Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

Kitchen Basics – Shortcrust Pastry

Making pastry can be more confronting for some cooks than a trip to the dentist, but it doesn’t have to be as torturous. There are some simple guidelines to making pastry that, if followed, gives good results every time.

I am going to give the recipes for two types of shortcrust pastry – the first is used for savoury dishes, such as a meat pie or a quiche. The second is a sweet shortcrust pastry, sometimes called a pâté sucrée.

As the name suggests, it has sugar in it and is used in sweet treats such as a strawberry tart or a lemon meringue pie. Both pastries are made the same way and both respond well to a lightness of touch and keeping everything as cold as possible.

The number one rule for all pastry making is to remember to keep everything as cold as possible. A hot summer’s day is the enemy of good pastry everywhere. Pastry uses butter and water, and sometimes eggs – all of these ingredients should be kept in the fridge until you need it.

I make pastry in a food processor these days. If you want to rub butter into flour with your fingertips you can, but you must remember the second rule which is, don’t overwork the pastry. Work everything as lightly as possible. If using your hands you want to let the flour sift through your fingers like hot sand. You are not making bread dough.

And finally rule number three is let the pastry rest in the fridge before using. By allowing the pastry to rest, it is less likely to shrink away from the edges of the tart tin during baking. I generally chill the pastry for at least an hour before rolling it out and continuing with the recipe. The pastry then needs to be chilled again once it is lining the tin – at least another 30 minutes. I have often done this the night before and left the pastry lined tin in the fridge all day.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

The following recipes give enough pastry to line a 22cm pie plate or tart tin and unless specified, are enough for most recipes on these pages.


  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g butter
  • pinch salt
  • cold water from the fridge
  • 1 egg yolk (optional)

Sift the flour and salt into a food processor. Cut the cold butter into small pieces on top of the flour. Process for 20-30 seconds or until the butter is blended in and the flour looks a little coarse but not lumpy.

With the machine running, add either the egg yolk, OR cold water to the flour, one tablespoon at a time. About 2 – 2½ tablespoons  should be enough. The more water you use the more it will shrink during cooking.

The moment the pastry starts to clump together into a ball, stop the machine. Remove the pastry, wrap it in cling wrap and pop it back into the fridge for at least an hour.

If you are making the pastry by hand, sift flour and salt into a bowl, add the chopped butter and work as briskly as you can to rub the butter into the flour. Use your finger tips only. Add the water bit by bit as above. Wrap and chill the pastry.


  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g butter
  • 1 tbsp sifted icing sugar
  • 2 egg yolks

Sift the flour and icing sugar into a food processor and add the chopped up cold butter. Process for 20-30 seconds only then add yolks. Process until the pastry comes together in a ball, remove and chill thoroughly, at least 2 hours before using.

29 thoughts on “Kitchen Basics – Shortcrust Pastry”

    1. I’ve been thinking about you and your tart P23, I’m so sorry it didn’t go well the first time, but I am also delighted you’re giving it another go.

      Try a biscuit crumb base if you don’t feel confident about using pastry. A biscuit crumb base is the more traditional way of making a Key Lime Pie anyway. To make the crust, crush a full 250g packet of Granita biscuits in a food processor until it looks like coarse sand. Melt 125g butter (it MUST be butter, marg won’t work well) in a microwave then pour into the crumbs while you have the processor on.

      Tip the buttered crumbs into a pie dish or tart tin and press down firmly with your hands and knuckles. Take your time doing this and use a round drinking glass to smooth the base as evenly as you can. Put the tart base into the fridge and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

      Make your pie filling as normal, and cook as normal, but then chill it completely for at least another 2 hours – the butter will help glue everything together as it chills.

      Let me know how it goes.

  1. Thanks LPC. This sounds do-able. I might try a lemon tart, lemons are always cheap and cheerful. Plus my daughter wasn’t so keen on the lime.

    THEN I might try and go for doing my own pasty, once my confidence builds up.

    x P23.

  2. Hi Sandra

    I am making the Key Lime tart this weekend for easter visitors! I was wondering if I were to make a batch of the sweet pastry is it possible to freeze it (and keep it for when I make lemon meringue?)

    1. You can freeze shortcrust pastry, as several well-known forzen pastry makers know too well!

      To freeze, cut the pastry into two halves, then gently pat each half into rounds, and flattened to about 3cm thick. Cover with two layers of cling wrap and place in freezer. The flattened shape helps it to de-frost more evenly.

      Thaw completely and use when it is cool to the touch but completely de-frosted.

  3. Sandra
    Happy Easter, Im making this pastry for the base to lemon meringue which I will send you a pic once I made it as I will be super proud =). Anyway, my mum used to make this pastry but she used 60g of butter to 60g of lard and no eggs! It always always tasted really good.

    1. Making pastry with lard is delicious and makes a very crisp pastry – I always use it for a rough puff pastry, or a flaky pastry for pasties. The thing about lard is that it’s pig fat and not very popular these days. Thats a great shame because as an ingredient for pastry it’s second to none. Your Mum is on to something, I would certainly recommend it for savoury pies such as a meat pie, and I agree with her that you should use it half and half with butter.

  4. Yes it was always fantastic pastry better than I have ever tasted really very soft and lovely – great for apple pie. Anyway I have made it as per your instruction to see the difference however it didn’t quite cover the base of the dish but I am plowing ahead!!

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