This foolproof recipe allows you to make flaky shortcrust pastry in seconds by using a food processor. Sweet, savory, and whole-wheat 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 returned to my reference books and 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 alters the classic ratio a little bit, and also makes the dough more supple and easier to roll out. A standard shortcrust pastry flour-to-butter ratio would be closer to 2:1. While tweaking my version of shortcrust pastry, I found out I could use just a bit less butter and still achieve that perfect balance of easy-to-make to buttery deliciousness. There would be nothing wrong with using a 1/4 cup (57 g) more butter in the recipe, but I suggest starting with the amounts stated in the recipe below to see how easily the pastry comes together and get a feel for its texture. Then, tweak it from there if you want to.
Most pie crust 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!
See how incredibly easy it is to make shortcrust pastry using a food processor!
This is crucial: The butter and water you use should in this recipe should be very cold—not room temperature, not cold from the fridge, *ice cold*. Ice-cold butter better distributes into the flour, and ice-cold water allows the dough to come together without melting the butter, both of which are key to producing tender, flaky dough.
Keep portions of pre-cubed butter stored in airtight containers in the freezer. Whenever I want to make a pie crust, no need to wait 20 minutes for the butter to cool—I simply take out a container of frozen butter cubes and add it straight to the food processor. I prefer this to freezing shortcrust pastry because mixing a fresh batch of dough with frozen butter is much, much quicker than letting shortcrust pastry thaw to room temperature.
This shortcrust recipe works, but only if you’re counting accurately. You’re literally seconds away from under- or overmixing the dough, so don’t take your eyes off the food processor while you make the shortcrust pastry. If needed, look at your watch or use the stopwatch function of your phone to time things accurately.
If you’ve long been frustrated by cracking pie pastry, I feel you. Freshly made shortcrust pastry needs time to rest in the fridge before baking (at least one hour), which lengthens the dough-making process, as you need to properly let the dough come back to room temperature (about 30 to 45 minutes) before you roll it out.
Here’s how to fast-forward your way to homemade pie crust: Roll the dough out *before* you refrigerate it. I picked up this game-changing tip from Parisian cookbook writer Clotilde Dusoulier: when shortcrust pastry is freshly made—that is, straight out of the food processor—it is wonderfully supple, just like brand new Play-Doh is. This makes rolling it out really easy and actually fun!
After you take the shortcrust pastry out of the food processor, gather it into a ball, then flatten it a bit. Lightly sprinkle your working surface and rolling pin with flour, then roll out the dough to the desired shape and size. Ease into the pan you want to use, letting the excess overhang, or spread it out on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bring back to room temperature 10 minutes before trimming, filling, or shaping the dough.
There are so many sweet and savory pies, galettes, and tarts you can make with this foolproof shortcrust pastry! Sky is the limit, really. If you need inspiration to get started, I’ve got some ideas for you right here, and you’ll find even more through this link.
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