applied myself to the task. I took notes of what worked best for me and tweaked my recipe until I got it down to a science. Now, I can make it with my eyes closed, and the recipe never fails. Ever.
But let’s start at the base: what is shortcrust pastry, exactly? You can use different types of dough to make pies, but shortcrust pastry, also called short pastry or pâte brisée, is probably the most versatile. You can use shortcrust pastry to make both savory and sweet pies and tarts: it’s a supple dough you can roll out to line pie plates and flute to create pretty edges, fold up and over fillings to create free-form galettes, or cut out to weave lattice patterns.
Basic pie dough uses flour, butter, and water at an approximate 3:2:1 ratio. Shortcrust pastry also includes an egg, which makes the dough more supple and easier to roll out. Most recipes will instruct you to keep large pieces of butter in the dough (pea-sized, or even larger), which produces the flakiest pastry. In my experience, this produces a dough that’s more fragile, stickier, and harder to work with. I prefer blending the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, which creates a sturdier dough that’s still super flaky but holds any and all kinds of fillings well, including juicy fruity ones.
A food processor allows you to control the shortcrust-making process, giving you a consistent result, every time. It also considerably shortcuts your way to homemade pie dough. My recipe produces perfect shortcrust pastry in less than a minute. Really! I’ve carefully timed how long you should run the food processor at each step, providing the exact time in seconds. This recipe will never fail you: I now routinely make this shortcrust pastry with my son, allowing him to count the seconds in between the steps, and it works, every time.
Learning how to make shortcrust pastry in the food processor is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the looks and texture of “proper” pastry. Making shortcrust pastry by hand introduces so many uncertainties: the result will vary according to the temperature of your hands, that of your working surface, the tool you’re using, and so on. Because a food processor allows you to produce consistent results, you’ll see and feel the pastry as it should be. In time, you’ll be able to go back to the hand method if you want to, and enjoy that relaxing feeling you get when you make things from scratch.
My shortcrust pastry recipe includes options to make whole-wheat crusts—great for savory galettes and quiches—and sweet crusts, for desserts. It has now been my go-to crust for years, and it never fails me. If you’ve been shying away from making pie crusts from scratch, or unsatisfied with the recipe(s) you currently use, I hope you’ll give my shortcrust pastry a try. It will surely make you more confident in the pies you make—and happier with the results!
This recipe was previously published in my cookbook French Appetizers, in which you’ll find many delicious ways to make the most of this shortcrust pastry. Learn more about French Appetizers, or buy your copy now!
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