Discouraged by failed pie crust?  Don’t worry; this flaky shortcrust pastry is just what you’re looking for.  It’s a simple pie crust made by hand with lemon juice, lard, and butter for lots of flakiness and flavor.  Use this versatile pastry for savory pies and quiches, or sweet desserts like apple pie.  You don’t have to be Martha Stewart or Mary Berry to make awesome pastry!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
baked pastry shell on a wire cooling rack
Pies & Tarts

Flaky Shortcrust Pastry

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This recipe was originally published on September 7, 2017.

Have you ever wondered how to get that mouthwatering flaky shortcrust pastry?  I’ve compiled all my time tested tips and tricks so you can learn how to make perfect pastry!  Follow the tips carefully, read the instructions, and look at the photos; you’ll be able to master this! 💪

rolling out pastry on a wooden cutting board

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Where is shortcrust pastry from?

Shortcrust pastry is a British variation of the French pastry pâte brisée.  Shortcrust pastry is popular all over the world as a pastry for both sweet and savory pies.  In the United States, however, it is usually called “pie dough” or some similar name.

Why is shortcrust pastry called shortcrust?

“Short” pastry doughs have a more delicate texture due to a higher fat content and a less strong gluten structure.  Since shortcrust is “short,” this means that the pastry will be lighter and flakier when baked.

What is the difference between shortcrust pastry and pie crust?

The only difference is in the name.  Shortcrust pastry can be used for sweet and savory pies, tarts, and pasties (hand pies).  Although there are many kinds of pastry, most Americans are only familiar with puff pastry and the standard “pie dough” or “pie crust.”  American pie crust is basically the same as British shortcrust pastry.

What Gluten Is (And Why It’s Your Friend)

Gluten is vitally important for making amazing flaky pastry.  Basically, gluten is a protein which is present in any wheat-based flour.  When mixed with liquid, the gluten proteins form, giving the dough structure and strength.

One wants enough gluten to hold the pastry together, but not too much, or the pastry will be tough and unappetizing.  It can be difficult to strike the happy medium, but if you follow the tips in this recipe, you will be able to make great pastry with practice.

What makes a good shortcrust pastry?

  • Read the recipe before you start. It’s important to be familiar with each step of making pastry before you begin.  Gather the ingredients and kitchen tools you need so you’re prepared.
  • Measure the ingredients accurately. Too much flour will make a dry pastry, so make sure to weigh it on a kitchen scale to ensure an accurate measurement.  If you don’t have a scale, make sure to scoop the flour into the measuring cup and sweep off the excess.  Don’t pack the flour into the cup!
  • Keep the ingredients cold. Warm, greasy butter will not make good pastry.  It’s important to keep the pastry as cold as possible.  (It’s okay to use room temperature lard, because it stays more solid at room temperature.)
  • Work quickly and gently. Use your fingertips, not your palms, to rub the fats into the flour, and be careful to handle the dough gently to avoid overworking it.
  • Chill the pastry before rolling it out. Not only does this step make the pastry easier to work with, but it also produces a lighter and flakier pastry when baked.  An hour in the fridge allows the gluten in the pastry to relax, making it easier to roll out.  Remember that cold pastry always bakes better than warm pastry.
  • Bake hot. Try to bake the pastry at least 400 F (200 C) to get a better flake and richer color on the pastry.  Avoid low oven temperatures, such as 350 F, unless they are absolutely necessary for the pie you’re making.  Lower temps encourage the pastry to shrink more.
  • Blind bake the pastry for certain recipes. Blind baking is pre-baking the pastry, either partially or completely, before adding the filling.  Certain pies and tarts need a blind baked crust to prevent a soggy bottom.  Learn how to blind bake pastry in my post.
  • Brush the pastry with egg wash. Always mix an egg with a fork and brush the beaten egg onto the raw pastry before baking it.  This will turn the crust a deep golden brown as it cooks.  (Skip this step for blind baking the pastry; it isn’t necessary.)
  • Place the pie on a cookie sheet as it bakes. This helps the bottom crust crisp up as the pie bakes; plus, it will catch any overflows from the filling and will make it easier to take the pie out of the oven.

tart pan lined with flaky shortcrust pastry

What is the function of butter in shortcrust pastry?

Butter is the most important fat in pastry making.  Here’s some great things that butter does to shortcrust pastry.

  • Binds the pastry together. The first step in pastry making is rubbing the butter into the flour, which is basically coating the flour in fat to reduce gluten formation.  This step holds the flour particles together, creating a smooth pastry.
  • Creates flakes. Small chunks of butter in the pastry melt as the pastry bakes, leaving tiny pockets in the pastry.  These pockets are what makes a pastry flaky.
  • Adds flavor. A pastry without fat would be very bland indeed!  We all know that butter tastes amazing, so adding it to a pastry always makes it taste better.

Why is lard good for shortcrust pastry?

You might be asking, “If butter is so great, why do so many pastry recipes call for lard?”  Don’t worry; it’s actually better to have both butter and lard in shortcrust pastry.  Butter adds a great flavor, while lard gives us the delicate flaky texture we want.  Here’s why.

  • Lard makes a shorter pastry. Basically, this means that a pastry made with lard will be more delicate and flaky when baked.  That’s what we want, right?  (Scroll up in this post to read about “short” pastry.)
  • Lard makes the pastry easier to handle. Lard melts at a higher temperature than butter does, which means that a pastry containing lard won’t get greasy and soft as quickly as an all-butter pastry.
  • Lard makes the pastry extra crisp and flaky. As in the previous point, lard as a higher melting temperature than butter does.  This means that the lard will melt later during the baking process, making the pastry even crispier and flakier.

Should I add vinegar or lemon juice to my pastry?

This is a controversial subject in the pastry world, but I think that adding a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice to shortcrust pastry enhances the flakiness without affecting the taste.  The acid in vinegar or lemon juice inhibits some of the gluten formation, producing a more delicate and flakier pastry.

Just be careful not to add more than 1 teaspoon of acid to the pastry, or it will become sour and be very difficult to roll out.  A pastry made with too much acid will also be excessively crumbly when baked.

What flour should I use for shortcrust pastry?

Many bakers get all fancy with the perfect “pastry flour,” but you really don’t need special flour to make amazing pastry.  I’ve always used all-purpose flour and had great results, so don’t get bent out of shape about it.

Why is it important to chill pastry in the fridge?

Chilling pastry in the fridge relaxes the gluten in the pastry, making it easier to roll out and shape.  This step will significantly reduce shrinkage when the pastry is baked.

Chilling also firms up the butter and lard in the pastry, keeping it from getting soft and greasy.  Always remember that cold pastry will be much flakier and crispier than warm pastry.

Does shortcrust pastry need to be blind baked?

Shortcrust pastry only needs to be blind baked for certain recipes, such as quiche or pecan pie.  Learn how to blind bake pastry with my step-by-step photo instructions.

Is shortcrust pastry sweet?

Nope!  Adding sugar to shortcrust pastry would technically make it a different kind of pastry, called pâte sucre in French.  Sugar significantly changes the taste and texture of the pastry, making it much easier to tear when you’re rolling it out.  Only add sugar to pie dough if you have had practice making basic shortcrust pastry before.  Here’s a good recipe for sweet pastry.

Can shortcrust pastry go off?

Yes, homemade shortcrust pastry can go bad, since it doesn’t contain preservatives.  Shortcrust pastry is usually good kept tightly wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 5 days.  If the pastry turns grey, throw it out.

baked pastry shell on a wire cooling rack

Can shortcrust pastry be frozen?

Yes, shortcrust pastry can be frozen while it’s raw or after it’s been baked.  Here’s how to do it!

  • Shape the pastry into a thin disc.  This will help the dough thaw faster.  You can also start with a baked pie or an empty, blind baked tart.
  • Wrap the pastry tightly with one layer of plastic wrap and one layer of aluminum foil.  Skip this step with already baked pastry.
  • Seal inside of a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Defrost overnight in the refrigerator or on the counter for a few hours.  Do not microwave raw pastry; it will melt it and ruin it.  There’s no need to defrost prebaked frozen pastry, unless you’re serving it right away.

Can shortcrust pastry be made in advance?

Yes, you can make shortcrust pastry in advance.  A well-wrapped disc of shortcrust pastry will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge, or up to 3 months in the freezer.

What can shortcrust pastry be used for?

Shortcrust pastry can be used for almost any kind of pie, tart, turnover, or pasty, whether sweet or savory.  Since it’s so versatile, it’s one of the best kinds of pastry to know how to make!  Here are some of my favorite ways to use shortcrust pastry.

  • Cherry pie
  • Lemon meringue pie
  • Bakewell tart
  • Buttermilk pie
  • Tourtière (French Canadian meat pie)
  • Quiche
  • Chicken and mushroom pie
  • Chicken pot pie

Why does shortcrust pastry shrink?

Gluten, the flour protein strands, tend to shrink in the hot oven as the liquid in the pastry dough evaporates.  Here’s some ways you can reduce shrinkage in your shortcrust pastry.

  • Handle the dough gently. Gluten is strengthened when you knead or handle the dough, and a strong gluten structure will make the pastry tough and cause it to shrink.  Only handle the pastry as much as needed.
  • Don’t add too much liquid. A wet, sticky pastry will have a lot more liquid to evaporate in the oven, encouraging more shrinkage.  When making the pastry, add half of the liquid at first, then gradually add more as needed.
  • Chill the pastry thoroughly. Chilling the pastry in the fridge relaxes the gluten structure, reducing shrinkage later.  After you’ve mixed up the pastry dough, chill it for at least 1 hour.  Once you’ve lined the pie plate, chill the pie again for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Use a metal pie plate. Metal pie plates aren’t as slippery as ceramic or glass, which helps keep the pastry from sliding down the sides of the pan.  Plus, metal can go straight from the fridge or freezer into the oven, and makes the pastry more crispy.
  • Leave a dough overhang. This only applies to blind baking tart shells.  Bake the tart shell with the extra pastry hanging over the edge of the tart pan, then trim off the extra baked pastry with a sharp knife later.
  • Bake in a hot oven. I like to bake pastry at 400 F (200 C), which is hot enough to set the pastry quickly.  If the pastry is browning too quickly, you can always turn down the temperature.

How to Make Flaky Shortcrust Pastry

Gather the ingredients.  Make sure the water is ice cold and the butter is cold from the fridge.  It’s okay if the lard is at room temperature.

flour, butter, lard, ice water, salt, and lemon juice for flaky shortcrust pastry

Put the flour in a large bowl, then add the salt, butter, and lard.

flour, butter, lard, and salt in a mixing bowl

Toss the chunks of butter and lard until they are coated in flour.  Rub the fats into the flour by pinching the cubes of fat and flour together until the mixture has the texture of chunky breadcrumbs.

Aim for pea-sized pieces of butter; no huge chunks.  The big clumps in the photo below are a mixture of flour and butter, not big pieces of butter.  The pea-sized pieces of butter will make the pastry more flaky when it bakes.

flour, butter, and lard mixture in a bowl

Pour in the teaspoon of lemon juice.  Don’t add more than 1 teaspoon for 4 cups of flour, or the pastry will taste sour and be difficult to handle.

Add 1 tablespoon of ice cold water to the bowl, then fluff the mixture with your fingers to start bringing the ingredients together.  Continue adding small amounts of water and crushing the dough with your hand to mix.  Make sure to get all the flour off the bottom of the bowl.

Be careful to not add the water too quickly, or the pastry will get quite sticky.  The pastry should be moist, but never sticky.  The dough should have the consistency and appearance of the dough in the photo below.

flaky shortcrust pastry in a bowl

Gently knead the pastry a few times on a non-floured work surface.  Place the palm of your hand on the dough and push down and forward, then give the dough a quarter turn and repeat until the dough is very smooth.  Don’t knead the dough more than 4 or 5 times, however, or it will become tough.

Only add flour in this step if the pastry is sticky.  If the pastry is properly made, it should not leave sticky residue on your hand or the work surface.  The odd smear of butter,  on the cutting board in the photo below, is okay.

kneaded flaky shortcrust pastry on a wooden cutting board

Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, making sure that the pastry is completely covered.  Chill for at least 1 hour (up to 3 days) before rolling out and using.

plastic wrapped disc of flaky shortcrust pastry

There you have it: delicious flaky shortcrust pastry in just a few easy steps.  Give it a try and let me know your results in the comments section below!

Pro Tips for Making Flaky Shortcrust Pastry

  • Always measure the solid ingredients with a kitchen scale.  This is by far the easiest and fastest method of measuring solid ingredients.  It saves dishes and makes your life easier, plus ensuring an accurate measurement every time.
  • If you must use measuring cups, use them properly.  Flour should always be spooned into the cup, and the excess should be swept off with a knife.  Do not pack the flour into the measuring cup.
  • Use cold ingredients.  Cold ingredients are a necessity for flaky pastry.
  • Handle the pastry gently with the fingertips.  The ingredients should be well combined, but not overworked.  Vigorous kneading will make the pastry tough.
  • Chill the pastry before rolling it out.  An hour in the fridge is the perfect time to harden the fats and help it not stick.  Cold pastry will be flakier when it bakes.
  • Is your cold pastry as hard as a rock?  Soften it quickly by giving it several hard bashes with a heavy rolling pin.  Flip the dough over and repeat until it’s soft enough to roll out.  It won’t overwork the pastry, so don’t worry.

Make Your Life Easier with These Must-Have Pastry Tools!

Use your homemade pastry in these mouthwatering sweet or savory pies.

slice of chicken pot pie with two forks caramel apple pie after baking slice of chicken and leek pie on a plate

The pleasure of a 5-star review for this flaky shortcrust pastry would be greatly appreciated.

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baked pastry shell on a wire cooling rack

Flaky Shortcrust Pastry


  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 lb 14 oz (850g) 1x

Description

Discouraged by failed pie crust?  Don’t worry; this flaky shortcrust pastry is just what you’re looking for.  It’s a simple pie crust made by hand with lemon juice, lard, and butter for lots of flakiness and flavor.  Use this versatile pastry for savory pies and quiches, or sweet desserts like apple pie.  You don’t have to be Martha Stewart or Mary Berry to make awesome pastry!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 1/8 cups all-purpose flour (500g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled (150g)
  • 1/2 cup lard, chilled or at room temperature (125g)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or distilled white vinegar (5 ml)
  • 1/3 cup ice water (80 ml)

Instructions

  1. Dump the flour into a mixing bowl and add the cold butter, lard, and salt.  Rub the fats into the flour by pinching them with your fingertips.  Continue this process until most of the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, but some larger clumps of fat still remain.
  2. Pour in the lemon juice, and add 1 tablespoon of ice water.  Mix with your fingers until the dough starts to come together, then add another tablespoon of ice water.  Continue to add water, just a little at a time until all the flour has been picked up and the dough has come together.  The dough should not be sticky.
  3. Turn the dough onto a clean surface.  Blend the fat and flour together by flattening down the dough with the palm of your hand several times.  This is called fraisage.
  4. Shape the pastry into a flat disc, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour before using.  If the pastry is very hard when you try to roll it out, give the pastry several hard bashes with a heavy rolling pin to soften it.

Notes

  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this flaky shortcrust pastry recipe would be greatly appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Pies
  • Method: Chilled
  • Cuisine: British

Keywords: shortcrust pastry with lard, shortcrust pastry for quiche, shortcrust pastry tarts

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